November 14th, 2019

By Kayla White, Summit Steward Coordinator

This year, we celebrated the 30th anniversary of the Adirondack High Peaks Summit Stewardship Program, a partnership between the Adirondack Mountain Club, The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the Adirondack Chapter of The Nature Conservancy. Summit stewards protect New York’s alpine ecosystem through education, trail maintenance and research. We had the opportunity to host two major events this year, the 2019 Northeastern Alpine Stewardship Gathering and the Leave No Trace Hot Spot, helping us celebrate our accomplishments over the last 30 years. Summit stewards educated 39,939 hikers this year, a new record for the program, making our total contacts since the start of the program 556,879.

botany steward studies alpine vegetation

Ben Brosseau

We had a crew of five summit stewards, one Dr. Norton Miller botany steward, two fall stewards and 22 volunteers who dedicated themselves to the protection of tiny alpine plants. I’m proud to be a part of such a devoted group of unwavering alpine educators. There are always new people to educate and to enlist in the cause of alpine stewardship!

Watch a video about the 30th anniversary of the Summit Stewardship Program

Educational Outreach

The number of hiker contacts continues to stay high, partly due to higher coverage. To put a 39,939 person year in context, we have doubled the number of seasonal hiker contacts from a decade ago. Having a 200-400 hiker contact day has become the new normal. To keep the quality of hiker interactions high, we’ve been having two summit stewards team up together on Cascade Mountain for busy holiday weekends. This ensures hikers are getting the full stewarding message and stewards have time to answer any questions hikers may have.

Click each item to enlarge

The second graph shows the average number of hikers per day for Marcy and Algonquin in July and August since the program started. This is the closest apples to apples comparison we have to look at the increase in the number of hikers, while partially negating the number of volunteers and staff that has fluctuated over the years.

Michaela on a summit

Ben Brosseau


Trail Work

With a seasoned crew we’ve been able to get a lot of work done. Trail work was done above treeline on Marcy, Algonquin, Wright, Cascade, Colden, Gothics, Haystack, Saddleback, NW Wright, Skylight, Iroquois, Giant and Mt. Jo. We worked with ADK’s Professional Trail Crew to repair cairns on Haystack and instructed them on deconstructing the rock pile on Skylight. We painted blazes on Algonquin, Wright and Haystack. We dug two privy holes for Cascade’s high-elevation privies, two holes for Marcy’s high-elevation privies and the privy at the Algonquin/Wright junction. As always we have been hard at work with regular brushing, scree wall work, cairn repair, and rock packing.

Chart showing trail work done by summit stewards in 2019


Future Goals

Here are a few things that I look forward to doing in the upcoming year:

  • Working to educate more hikers before they arrive at the trailhead through outreach and social media.
  • Working with DEC to make sure they have the most up-to-date data on alpine stewardship
  • Spending more time team stewarding, both in the beginning and throughout the season
  • Doing another round of photopoint monitoring
  • Continuing to expand and improve the volunteer program
  • Building group project days to accomplish more high quality trail work
  • Conducting more public outreach programs throughout the year to expand our visibility (and please contact me if you’re interested in having a program!)

As always, the Summit Stewardship Program would not be possible without the support and funding of a number of various organizations and individuals. We’d like to thank our partners, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the Adirondack Chapter of The Nature Conservancy, as well as numerous others, including The Waterman Fund, the Adirondack 46ers, and The Mountaineer. A complete list of our supporters can be found in the full report, which is linked at the bottom of this article.

The Adirondack alpine zone is such a unique and beautiful ecosystem. It is a privilege to be a part of this stewardship program; I can’t imagine a better place to work or more satisfying work to do. We can’t do it without all of your hard work, everyone should be proud to be a part of protecting New York’s alpine plants for the past 30 years. Please feel free to contact me at any time for help or with questions, suggestions, or opportunities for the program.

This article is a condensed version of the full report, which can be found here

2 people building a cairn

Seth Jones