By Catherine Forbes

Last year, 2016, was a year of peaks and steep climbs for the award-winning Adirondack High Peaks Summit Stewardship Program. The stewards, a team of five professionals and twenty volunteers led by ADK’s Summit Steward Coordinator Kayla White and Education Director Julia Goren faced a tremendous hurdle when a long-time funder changed priorities. ADK staff and volunteers appealed to ADK members and others for donations, worked with program partners, wrote grant proposals, and hosted an event to meet funding needs. Motivated by a shared sense of responsibility to the late Prof. Edwin Ketchledge and the plants he gave his all to protect, the team kept at it until donors made up for the year’s gap.

Also in 2016, the High Peaks were receiving unprecedented volumes of visitors. Summit stewards were speaking with record numbers of hikers on the peaks and going full steam to keep up with the trail work needed to guide the often-novice hikers off the fragile alpine plants. Meanwhile, White and Goren managed to devote time to filling the unplanned fundraising deficit. They wrote grant applications and letters to donors, responded to interviews, and made presentations to support the program. Seeing the support from donors and winning the 2016 Environmental Excellence Award that November, in a year when the stewards connected with an astonishing 36,355 people, validated all the hard work.

DK Vice President Bob Manning, in chairing the ADK grants subcommittee, was among the first to suggest ADK apply for the award. Like the High Peaks Summit Stewardship Program, the application process was a collaborative effort with the Adirondack Chapter of the Nature Conservancy. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), which sponsors the award and is also a collaborative partner with the Summit Stewardship Program, took no role in the application to avoid the appearance of favoritism.

The announcement from the DEC that ADK and the Nature Conservancy had won the award for environmental excellence was a pleasant cap to a long, exhausting, and reaffirming season. It was doubly rewarding in that it came on the heels of Goren winning the prestigious Guy Waterman Alpine Steward Award for lifetime achievement in conservation. Some of the summit stewards, past and present, ADK volunteers, and a few donors attended the DEC awards ceremony. ADK Executive Director Neil F. Woodworth remarked, “It was a very special ceremony. We were proud to be recognized alongside the New York Yankees and other innovators as making an exceptional contribution to protecting the environment.”

Make your gift today to protect the summits.

For the full article with images and more descriptions, pick up your September-October edition of the Adirondac available today. Members can view the magazine in their Members Area on the website. Non-members can purchase the magazine in our online shop.