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Adirondack Mountain Club summit stewards report slight rebound in hiker contacts

view of the Adirondacks from Marcy Field
Pat Bradley
view of the Adirondacks from Marcy Field

The Adirondack Mountain Club has released a midseason reportshowing a “modest rebound” in the number of hikers on the four peaks with the most coverage by stewards.

The Adirondack High Peaks Summit Stewardship Program issues a mid- and end of summer report on the number of hikers stewards interact with on the four peaks they are monitoring: Algonquin, Cascade, Marcy and Wright Mountains.

Adirondack Mountain Club communications director Ben Brosseau says the stewards have noted a few more hikers reaching the summits this year.

“Last year was a down year. It was pretty quiet and we attribute a lot of that mostly to the weather but also perhaps people looking for other things to do now that the pandemic was easing up. Stewards were speaking to an average of 62 people a day through the mid-season report of last summer. This summer 81 people per day so that’s that modest rebound. However, compared to 2016 to 2019 and into 2020 those were significantly higher average contacts. That was the period when we were talking about high use in the Adirondack Park when things kind of reached a bit of a fever pitch because there were significantly more people coming at that time.”

Not all hikers reach the summits where the stewards are stationed. Many popular trailheads leading to the High Peaks are in, or near, the Town of Keene. Supervisor Joe Pete Wilson says the town has stewards at the Marcy Field parking lot on Route 73 and at The Garden, a popular trailhead that leads to the High Peaks. Wilson says the town has also seen an increase in visitors over last year, but they aren’t necessarily hikers.

“The interesting thing that started to take shape last year was even though hiker numbers were much lower last year than they’d been for years and years and years we were still having a strong tourism economy. People were still coming to visit the area even if fewer of them were coming to hike. So I think we’re starting to see two separate types of visitors: the hikers and then the leisure travelers. So even though the sheer number of hikers coming is softer than it’s been in the past few years, overall visitation, our economy, is doing really, really well.”

The Adirondack Mountain Club’s summit stewards not only guide hikers but also educate them about the ecology of the mountaintop. Their report includes an update on a photopoint monitoring program that is tracking the recovery of sensitive, and in some cases rare, alpine vegetation. Brosseau says the initiative helps determine if their educational outreach and efforts such as trail work to keep people off the alpine plants is effective.

“Photopoint monitoring is basically a visual timeline of the same locations over roughly five year intervals that they can then see how that alpine vegetation is changing. So in 2009 and 2015 they did two big surveys and they found no statistical decline in alpine vegetation on summits with a stewarding presence. So summit stewards were able to look at that and say what we are doing is having a positive impact. What they’re doing right now, in addition to retaking another set of photopoints, is they’re adding a hundred more so they can expand the scope of that.”

The end-of-season summit report is due in November and early findings from the photopoint monitoring project are expected next spring.

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