By MIKE LYNCH
Last summer, Chris Myers hiked Phelps Mountain at sunrise and noticed someone had vandalized the rock under his feet by writing out their Instagram handle.
“It was just disheartening to me because I came out to remove myself, and people are being self-promotional,” said Myers, who is a ROOST ambassador on Instagram.
It was an extreme example of the kind of social media promotion that has drawn negative attention in the Adirondack backcountry. In an effort to avoid those pitfalls, the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism hosted a Leave No Trace (LNT) seminar Tuesday evening in Lake Placid. Adirondack Mountain Club Education Director Seth Jones explained the LNT principles and practices to ROOST staffers and social media ambassadors, and shared tips on how to promote the region thoughtfully while protecting natural resources.
LNT principles address topics such as how to prepare for trips, minimize campfire impacts, respect wildlife, dispose of waste properly and post to social media responsibly. The principles are used by federal land management agencies, national parks and organizations around the country.
People should pay attention to the details of their social media posts, Jones said, and avoid images of people breaking rules — even if the images are incredibly scenic. That would include not posting photos of people walking on alpine vegetation or camping illegally on the shoreline of a scenic lake.
“Ambassadors can be role models,” said state Department of Environmental Conservation spokeswoman Erin Hanczyk, who works with ROOST through DEC but also is a social media ambassador for them in her personal time.
Hanczyk, also an LNT master educator, recommended posting about people acting responsibly. That includes making sure that the people in images are wearing proper equipment, such as hiking boots and a backpack, or that they are hiking lower than 2,500 feet during the Adirondack mud season. DEC recommends hikers avoid the High Peaks during mud season.
One problem that has surfaced in recent years is that beautiful images are helping draw large crowds to already busy summits. Places like Indian Head in Keene Valley have grown in popularity because of Instagram posts.
Hanczyk recommended that people not use specific geotags (locations) when tagging places that are already crowded. That includes the High Peaks and some other popular mountains in the Lake George and Inlet areas. Geotagging lesser-known hikes isn’t a problem, she said.
“We do want to promote other hikes outside of those overused, high-use High Peaks,” she said.
People who do post High Peaks images should tag general locations such as Adirondack Mountains or North Elba, she said.
ROOST’s ambassador program can help newcomers hike responsibly, said Savannah Doviak, who oversees the program. She recalled being one of those newcomers herself, and hiking without the proper gear.
“If we can have people dedicated to education and showing people the proper way to hike …,” she said, “I think that’s a win for the Adirondack Mountains.”