The state is hoping volunteers may be part of a solution to cleaner, safer trails this season through a new adopt-a-trailhead program.
Members of the public interested in volunteering will act as stewards, educating hikers and helping maintain trailheads across the state, including the Adirondacks. The initiative was part of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 2021 State of the State address. Cuomo said outdoor recreation in New York has spiked and pointed to the coronavirus pandemic as a reason.
Cuomo said the state “remains fully committed to making sustained investments in our natural resources” but the new program will offer “an excellent volunteering opportunity for New Yorkers to help the State ensure our trails are ready for the growing number of hikers and visitors.”
The state saw the side effects of that uptick last year, and in a news release the Cuomo administration said some new hikers and visitors “are inexperienced in back-country recreation, leading to mistakes that are potentially harmful to themselves and the environment.”
Volunteers, once selected through a state application process, will educate hikers on things like litter, preparedness and proper human waste disposal. Volunteers will be expected to work most weekend mornings at their assigned trailhead, including holiday weekends and some Friday afternoons from Memorial Day weekend to Columbus Day. According to the volunteer application through the state Department of Environmental Conservation, groups are strongly recommended to apply in order to divvy up the responsibility.
Volunteers will educate the public on the 10 hiking essentials, which generally are:
- A form of navigation such as a map and compass;
- Insulated clothing and rain gear;
- A light source;
- First aid supplies;
- An emergency kit;
- Matches or fire starter;
- Sun and insect protection; and
- An emergency shelter.
For more information on the 10 essentials, go to dec.ny.gov/outdoor/28708.html.
Volunteers will also teach visitors about Leave No Trace, outdoor ethics guidelines that help reduce human impact on the environment. The seven basic principles of Leave No Trace are:
- Plan ahead and prepare;
- Travel and camp on durable surfaces;
- Properly dispose waste;
- Leave what you find;
- Minimize campfire impacts;
- Respect wildlife; and
- Be considerate of other visitors.
For more information on Leave No Trace go to lnt.org/why/7-principles/.
Those groups or individuals interested in volunteering may fill out an application at dec.ny.gov/docs/lands_forests_pdf/adoptatrailheadapp.pdf. The application may be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org or via mail to: NYSDEC, Division of Lands and Forests, Attn: Adopt a Trailhead Coordinator, 625 Broadway, 5th Floor, Albany, NY 12233.
Michael Barrett, executive director of the Adirondack Mountain Club, said his organization greatly supports the new volunteer program.
“In-person educators at trailheads are a powerful way to both help visitors enjoy the outdoors responsibly and ignite a passion for taking care of public lands well into the future,” he said, in a news release.