Summit Stewardship Program
The Adirondack High Peaks Summit Stewardship Program
A Partnership between ADK, the Adirondack Chapter of The Nature Conservancy, and the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation
The Summit Stewardship Program was founded in 1989 in response to alarming declines of alpine habitat in the Adirondack High Peaks in the latter half of the 20th century. Through the leadership of Dr. Edwin Ketchledge and Kathy Regan, the program was developed to complete three main tasks within its mission: educate the public about alpine ecosystems, maintain trails above treeline, and perform scientific research. The program is a partnership between ADK, the Adirondack Chapter of The Nature Conservancy (TNC), and the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC).
Working from Memorial Day Weekend through Indigenous Peoples’ Day every year, summit stewards educate the public through low-key informal interpretation. Stewards work on mountains that have alpine vegetation to interact with visitors on a person-to-person level with the goal of inspiring them to become stewards themselves by staying off fragile alpine plants. Doing the “rock walk” is a key part of this, where stewards ask hikers to stick to bare rock surfaces when above treeline.
Part of protecting sensitive alpine vegetation is ensuring that trails above treeline are well-marked and clear for hikers. This ensures that people stay on bare rock surfaces, which are more durable than the soil of alpine summits. On less busy days, summit stewards take care of trails above treeline. They build cairns and scree walls, fix eroded areas, brush-in undesignated trails, paint new trail markers, and do other important trail projects.
The Summit Stewardship Program is on the front line of alpine research in New York. Every three to five years, stewards perform photopoint monitoring to determine recovery rates of alpine vegetation. They also survey for alpine pollinator species, and do other crucial research to help determine the health of New York’s alpine ecosystems.
There is also a summit steward who is designated to perform alpine plant surveying: the Dr. Norton Miller Botany Steward. Stewards in this role focus almost exclusively on surveying the 27 rare, threatened, and endangered alpine plants found in New York.
The Summit Stewardship Program is made possible by public funding and private contributions. If you want to help protect New York State’s fragile alpine ecosystems, you can do so by donating below.
There are also opportunities to get involved either as a professional or volunteer summit steward. Applications for professional stewards open every January and are due by mid-February.
For more information, contact Kayla White, Stewardship Manager, using our contact form.