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Adirondack Summit Steward endowment gains traction

November 21, 2014
By SHAUN KITTLE - Outdoors Writer (skittle@adirondackdailyenterprise.com) , Lake Placid News

SARANAC LAKE - A new endowment to expand the Adirondack High Peaks Summit Stewardship Program is gaining support.

The goal is for the endowment, called #507 Fund, to reach $1 million. It was launched in August through the Adirondack Foundation.

During its Nov. 3 meeting, the Essex County Board of Supervisors passed a resolution supporting the program and the endowment.

Elizabethtown town Supervisor Noel Merrihew said the supervisors were in agreement regarding the concept of stewardship, but a monetary contribution from the county is still under discussion.

Merrihew said the supervisors would like to seek external funds to support programs like the Summit Stewards.

One idea is to charge hikers from outside the county to use the trails here. Another is to request more money from the state.

"We hope, as a board of supervisors, that the state will continue to recognize the value of the infrastructure here within the North Country and the Adirondack Park, and that if there is a need for financial investment for improvement, that it would come from the state in recognition that this is their asset," Merrihew said. "We certainly live here, but we should not be the ultimate stewards of upkeep for the state of New York."

Merrihew pointed out that stewardship is increasingly important as more people visit the area. He said some 30 volunteers with an adopt-a-trail program in Elizabethtown help maintain about 40 miles of trail there. Things like signatures at trail registers and emails about the trail system have indicated an increasing public interest in those trails.

"You're advertising down in Manhattan about the Adirondack Park, and the beauty and the value that it is," Merrihew said. "We recognize that, and we need the state to recognize it more and continue the investment. We will help administer that investment, because we know how to efficiently use that money."

Keene town Supervisor Bill Ferebee commended Gov. Andrew Cuomo's efforts to boost tourism in the Adirondacks, but he also echoed Merrihew's concerns about preservation.

"Anything we can do to preserve what we have, and educate the public on what to do and what not to do, is a great asset for us," Ferebee said. "The focus is to get the state to reinstate some of the funds they've taken away from programs like this in the past. It should be state funded, but not county funded. That's something Randy Douglas, the chairman of the board, and myself, when we go to Albany, we will talk to the governor about that."

Christine Broujade and her husband, Alex Radmanovich, have been trying to get more people to contribute to the endowment, which the couple started in August with a $10,000 donation. Some organizations have since contributed money, like the Adirondack Mountain Club, The Nature Conservancy, the Adirondack Forty-Sixers and the Adirondack Council.

Broujade said individuals have also started to contribute. One is Kevin Hall, who recently donated $100 to the endowment.

Hall said his contribution was inspired by firsthand encounters with the stewards.

"My daughter has me hiking the 46 High Peaks with her, and we've met the stewards up there," Hall said. "I think they do a good job, and it's an important thing to have, especially with the traffic the mountains are getting."

The Summit Stewardship Program is funded through grants and by annual contributions from the Adirondack Mountain Club, The Nature Conservancy and the state Department of Environmental Conservation. Decisions about its direction and priorities are made jointly.

The funding gets stewards on top of Mount Marcy, Algonquin, Cascade, Wright Peak and Mount Colden from May to October. They educate visitors on the delicate, tundra-like ecosystems that exist there, and also help keep unwary hikers from trampling those plants.

Adirondack High Peaks Summit Steward Program coordinator Julia Goren said last month that more money would put more stewards on more summits, like Giant Mountain, in response to ever-increasing visitation numbers, which have doubled on some peaks in the last 10 years.

Goren said endowment funds would also go toward research and monitoring projects in the alpine zones.

The program was created in 1989 during a meeting in the dining room of the Adirondak Loj that was organized by botanist Edwin Ketchledge.

The stewards took to the mountaintops for the first time the following year.

Broujade met Ketchledge in 2004, just six years before he died. She said the attention the endowment has received is a testament to the enduring relevance of the stewards' work, and to Ketchledge's legacy of conservation.

"This is amazing," Broujade said. "It's giving a lot of credibility to the fund, and it's showing that it's everybody behind this project. I'm so happy for Dr. Ketch. I think he would be very pleased to have so much recognition and the support for this program."

To contribute to the #507 Fund, visit www.generousact.org/funds/507-fund-adirondack-high-peaks-summit-stewardship-program.

 
 

 

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