Congrats, ADK, on 100 years of Forest Preserve recreation, education, conservation

Adirondak Loj, Lake Placid (News photo — Andy Flynn)

We’d like to recognize the Adirondack Mountain Club on its centennial and thank the organization — including thousands of volunteers, staff members and board members over the past 100 years — for its ongoing dedication to protecting the state Forest Preserve in New York’s Adirondack and Catskill parks.

With its three main focus points — recreation, education and conservation — ADK’s mission is clear: to protect New York state wild lands and waters by promoting responsible outdoor recreation and building a statewide constituency of land stewardship advocates.

“Since 1922, the organization has worked to increase access to the backcountry by building trails, conserving natural areas, and developing a stewardship community that supports the ethical and safe use of New York’s outdoor spaces,” the ADK website states.

ADK has 27 chapters throughout the state and includes representation from northern New Jersey and southern Ontario. Chapters meet regularly and conduct recreation, education and conservation activities in their own sections of the state.

The first project of ADK in 1922 was to build a trail from Northville to Lake Placid, which the state granted permission to do in April of that year. The trail continues to have a special place in the hearts of hikers, whether they hike different sections at a time or spend about two weeks backpacking from one end to the other. It’s not quite the Appalachian Trail, but it’s long, challenging and beautiful. Kudos to ADK and its partners — including the state Department of Environmental Conservation — for taking such good care of this trail over the years and making sure necessary improvements were made.

This file photo from Oct. 5, 2016 shows peak foliage at Heart Lake outside of the village of Lake Placid, on the Adirondak Loj property owned by the Adirondack Mountain Club. (News photo — Andy Flynn)

ADK has a special place in the heart of the Olympic Region — with its Heart Lake property, including the High Peaks Information Center and Adirondak Loj, and the Johns Brook Lodge in the High Peaks Wilderness Area, accessed only by foot from a trailhead in Keene Valley. Plus, in June, ADK opened the Cascade Welcome Center after buying the Cascade Ski Center on Route 73.

The Adirondak Loj boasts the largest trailhead in the Adirondack Park, with access to some of the most popular mountains in the High Peaks, including New York’s tallest peak, Mount Marcy, and second tallest, Algonquin Peak. The trailhead is so popular that many times it fills up by 6 a.m. on peak weekends in the summer and fall.

That means ADK is on the front lines of outdoor recreation, with unlimited access to people from around the world who travel here to spend time in the woods. ADK does its best to make sure people are safely and responsibly using the Forest Preserve.

ADK does a great job planning and hosting recreational programs in the Adirondacks and Catskills and advocating for the Forest Preserve’s protection in Albany. Yet the ultimate key to state land protection is education, which it does extremely well on its properties, in the forests, on the waterways and through outreach activities around the state.

One example of this educational component is the Adirondack High Peaks Summit Stewardship Program, which ADK staffs and manages. Summit stewards can be found in the summer and fall on top of Marcy, Algonquin, Wright and Cascade. They play a major role in protecting the fragile alpine plants on those summits be teaching hikers about this unique natural community on the state’s highest peaks. They’ve taught 600,000 hikers about the alpine plants since the program was founded in 1989.

Hikers pay their parking fee at the Adirondack Mountain Club's parking lot booth at the Adirondak Loj in October 2016 near Lake Placid. (News photo — Andy Flynn)

Congratulations to ADK on its first century of work to protect New York state’s Forest Preserve. We look forward to seeing what you do in the next century. With added pressure on state land due to increased hiker traffic over that past few decades, the next 100 years will be a critical time in making sure we keep our wild lands wild for future generations.