When the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics conducted a park-wide survey of overuse problems in the Adirondack Park last fall, it produced a set of more than 50 recommendations for state officials, based on its experience with similar problems in wild places and preserves around the world.
In sum, Leave No Trace is an educational organization that teaches wildlands ethics to hikers and campers, and teaches wilderness stewardship and natural resource protection to government officials and other land managers.
“Last fall, we were in a hurry to get those recommendations out to the state and the public,” said William C. Janeway, Executive Director of the Adirondack Council, which sponsored the Leave No Trace survey. “So, we released them before the more detailed final report was published. Now this it is printed, we want to share the details and discuss which recommendations have been embraced and are already underway, and which still need attention.”
The Council stressed, among many things, the importance of investing in education and front-country infrastructure to manage visitor use in the Adirondack Park.
The Leave No Trace Center conducted an online survey of state land managers, key partners, and others last August to collect data on recreation trends and patterns, pressing recreation-related issues, significant impacts from recreation, and strategies currently being used to address those concerns.
The report concludes that there was widespread enthusiasm for incorporating Leave No Trace principles education into the management of the Adirondack Park. It also found that some of the more seemingly controversial methods were already in use in the park.
While 90% of respondents said the state never used “permits/limits on access” or “area closures” inside the Adirondack Park, there are already some of these policies in place, including capacity limits, reservations and user fees at locations such as campgrounds and day-use areas.
The report also concluded that hiking, flat water activities, winter sports, camping in developed sites, and peak bagging were reported to be the top five recreational pursuits in the Adirondack Park.
Overuse, crowding, trail degradation, trail erosion, human waste, pet waste, parking issues, and unprepared visitors were listed as the most pressing issues facing the Park according to respondents. Improper disposal of human waste, trail impacts, increased visitation due to social media, and parking issues were all rated severe in terms of the impact resulting from these problems.
Survey respondents were also asked to write in desired goals for a Leave No Trace program. Respondents indicated that the goals of a focused Leave No Trace program for the park should include: educating visitors about protecting the Park, reducing/preventing impact to the Park, and promotion of a consistent Leave No Trace/stewardship message.
Five education methods were selected by over 90% of the respondents including Leave No Trace information, printed educational materials, website information, signage/kiosks and visitor education. A variety of techniques are currently in use to educate Park visitors about enjoying the Park responsibly, which include Leave No Trace education, printed educational materials, web-based information, signage, and direct visitor education.
Respondents were also asked whether their agency or organization administers a volunteer program. Nearly three-quarters of the survey respondents (72.5%) indicated that their organization administers a volunteer program. When asked in an open-response question what the main objectives of their volunteer program were, most of the responses focused on trail work/maintenance, stewardship and education.
The majority of respondents (87.8%) reported that their agency or organization had staff that trained in Leave No Trace. Additionally, over 72% of these agencies had staff that had completed a Leave No Trace 5-day Master Educator Course and another 44.4% reported having staff that had participated in a 2-day Leave No Trace Trainer Course.
Finally, survey respondents were asked what type of agency or organization they worked or volunteered for. The majority of respondents (43.9%) worked for a State agency. Another 22% of respondents worked for Non-governmental organizations and 14.6% reported working for a trail organization or club.
Janeway said the Adirondack Council would do its best to fully explain the 105-page report, and would issue two additional public statements this fall highlighting its details and to explain how capacity limits such as permits and reservations could ease overuse; and what is needed in terms of additional public education.
The Leave No Trace final report (Managing Recreation-related Impacts in the Adirondack Park and Building a Culture of Wildlands Stewardship) is available online.