The new initiative builds on AsRA’s ongoing effort of preventing the spread of aquatic invasive species through placement of wader wash stations along the river during fishing season.
Invasive species are plants or animals that are non-native to an area and can cause environmental or economic harm. Introductions of invasive species can disrupt ecosystems, causing the loss of native species.
Boot brush stations not only provide information about invasive species, specifically terrestrial invasive species and the threat they pose to native ecosystems, they also provide a simple way for people to help stop the spread.
“The brush on the station allows hikers to brush the mud off their hiking boots before heading out on a trail and on their return to the trailhead,” said Carrianne Pershyn, Biodiverse Habitats Research Manager at AsRA. “The seeds, rhizomes, and eggs can get caught in the mud in the treads and fabrics of boots. If this mud and debris isn’t cleaned off between trails, it will fall off along the next one. If any of those seeds or eggs were from an invasive species, that species has now been introduced to a new area.”
Invasive species can be spread naturally by wind and animals, but spread is accelerated by human pathways, including moving firewood and using dirty gear. In an area that has hundreds of hiking trails and even more yearly visitors, there is a risk of invasive species introduction through hiking.
With boot brushes, the mud and debris can be left behind at the boot brush station where it can be easily monitored for invasive species.
“Thanks to funding from 46ers and a private donor, and in-kind support from the Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program, we’ve been able to build and deploy four boot brush stations at trailheads in North Elba, Wilmington, and Keene last year and this year” said Pershyn.
The station at the Flume Trailhead in Wilmington includes a hook for hanging mountain bikes and a special brush, according to Liz Metzger, Research Associate at AsRA.
“We want to keep seeds and plant parts from nasty invasives off our trails”, said Laurie Rankin, current President, and longtime member of Adirondack 46ers. “The Northern Adirondack region is lucky to have very few terrestrial invasive species, but they are becoming more and more common in the front country, and in the backcountry hiking areas in other parts of the northeast,” Rankin said.
“We really want to ensure these pervasive plants don’t make their way into our wilderness, and these boot brush stations help to remove seeds from people’s footwear and make them more aware of checking their clothing and pets for sticky seeds before and after hiking.”
Boot brush stations are popping up across the region as local groups realize the positive impact and significance of this type of trailhead intervention.
“We know people are using the stations because we are out maintaining them regularly and using a battery-operated vacuum to clear the area around the station of big piles of seeds and dirt,” said Pershyn.
The first boot brush stations in the Adirondacks appeared on The Nature Conservancy (TNC) preserves, launched by TNC and the Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program/Adirondack Prism (APIPP).
Pershyn and Metzger collaborated with APIPP to develop the educational signage for the stations and have worked closely with town and state officials to place them at trailheads.
Next year, Ausable River Association and Adirondack Forty Sixers hope to build and deploy boot brush stations at Giant Mountain Wilderness trail access points, including Rocky Peak Ridge and Giant Washbowl trailheads.
Photos of Boot Brush Stations provided by the Ausable River Association.