Press Releases

Leave No Trace Center’s Detailed Final Report on Overuse Explains Problem, Reinforces Prior 50+ Recommendations

Many Recommended Actions Already Resulting in Needed Changes During Busy Summer 

ELIZABETHTOWN, N.Y. – 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 excellent 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.” 

“ADK is pleased to see this comprehensive report from the Leave No Trace Center, which stresses, among many things, the importance of investing in education and front-country infrastructure to manage visitor use in the Adirondack Park,” said Seth Jones, ADK Education Director. "After working with the Adirondack Council to help bring this report to the public, we look forward to continuing our partnership with them and to working alongside the DEC and other organizations to incorporate these recommendations into the management of the Adirondack Park.”  

The Center found 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. 

For example, capacity limits, reservations, and user fees are already in place in locations such as campgrounds and day-use areas, but have not been used to protect overcrowded Wilderness Areas, the report noted.   

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.  Those will 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 at:

“Perhaps the most useful first step taken by Leave No Trace was its conversations with local not-for-profit organizations and veteran state officials about the scope of the problem,” Janeway said. “The center conducted an online survey of state land managers, key partners, and others during August of 2019 to collect data on recreation trends and patterns, pressing recreation-related issues, significant impacts from recreation, and strategies currently being used to address these concerns.” 

The Biggest Issues 

Like any problem that develops over a period of decades, the Leave No Trace survey’s results indicated that there are several significant overuse issues facing the Adirondack Park. Four of the reported issues were categorized as severe in terms of level of impact.  

“However, survey respondents were also confident that Leave No Trace education provided a path to improved conditions throughout the Park,” Janeway said.  

A few of the most salient findings include:  

  • 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.  
  • 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. 
  • 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 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.

Localizing the Solution is Best 

The report’s author Ben Lawhon noted that “education is most successful when implemented as part of a larger comprehensive management strategy, and in concert with other management techniques, including infrastructure, staffing, and direct intervention.” 

“While the strategies, techniques, and methods outlined in this document have been successfully utilized in many parks and protected areas across the country, these should be considered a starting point for the Adirondack Park,” he said. “When local land managers tailor educational and stewardship efforts to their specific environment, constituents, and visitors, the efforts are generally more successful and garner broader buy-in from the community at large.” 

Already Underway 

Survey respondents were asked to report on the management techniques currently in use to address recreation-related impacts. They were provided with a list of 15 mitigation methods and asked to note if each was currently in use, used in the past or never used.  

While 90% of agency respondents said the state never used “permits/limits on access” or “area closures” inside the Adirondack Park, the agency staff were likely referencing limits on access in Wilderness, because the agency does have limits: i.e., popular islands in Lake George, day-use areas, and campgrounds.  

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.  

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 final portion of the survey focused on the potential future of a locally-tailored Leave No Trace program in the Adirondack Park.  

Survey respondents were asked to write in desired goals for a Leave No Trace program. Though this was an open-response question many of the responses focused on educating visitors about “protecting the Park, reducing/preventing impact to the Park, and promotion of a consistent Leave No Trace/stewardship message.”  

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.  

Survey respondents were asked how they envisioned Leave No Trace being disseminated to visitors. They were provided with a list of 14 different methods of dissemination and asked to select all that apply. Six of the 14 methods were selected by at least 90% of survey respondents as being a way they envision Leave No Trace being disseminated to park visitors. These methods included social media, print media, website, local user groups, and volunteers.  

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. 

The Adirondack Council is a privately funded not-for-profit organization whose mission is to ensure the ecological integrity and wild character of the Adirondack Park. The Council envisions a Park with clean water and clean air, comprised of core wilderness areas, surrounded by farms and working forests, as well as vibrant communities.  

The Adirondack Council carries out its mission through research, education, advocacy, and legal action. Adirondack Council advocates live in all 50 United States. 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Monday, August 24, 2020 

For more information: 
John Sheehan, Director of Communications, 518-441-1340 cell 

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