Protecting Trails and Land as Leaders in Stewardship

October 27, 2018
Hank Osborn
New York-New Jersey Trail Conference


Protecting Trails and Land as Leaders in Stewardship
Bear Mountain Stewards at work. Photo by Suzanna Marshall.


The ongoing development of our Trail Steward program has put the Trail Conference in a position to assist and educate more trail users than ever before.

Stationed at popular trails across the region, Trail Conference Stewards provide helpful outreach and information about park regulations, hiker safety, preparedness, Leave No Trace principles, and other best practices. In May, we trained almost 40 seasonal employees of not only the Trail Conference, but also the state park departments of New York and New Jersey, as Trail Stewards.

Our Steward training this year was expanded to include a more robust Leave No Trace certification, as well as natural resource protection education provided by the Hudson Highlands Land Trust. Serving New York trails at Bear Mountain, Breakneck Ridge, and in the Catskills, and at Terrace Pond in New Jersey, up to 15 stewards are on duty each weekend day.

In addition, two members of the New York State Excelsior Corps joined our Stewards at Breakneck Ridge for eight days in June. As Leave No Trace Master Educators, they performed hiker counts and advised visitors of safety preparedness for seven days straight. They administered a survey to visitors, allowing us to collect our first weekday data at Breakneck Ridge. The results of the survey are interesting; we learned that Breakneck attracts both new visitors (34 percent of respondents) as well as repeat hikers (21 percent have visited more than 20 times), meaning there is the potential for this park to have continually increased visitation numbers. These Stewards also collected data to calibrate electronic hiker counters at Breakneck Ridge.

Another first for the program was the addition of a volunteer Trail Steward at Breakneck Ridge in August. As we work to provide much-needed additional coverage at these high-usage trailheads, a volunteer program is a necessity. Find out how you can get involved by emailing [email protected].