#507 Fund supports Summit Stewardship Program
Above: Edwin “Ketch” Ketchledge on the summit of an Adirondack High Peak.
Like the Adirondack High Peaks Summit Stewardship Program (SSP) itself, the #507 Fund began as a small, grassroots effort with a broad base of support from organizations passionate about protecting the Adirondack Mountains.
The SSP is one of the most acclaimed environmental education programs in the Adirondack High Peaks, yet it struggles with funding every year. The purpose of the #507 Fund is to put the program on a solid financial footing, now and forever. The fund’s long-term goal is to create a $1 million endowment.
The SSP’s mission is to protect New York’s alpine habitat through education, restoration, and research. During 2014, the 25th year of the program, stewards spoke with over 28,000 climbers on the summits of Mt. Marcy, Algonquin, Wright, Cascade, and Colden, reminding hikers to stay on the rocks and off the vegetation.
It all began with ‘‘Ketch’’
In August of 1968, Edwin “Ketch” Ketchledge finished climbing the 46 High Peaks of the Adirondacks and became 46er # 507. Ketch was no ordinary peak-bagger. He was a professor of botany at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse, an active member of ADK, president of the 46ers, and a researcher very much interested in protecting the fragile high-altitude ecosystem of the High Peaks.
New York’s alpine zone consists of 170 acres mostly concentrated on six summits, containing 30 different rare, threatened, or endangered plant species. Ketch’s protection of the alpine zone did not end with these studies. In 1989, he gathered a group of individuals from Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK), the Adirondack Chapter of The Nature Conservancy (TNC), the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), the Adirondack Forty-Sixers (46ers), and other interested parties to talk about creating an educational presence on the summits. Out of this meeting, the SSP was born.
Annual grants from the #507 Fund will support the outdoor education, research, and conservation efforts of the SSP.
“The SSP is educating hikers, protecting the alpine summits and training the next generation of environmental stewards. Everyone associated with the program has shown extraordinary dedication and professionalism – from Julia Goren, ADK’s director of education, to the staff, summer stewards, and volunteers. As Forty-Sixers, we are energized by our Club’s support for the Fund, and as ADK members, we are proud of its pivotal role in the success of the SSP,” said Alex Radmanovich who, with his wife Christine Bourjade, seeded the #507 Fund on Aug. 12, 2014, with a $10,000 donation.
Thanks to the generosity of the 46ers ($15,000), TNC ($10,000), ADK ($5,000) and many individual donors, the Fund has grown six-fold. By reaching $100,000 this year, it would already be able to underwrite one summit steward position in 2016.
As Ketch said, “What lasts, what gives worth, is the respect we show for our fellow passengers and the reverence we exhibit and practice for the landscape, which continues.”
What the stakeholders are saying
“We are as inspired today by the creation of the #507 Fund as we were in the 1980s when Dr. Ketchledge urged the Conservancy, ADK, and DEC to work together to establish the Summit Stewardship Program. For decades, this program has been empowering hikers to become a part of the long-term stewardship of our shared natural resources in the High Peaks Wilderness. Contributions to the fund will help ensure this effective program receives dedicated financial support and continues to thrive.” — Michael Carr, Executive Director, Adirondack Chapter of The Nature Conservancy
“The #507 Fund is one of the key ingredients for protecting the High Peaks through a physical presence. These summit stewards are essential and an extension of the work started by the likes of Ditt (Dittmar, long-time 46er Treasurer) and Grace (Hudowalski, Club founder). The 46ers support this effort.” — Sally Hoy, President, The Adirondack Forty-Sixers
“The creation of the #507 Fund is an important milestone. ADK fully supports this initiative because it has the potential to ensure the longevity and growth of the Summit Stewardship Program.” — Neil Woodworth, Executive Director and Counsel, The Adirondack Mountain Club
“The Adirondack Council and I applaud and support the Summit Stewardship Program because it is good for wilderness and good for people. The stewards help thousands of people visit and enjoy the High Peaks while protecting beautiful and rare summit plants.” — Willie Janeway, Executive Director, The Adirondack Council