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Where's the trail?

Even though nearly forty years have passed since I first discovered the total trail mileage tally, (in which time NY state has since added an additional one million acres of land to the Forest Preserve), the same figure of 2000 miles of trails, is still accepted as fact today.

In a publication published by the National Outdoor Leadership School, authors Bruce Hampton and David Cole explained that our nation's trails are declining in total, "In the 1930s, our national forests had 132,000 miles of trails; today there are fewer than 100,000 miles.... Today, although our national forest backcountry has 25 percent fewer trails, the public's use of trails has grown steadily. For every person hiking a trail in 1960, more than three people now leave their bootprints ."

I wondered if a similar situation was occurring in the Adirondacks, so I posed the question to Tony Goodwin, of Keene Valley. Goodwin is the Executive Director of both the Adirondack Trail Improvement Society (ATIS) and the Jackrabbit Ski Trail. A well known authority on Adirondack hiking trails, he is responsible for maintaining 115 miles of ATIS trails in and around Keene Valley, and for the 33 miles of the Jackrabbit Ski Trail.

Goodwin explained, "It has not shrunk that significantly in the Adirondacks. I think you find out the total if you add up the mileage from the Adirondack Mountain Club Guidebooks. There may not be a lot of new trails, but there have not been many lost."

I wondered, how could it be? So, my first call went out to the Adirondack Mountain Club, (ADK) an organization that was formed in 1922 to promote hiking and outdoor travel. From the beginning, ADK has been responsible for the design and construction of the majority of trails in the Adirondacks.

Today, ADK proudly continues this legacy. Currently, the organization has a professional trail crew to maintain state trails under a service contract with DEC. Additionally, various ADK Chapters provide numerous volunteer trail crews who are responsible for designing new trails and maintaining the older ones. And, ADK Guidebooks are considered the definitive source of information on hiking trails in the park.

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