A program that puts stewards on Mount Monadnock’s summit to remind visitors how to hike responsibly will broaden, thanks to a $4,080 grant from the Waterman Fund. The Summit Stewardship Volunteer Program is an initiative of the Monadnock Ecological Research and Education (MERE) project at Antioch University New England (AUNE).
The grant will be used to hire a coordinator to expand a volunteer program at Monadnock State Park.
Each year about 90,000 people hike to the mountain’s bare-rock summit, home to several rare plant species, including mountain sandwort and Appalachian fir clubmoss. During the busiest part of the hiking season, the mountain stewards offer information to visitors about how to hike responsibly without trampling that fragile alpine vegetation.
“It’s a matter of communicating that humans have an impact and they have to stay on the rocks. If they are made aware of that, it has the potential to lead to behavior modification,” said faculty member Peter Palmiotto, director of AUNE’s Conservation Biology program.
Palmiotto and his graduate students plan to expand the program beyond the summit. The volunteer coordinator will recruit and train volunteers to educate visitors in all areas of the park, something the park is now too understaffed to manage. “A lot of people want to volunteer on the mountain, but the park doesn’t have a program to direct volunteers,” Palmiotto said. “This will also give visitors an opportunity they wouldn’t otherwise have to learn about the mountain.”
According to Patrick Hummel, park manager for Monadnock State Park, the program has been very useful. “Summit stewards have been key factors in public outreach to educate visitors about negative impacts on fragile rock-crevice and alpine-bog communities in the past.”
MERE was begun in 2007 by Palmiotto and graduate students in AUNE’s Environmental Studies Department to foster appreciation and use of Mount Monadnock through ecological research and education. The Summit Stewardship program was started in 2009 with an initial grant from the Waterman Fund. In 2010, four stewards spent seventy-four days on the mountain summit, visiting with about 2,500 hikers.
Palmiotto will give a presentation on MERE at the Waterman Fund’s annual dinner on April 16. See more information about the MERE program.