Monday, August 29, 2022

Stewards on duty

Boat steward Kelly Bonnville prepares the machine used to clean boats with hot water. Photo by Zachary Matson

Adirondack Watershed Institute boat stewards this summer continued their education-focused mission of protecting Adirondack lakes by preventing the spread of invasive plants.

As a new law requiring boaters certify they have cleaned their boat and that it does not contain any visible plant or animal material before launching in the park goes into effect, though, staffing remains a key challenge to both the stewards and the environmental conservation officers tasked with enforcing the new law.

I spent some time with stewards on Piseco Lake and Great Sacandaga Lake earlier this month to gain insight into what goes into the job and what drives the people who don the blue vests at scores of launch sites around the park. The stewards, a mix of youth looking for summer jobs, retirees with long histories on specific lakes and others, bring important local knowledge to the table as they look for potential threats and talk with boaters about how best to prevent the spread of invasives. At Piseco Lake, the stewards make small talk with boaters launching at Poplar Point, many of them longtime friends and neighbors.

Stewards said earlier in the season people were unaware of the new certification requirement but understanding has grown in recent months. Some boaters now show up to a launch with their certification in hand.

Finding my way in the woods 

Over the weekend, I joined the Advanced Land Navigation course at the Paul Smith’s VIC, a somewhat new program aimed at teaching people how to use a map and compass to safely navigate the backcountry.

I’ve never had formal instruction in backcountry navigation (long on the to-do list) and was fortunate to get a one-on-one lesson from retired High Peaks forest ranger and VIC Director Scott Van Laer. We bushwacked up and down hilltops around Jenkins Mountain, first plotting a course on the map and then responding to terrain features in the field. During the field seminar on azimuths, we spotted berry-filled bear scat and explored rocky ridge lines. Most importantly, now, I know how to use that compass I carry in my bag.

Photo at top: Boat steward Kelly Bonnville prepares the machine used to clean boats with hot water. Photo by Zachary Matson

Editor’s note: This first appeared in Zach’s weekly “Water Line” newsletter. Click here to sign up.

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Zachary Matson has been an environmental reporter for the Explorer since October 2021. He is focused on the many issues impacting water and the people, plants and wildlife that rely on it in the Adirondack Park. Zach worked at daily newspapers in Missouri, Arizona and New York for nearly a decade, most recently working as the education reporter for six years at the Daily Gazette in Schenectady.

One Response

  1. David Gibson says:

    Well done ! Thanks for your news and passing your course, taught by such a master.

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