Right now, Slide Mountain, the tallest peak in the Catskills, is quiet. But that will change as summer draws near.

And if you know Lourdes Sonera, you know you’ll likely find her outside exploring all nature has to offer. Sonera is an active Catskill 3500 member and chair, as she works closely alongside club president Maria Bedo-Calhoun.

“It kind of has evolved as more and more hikers have come into the Catskills,” said Bedo-Calhoun. We’ve seen the need to be more than just a social club.”

That’s why the pair are among the first volunteers for New York’s new Adopt-A-Trailhead program.

What You Need To Know

  • The Dept. of Environmental Conservation reports an increased use of the state’s trail system in 2020 due to the pandemic

  • The DEC is launching a new Adopt-A-Trailhead program to help educate new hikers

  • It will deploy volunteers to some of the state’s most popular trailheads this summer

“There are new hikers that are coming in, completely new,” said Sonera. “I think our role this summer [will be to] provide information so they will be able to have a better experience when they hike in.”

The Department of Environmental Conservation is overseeing the program, which is meant to address some concerns with the increased use of trails across the state, a trend now for many years that was exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“These new users were making common mistakes. They were a little unprepared; they didn’t bring enough water; they didn’t have the right clothing; and they also didn’t know how to handle their own waste,” said DEC Stewardship Coordinator McCrea Burnham.

In addition to many trails in disarray, many hikers found themselves in need of assistance.

“Know how far you’re going to be going and your limitations. And don’t be afraid to turn around before you get to your destination,” said DEC Forester Ian Dunn. “You can hike another day. We want to reduce the number of search and rescues.”

That’s the messaging Adopt-A-Trailhead volunteers will be sharing with visitors in the Catskills and across the state this summer.

“Just being a friendly face,” said Bedo-Calhoun. “We’re not there to enforce anything. We’re just there to provide information and make it more fun.”