Funding tightens for Vermont’s Long Trail caretakers

Hugh and Jean Joudry have spent the last fifty summers atop Stratton Mountain, and the couple, now in their seventies, aren’t planning to descend any time soon.

While their tenure at the mountain’s summit began through the State of Vermont’s Fire Watch program in 1968, the two have watched over the peak as Green Mountain Club caretakers since the 1970s. Over the past decade, however, funding for the Joudry’s and other caretakers along the Long Trail and Appalachian Trail has begun to decline — as the amount of hikers passing through continues to increase.

“We’ve always worked on top of Stratton Mountain,” said Jean Joudry. “In the early years we saw very few people; almost no one. Last year we saw over 8,000 hikers.”

Those hikers have an ecological impact, she says, and caretakers are often responsible for providing education on “Leave no Trace” practices, conducting basic trail and campsite maintenance and leading backcountry waste management.

According to GMC’s Manchester Section Director Marge Fish, many of the trail’s ponds and summits can be denigrated by the unregulated camping that occurs without caretakers like the Joudry’s.

Though the bulk of the $60,000 program in the Green Mountain National Forest has historically been funded by the U.S. Forest Service, says Fish, those numbers have declined over the past decade, largely because of shortages in the Forest Service’s own budget.

“They have been trying really hard to come up with at least some of the money,” Fish acknowledged. “This year we were told that the Forest Service’s funding could be chopped off at the knees, which is not a surprising thing out of this government.”

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