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More than mountains

Club concerned about state’s environment, getting more young people outdoors

February 20, 2011
By RODNEY MINOR, The Leader-Herald

When Neil Woodworth was growing up just outside the city of Johnstown, he spent hours outside exploring the woods near his family's home.

Woodworth recalled his father, Frank, and mother, Vivien, taking him and his brother, Tracy, on hiking trips into the Adirondacks and Catskills.

"When I was growing up, I developed my love of the outdoors from my mother and father," he said.

Article Photos

Standing at left, Neil Woodworth, executive director of the Adirondack Mountain?Club, speaks to people at a meeting of the Foothills chapter of the club at the Senior Citizens Service Center of Gloversville & Fulton?County in Gloversville on Feb. 9.
The Leader-Herald/Rodney Minor

Woodworth, the executive director of the Adirondack Mountain Club, said he was lucky to have those experiences growing up. Now, many young people do not get to have those outdoor experiences. That is the biggest challenges the club has to deal with as it looks toward the future, he said.

"In general, we just don't have as many young people outdoors as we used to," he said.

Getting young people outdoors is critical for the future, Woodworth said.

"One day, they will be members of the public making decisions about the future of these lands," he said.

Jody A. Rothmeyer, the chairman of the Foothills chapter of the ADK, said it also is important to instruct children in proper behavior outdoors.

He noted that some young people spend time outdoors, but they spend it partying.

They need to see they can have fund outdoors without using drugs and alcohol, he said.

To that end, the Foothills chapter will have a young adults committee, Rothmeyer said.

Young adults in the chapter will be involved in the committee, to help find a way to reach other young people about how to have fun responsibly, Rothmeyer said. He noted there is plenty of volunteer work that can be done, such as cleaning up paths through the Adirondacks.

"It can use the energy of the kids to make a difference," he said.

Life outdoors

Woodworth, a 1971 graduate of Johnstown High School, has continued to explore the outdoors in his adult life, eventually becoming an Adirondack 46er, someone who has climbed the highest mountains in the state.

While at Hobart College, he and his future wife, Holly, founded the first club at the college that did a variety of outdoor activities, such as backpacking and hiking, on trips to the Adirondacks.

After graduating from Albany Law School in 1978 and taking the bar exam, he soon took his first trip, to Tongue Mountain in Lake George, with the Albany chapter of the ADK.

"It was a great experience," the Delmar resident said.

According to its website, the Adirondack Mountain Club, "is dedicated to the protection and responsible recreational use of the New York State Forest Preserve, and other parks, wild lands, and waters vital to our members and chapters."

Continued from Page 1C

The club, which its website said has 26 chapters and about 28,000 members, does more than focus on mountains and the Adirondacks, as both Rothmeyer and Woodworth said.

Rothmeyer noted on the back of his business card for the club he had printed "Adirondack Mountain Club. Not just about the mountains."

"[The club] is all over the state," he said. "[The club] is not only out to help the environment, but to make it fun to do."

In March, Woodworth said, he will have spent 22 years as an employee of the ADK.

Before being named executive director in 2004, Woodworth got his start with the group as a lobbyist.

While the influence of lobbyists in capitols across the nation has received a lot of negative attention lately, Woodworth noted there is a key difference between the lobbying he did, and still does, for the ADK and the variety that has become loathed by the public: Basically, the group cannot make any kind of financial contribution to politicians.

"Our advocacy has to be with the facts and law," he said. "We lobby with information, not donations."

Given the club's goals, this has led it to become involved in everything from dam relicensing to the state's purchase of wild lands.

Growing group

While getting young people involved may be key for the future, Rothmeyer noted that since the Foothills chapter's first meeting in June, it now has 50 members.

Since then, he has been "flabbergasted" by how many people have volunteered to help out with various projects, such as taking care of trails.

"I was happily surprised," he said.

The main reason he was interested in starting a chapter of the club in this area, Rothmeyer said, was a lot of people hike the trails near here.

By making a difference, even if it's just keeping the trails clean, the club can help not only its members, but residents in the area and the visitors who come to use the trails.

Woodworth said he is very pleased to see a new chapter of the club starting in the area he grew up in.

He said when he goes to the Foothills chapter's meetings, he always meets people who knew his parents.

"It's a delight," he said.

For more information on the Adirondack Mountain Club, visit



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