by Mary Thill
Last week the Adirondack Park Agency planted a red maple in memory of Edwin H. Ketchledge, who died in 2010. Ketch, as he was known to his students and friends, simply loved the trees of the Adirondack High Peaks.
“This is my family. This is my world. These are the trees that sustain me. They gave me shelter. They gave me inspiration. Stabilized my homeland. Greeted me anytime of the year I went, they were there,” Ketchledge said in a video that still plays at the Wild Center, in Tupper Lake.
“He actually liked red maple. It’s a tenacious tree,” said Dan Spada, a natural-resource analyst with the Adirondack Park Agency (APA). Ketch was Spada’s dendrology professor at SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, in Syracuse, and he became a lifelong mentor.
Red maple is so versatile it’s often called a weedy species. Ketch noted that red (or soft) maple is the most widely distributed tree in the United States, and in the Adirondacks it grows in peat bogs alongside tamaracks and black spruce as well as with white pines in dry sandy soils—the type that surround the APA’s headquarters, in Ray Brook.
Late last fall the Adirondack Mountain Club issued a fourth edition of Ketchledge’s classic field guide, Forests and Trees of the Adirondack High Peaks Region, first published in 1967. This month, as Adirondack trees leaf out—only some airy white ash seem to be holding back—it becomes easier to identify them. As William Chapman White wrote in another classic regional book, Adirondack Country, “By the end of May, the Adirondack world is a green world. It took long to come about.”
The new Forests and Trees adds a short biography of Ketchledge to his descriptions of 34 species—half conifers, half hardwoods—found in the mountainous heart of the Adirondacks. The pocket-size book is also a guide to reading the landscape, interpreting evidence from the Adirondack logging era, which began around 1820, and the beginning of glacial retreat 18,000 years ago.
Each year the APA commemorates Arbor Day by planting a tree in memory of people who have made significant contributions to the Adirondack Park. Past honorees include:
2003 John Stock, a former APA commissioner, forester and superintendent of Litchfield Park
2004 Harold Jerry, a state official and member of two Adirondack study commissions and several Adirondack environmental groups
2005 Breck and Barb Chapin, Saranac Lake civic leaders as well as dedicated volunteers at the Paul Smiths VIC
2006 APA employee Don Hill
2007 Barbara McMartin, researcher and author of many Adirondack books
2008 Peter Berle, chairman of the Task Force on the Future of the Adirondack Park under Governor Mario Cuomo and Department of Environmental Conservation commissioner
2009 In honor of agency secretaries
2010 Greenie Chase, naturalist and DEC employee
2011 Clarence Petty, whose surveys for the DEC influenced which state lands would be classified as wilderness
2012 Edwin H. Ketchledge, founder of the Summit Steward program, Adirondack botanist