August 07, 2023
The story behind Green Goat's hiking, biking, boating, and fishing maps
On a family cross-country ski trip along the Fish Pond Truck Trail in the heart of the St. Regis Canoe Area, Ezra Schwartzberg had the beginning idea for a company that would help shape information accessibility and community partnerships in the Adirondacks and beyond.
I recently had the privilege to speak with Ezra about his company, and passion, Green Goat Maps. If you live in the Adirondack Park, or places like Acadia, Maine, and Burlington, Vermont, (more on that later), then you’ve likely laid eyes on the product of this environmental stewardship oriented business. The small, green-colored maps with a mountain goat standing proudly in the center, spark genuine curiosity, and have become a staple of responsible recreation in the Adirondacks.
The origin of Green Goat Maps
While out on that winter trip, the thought of a map smaller than the typical offering, waterproof, and that showed all of the trails suitable for skiing, was born. Ezra was the right person for the job too, having a PhD in the sciences, and devoting much of his time to Adirondack Research, the parent company so to speak of Green Goat Maps. With Adirondack Research, much of the work revolved around invasive species mapping and implications for land-use management, which gave Green Goat a solid foundation for their first project. With all of that, the first product was created, the Lake Placid and Saranac Lake Winter Trails map, and since then the team has expanded, and so have their goals, motivations, and map selections.
The first map, and motivating factors for future products
When I spoke with Ezra, we touched on that very first map, and he said, “We put [on the winter trails map] every trail that is flat enough to ski on, and with that info, people can feel like a local. People can go to the Hays Brook Truck Trail or Fish Pond now that they have that information on lower trafficked trails.” This sentiment really stood out to me as a pillar of what makes Green Goat unique. Directly in line with one of their goals of helping to address overuse issues, the maps aren’t simply a product of how popular the associated trails are, but rather giving people the resources to explore trails some would consider “local”, making them accessible for all.
At first, Ezra, being a scientist, tried to make a formal evaluation tool for determining which places were best to map, and in his words, “It didn’t work." Now, the business model is focused on essentially speaking with local community members, and getting the staff in the field to really see what trail networks and recreation areas would be a good fit for a map.
One piece of the puzzle for both determining what would be a good map, and making that map highly usable for the recreation community, is partnering with land conservancies that service a particular area. Through doing so, they can sometimes get access to shape files and other resources from the conservancies that the typical NatGeo map wouldn’t get, tailoring their maps to the nuances of local landscapes and issues. This could be via guidance of what trails would be best to drive hikers toward, both for user experience, and for the environment. Partnerships with land conservancies included, you’ve likely seen maps they’ve helped produce for area kiosks on trails like the Jackrabbit Ski Trail, The Nature Conservancy, Adirondack Land Trust, Lake George Land Conservancy, and Champlain Area Trail properties. A recent partnership with Barkeater Trails Alliance will also see the production of a mountain biking map for the greater High Peaks region, which includes the Tri-Lakes area and beyond. With this project, they will be donating a portion of the profits to BETA for further advocacy and boots-on-the-ground work for mountain bike trails. There’s no doubt that their work has helped thousands of hikers, bikers, and nature enthusiasts have a safe and enjoyable experience.
The community connection extends outside the trail networks, with Ezra and the team realizing that meaningful connection to the wilderness also means having a positive experience before and after a day in the woods. On many of the maps, there’s information that supplement a wilderness experience, like breweries and ice cream shops, and other local businesses. It’s something not many other maps do, and really helps foster a sense of place, both for visitors and locals alike.
While partnering with environmental organizations is a huge step for any company that provides recreators information, Green Goat has always gone a step further. In nearly all of their maps, you’ll find information on invasive species and their identification, highlights of native species, and examples of detrimental impacts to our local environment that are happening. One of my favorite instances of this is on their Ausable River Fly Fishing Map, which has a Threats To The River inset that speaks to road salt use in our region, and the ecological impacts it has. That map in particular highlights a conservation oriented partnership with the Ausable River Association, which focuses its efforts on advocacy, stewardship, and conservation of the Ausable River watershed.
Green Goat Maps is also a member of 1% for the Planet, which means that 1% of their annual revenue is given directly to environmental causes. Purchasing a map comes with knowing that you are doing a small part in contributing to various organizations' goals of helping our planet.
Beyond the Adirondacks
While the Adirondacks personally are my home mountains, venturing outside the Blue Line happens often! Lucky for fans of Green Goat, they make some maps of areas outside the Park boundary. One of my favorite places on Earth, Acadia National Park, just so happens to have a map made by Green Goat for it. Ezra touched on the features that made it special, and we agreed on the difficulty that some users have at first navigating the hiking trails and carriage roads of that park. It’s a map that, just like their Adirondack offerings, will be hitching a ride in my backpack whenever I’m out there. Other maps they produce outside the park include Martha’s Vineyard and a Burlington Outdoor Adventures map. To me, I think it’s unique to have this high-quality, local-mapping business right in Saranac Lake, and I’m able to travel to other areas of the country with a map of theirs!
From that idea on the Fish Pond Truck Trail, to now having an army of maps made for the local legend or visiting adventurer, Ezra and Green Goat Maps have created something special. Next time you’re in a local outdoor gear store, or need a map for anything from fishing and boating, to hiking and biking, consider Green Goat and their expertly designed and researched maps.
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