In what is certain to be a controversial application of its well publicized rules and regulations, Baxter State Park issued three summons to Scott Jurek for violations incurred when Scott climbed Katahdin to break the record for the fastest assisted hike of the Appalachian Trail on Sunday, July 12, 2015.
I spoke today with Baxter State Park Director Jensen Bissell. He expressed admiration for the stunning accomplishment of Scott Jurek and said he was personally impressed. Jensen expressed sincere concerns, however, about the corporate event that took place at the summit of Katahdin, the end of the Trail for northbound hikers.
In a post on the park's Facebook page titled "Ultramarathoning in Baxter Park - another perspective," those who manage the park wrote: "With all due respect to Mr. Jurek's ability, Baxter State Park was not the appropriate place for such an event."
That particular corporate event in Baxter State Park was not the only issue. At least three violations of park policy, rules and regulations were cited.
On Thursday, July 16th, the Baxter State Park Facebook page also posted this comment:
Mr. Jurek and the corporate sponsors were careful not to mention in the media coverage that one of the unfortunate outcomes of the celebration party at Baxter Peak at the completion of the event were the three summons issued to Mr. Jurek by a Baxter Park Ranger for the drinking of alcoholic beverages in public places (BSP Rule 7 and Maine State General Law), for littering (BSP Rule 4.5) and for hiking with an oversize group (BSP Rule 2.2). In addition, media personnel were issued a summons for violation of a commercial media permit which prohibited filming within 500' of Baxter Peak. Not much to be proud of there.
During my years of reporting on the subculture that is the Appalachian Trail, it's obvious that many -- if not most -- "thru-hikers" believe they are above rules, norms, regulations and/or personal restrictions because they are on a personal quest that no person, organization, state or agency has the right to impede.
When I saw the photograph and the elated group of fifty or so celebrants atop Katahdin -- in Baxter State Park -- with a bottle of champagne and a film crew, I was disappointed at the disrespect shown by Scott and his followers.
With all the good Scott did -- for the Appalachian Trail, his enthusiastic endorsement of a plant-based diet, and for endurance running -- that was a poor demonstration of how to mark his victory. The bad example he set -- although he's certainly not the first to pop a bottle of champagne or wine by the iconic sign -- will be emulated by others in their exuberance.
Will the mountain tumble or will Baxter State Park be ruined? No. There will be long-term repercussions, however. Think that's an exaggeration? The Park's Facebook post:
The profile of the AT is large enough to attract the corporate sponsorship necessary to support and carry such an event. The AT is apparently comfortable with the fit of this type of event in its mission.
The formal federal designation and authority of the Appalachian Trial [sic] does not extend into Baxter State Park. The AT within the Park is hosted at the consideration of the Baxter State Park Authority.
The Authority is currently considering the increasing pressures, impacts and conflicts that the Appalachian Trail brings to the Park and if a continued relationship is in the best interests of Baxter State Park.
These "corporate events" have no place in the Park and are incongruous with the Park's mission of resource protection, the appreciation of nature and the respect of the experience of others in the Park. We hope for the support of the AT and BSP communities to help us steer these events to more appropriate venues in the future.
Baxter State Park perceives hikers as guests. Guests who are allowed to enter their sanctuary and obey its rules.
Yes, I said "obey its rules." I hope you don't have a stoke.
2. HIKING AND DAY USE
2.1. The maximum size of hiking groups shall be 12 persons. Affiliated groups on the same trail separated by less than one mile shall be considered one group.
4.5. All trash, rubbish, litter, camping gear, equipment, and materials carried into the Park must be carried out of the Park. No trash, rubbish, or litter shall be deposited in any type of vaulted or un-vaulted toilet.
6.5. General laws of the State pertaining to alcohol and drugs apply within the Park. Maine law prohibits the drinking of alcoholic beverages in public places.
A person who violates any of the rules of the Baxter State Park Authority or a condition of a permit issued under those rules commits a civil violation for which a fine of not more than $1,000 may be adjudged. Persons violating other applicable laws within the Park may also be punished in accordance with the provisions of those laws. In addition, persons violating these rules may be required immediately to leave the Park, and the Authority may revoke the privilege of any person who violates these rules to enter the Park for a specified period.
Baxter's 200,000+ acres offer, according to its website, "over 40 peaks and ridges besides Katahdin in the Park. The trail system features over 215 miles of trails popular with hikers, mountain climbers and naturalists. Baxter State Park operates eight (8) roadside campgrounds and two (2) backcountry campgrounds. There are also numerous individual backcountry sites for backpackers."
To many of us, perhaps, Baxter State Park exists -- and perhaps should be honored -- to be a terminus for the Appalachian Trail.
From the perspective of Baxter State Park, many Appalachian Trail hikers abuse the nature of the park and ignore its regulations. Dogs, for example, are not allowed in the park, yet some owners skirt the rules by obtaining bogus "service dog" credentials to get their canine friends into the park.
If hikers continue to ignore regulations relating to camping, alcohol and group size in Baxter State Park, it's only a matter of time before the Appalachian Trail terminus will be forced to move elsewhere.
Tags: Attractions, Events, Appalachian Trail, Hiking, News, Robert Sutherland Travel Writer, and Hikers
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