July 19, 2015 - The Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC—the lead non-profit agency responsible for management of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail, in partnership with the National Park Service, 80 different federal, state, and local agencies, and 6,000 volunteers in 31 local trail maintaining clubs) has been working with Baxter State Park to address and to find solutions to the growing concerns the park has had with A.T. users. A long-planned meeting is being held in Millinocket next week and will include representatives from the ATC's New England region, ATC HQ, the Maine Appalachian Trail Club, Friends of Baxter State Park. ALDHA (the Appalachian Long Distance Hikers Association). Other stakeholders have also been invited.
The timing of this face-to-face meeting is fortuitous, as more dialog is certainly needed, as well as more education of Trail users, especially thru-hikers reaching Baxter State Park. However, the statement that "the A.T. is apparently comfortable with the fit of this type of event in its mission," is not accurate. Competitive events, commercial use, fundraising, and large-group use are discouraged by the ATC, and with our support are often against the regulations of local agencies along the A.T. However, different agencies along the A.T. have widely differing regulations and policies. The ATC always asks hikers to follow the regulations of the land-owning agency, and wherever they are, to follow Leave No Trace practices. Unfortunately, enforcement of regulations and policies in many areas outside of Baxter State Parks is challenging as there are several hundred unrestricted access points.There is also only one ranger exclusively devoted to the A.T., although seasonal "ridgerunners" and volunteers often work with local law enforcement.
A trailwide A.T. policy was developed and passed earlier this year by the ATC that formalizes our position on these topics, but policy takes time to share and implement. We share the same concerns for resource protection and safeguarding the user experience that Baxter does. Our policies can be found on our website here: http://www.appalachiantrail.org/what-we-do/trail-management-support/volunteer_toolkit/trail-management-policies.
The ATC already has a number of new initiatives underway or in development that promote Leave No Trace and responsible thru-hiker education online and on the ground and that disperse thru-hikers more evenly along the Trail. We have also been developing materials and plans to better educating hikers about Baxter policies and regulations. We look forward to meeting with Baxter State Park next week so together we can safeguard the Appalachian Trail and Katahdin and honor their intended uses.
To view Baxter State Park's original statement, visit: https://www.facebook.com/baxterstatepark.