Appalachian Trail Conservancy Challenges Baxter State Park 2017 A.T. Hiker Cap Due to Lack of Research and Analysis

Date Published: Feb 02, 2017

Appalachian Trail Conservancy
Statement
2/2/2017

Statement from Ron Tipton, Executive Director/CEO of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy

Katahdin - Summit Sign“The Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) does not agree with Baxter State Park’s (BSP) new Appalachian Trail Long Distance Hiker Permit System, which limits the number of long distance Appalachian Trail (A.T.) hikers that can access the northern terminus of the Trail on Katahdin each year.

This new policy imposes a cap on the number of long distance A.T. hikers who are allowed to climb Katahdin that is 15% higher than 2016 A.T. Katahdin hiker numbers. In our view this policy is not based on best practices, sufficient research or analysis of the current impact of A.T. hikers on park resources and the hiking experience.

Last year the ATC made significant progress in improving hiker awareness and compliance with BSP rules by increasing education and outreach to the hiking community, particularly in the Monson, Maine A.T. Visitor Center. 

While we share the Park’s desire to protect the fragile alpine ecosystems on Katahdin, the ATC believes in a science-based, adaptive management approach to increased use at popular sites on the A.T. We will continue to work with BSP to provide an opportunity for long-distance A.T. hikers to climb Katahdin and complete their incredible journeys."





50 comments

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  1. Birdy | Mar 10, 2017
    I have spent a lot of my adult life completing courses and collecting certificate to prove I have taken courses in continuing education.  From reading this thread, it looks like education has a big role in limiting human impact on Baxter Park's ecosystem.  All the parks that I have visited in the US, and abroad, have flyers that they hand out when you enter.  Some have had required short video presentations on park rules and regulations that you have to watch before you go in.  It looks like Baxter would benefit from a Leave No Trace presentation, as well as education on the consequences of breaking your own trail, on Baxter's ecosystem.  This could be done as an on-line course (for a fee if necessary) that could be verified by computer when hikers enter the park.  If necessary, hikers could be assigned a monitor to compete the presentation before entering the park. Verifying that hikers understand that Leave No Trace, really means NO trace, including human waste, and new shortcut trails, should go a long way to helping save Baxter's ecosystem.  Education can be applied equally to any hiker, through the welcome center; no need to single out thru hikers, and benefitting everyone.  More than 20 years ago, Yosemite had to institute a similar program due to huge increases in visitors.  To me it looks like Baxter is suffering growing pains, and is trying to save its ecosystem before it's too late, but isn't sure how to go about it. Of note, I have never been to Baxter, and am contemplating my own thru hike when I retire in 2019.  I hope it will still be possible to reach Katahdin, which has been a goal since the 1960's when I hiked across all of Rocksylvania as a teenager.
  2. Wakeup Miss America | Mar 02, 2017

    Baxter can do whatever they want..it's their Park.  

    We can challenge, complain, etc...just like the hikers do about the Rules and regulations, anywhere else on trail...that being said, maybe we could/should start setting a better example for our Trail users by respecting Baxter's rules..whatever their reasons or excuses may be..

    Besides, Baxter can't take away Katahdin..only the Federal Government can execute that process, and with the Appalachian Trail being part of the NPS, who then has more power behind that...The ATC maybe...and I think Baxter knows this... Go ahead and take away Katahdin. Baxter won't care. 

    Politics...I tell ya, someone just needs to bite the bullet and take the rap for being the bad guy. 

    complete unnecessary "Trail Drama". 

    The more you stir, the more it stinks...kind of like those privies.

  3. Ken | Feb 07, 2017

    My question would be why doesn't Baxter just make thru-hikers register like they do everyone else? That is fair. But I think Baxter is making an assumption here that thru-hikers cause more damage to the ecosystem of Katahdin than day hikers do, and I'm with the ATC in thinking that is an unfair assumption without proper scientific research to back it up. It essentially boils down to BSP stereotyping thru-hikers and having bias against a group of people based on the actions of a few. Thru-hikers have just as much right to the park as everyone else yet get punished and scrutinized more than any other groups Baxter caters to. Even if you're a thru-hiker that follows the rules of BSP and Leave No Trace principles, you're still demonized and pigeonholed as being "entitled", "careless", etc. - even though I've seen firsthand that day hikers can much less responsible. As a victim of BSP's spite, I have also seen firsthand their ridiculous rules regarding capacity come before compassion and humanity of someone's well being.

    I think everyone is just missing the point here, which is that thru-hikers are just people too who want the same right to enjoy Katahdin as everyone else. Just my two cents.

  4. Rick Boudrie | Feb 07, 2017

    This caught my eye in the 2013 BSP Annual Report:

    1539 Hikers climbed Katahdin via in AT (Hunt Trail) in June that year

    2759 Hikers climbed Katahdin via the AT in July

    3213 Hikers climbed Katahdin via the AT in August

    2046 Hikers climbed Katahdin via the AT in September

    1214 Hikers climbed Katahdin via the AT in October

    The monthly distribution for hikers going up Katahdin via the half-dozen or so other "non-AT" Trail was similar.

    How do these monthly totals for all classes of hikers on a single Trail (AT/Hunt) overlay with the smaller subset that are Thru Hikers?  How do the numbers of AT Hikers compare with overall numbers AT differently times of the year -- in absolute numbers as well as a percent.  Keep in mind when most Thru Hikers reach BSP.

    If the impact of people (of all types) on Katahdin on any given day is the core concern, would not caps that would be applied in low traffic months (September and October) fail to meet this objective by design?

    I don't the have answere, only questions.

    With these (few) facts in mind, Ron Tipton's call for more information on Thru hiker impact seems more than reasonable, IMHO.  

     

  5. Datto | Feb 06, 2017

    ATC Leadership -- How hard can this be?? Put out a statement on the ATC website saying this:

    "The Appalachian Trail Conservancy will protect and defend free passage by AT hikers on the existing Appalachian Trail corridor from the Abol Bridge area to Baxter Peak on Mt. Katahdin."

    Done.

    Do Your Job.

    Datto

  6. Mike | Feb 05, 2017
    Sorry people but the problems being experienced at Baxter State Park are like what we see throughout society.    Don't want to be on any trail with the type people causing these problems.    The AT is not what it once was.    I'm no longer the least interested in being a "thru hiker".    Keep it to section hikes when the spoiled brats are not on the trail.   Have fun.
  7. Tom Murphy | Feb 04, 2017
    All other categories of hikes to BSP have limits.  Now the AT hikers will too.  How is that not fair?
  8. Maine res1 | Feb 04, 2017

    As a thru-hiker and a Maine resident. I am with Baxter on this one. 

    Seems like this all started with the ultra-marathoner throwing his party. 

  9. Datto | Feb 03, 2017

    I am 100% against any crazy nutball idea about moving the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail from Baxter Peak on Katahdin.

    Why change in order to just settle for some ugly stepsister mountain when the Princess is at hand? Just so a crazy park ranger can get famous?

    Instead, resist. Resist the tinhorn sheriff up there at Baxter who's just trying to create a name for himself.

    Shut him down. Impose will on the clod. Set him straight on what he's going to be doing, then check to make sure he does it.

    ATC Leadership -- Protect the Appalachian Trail. Do Your Job.

    Datto

  10. Datto | Feb 03, 2017

    These are my recommendations for the leadership of the ATC about the situation at Baxter State Park:

    1) ATC Leadership -- Stop being so completely naive. You should know by now, already even, your amicable efforts have been for naught. I'll spell this out for you in plain English -- this isn't a wolf in sheep's clothing up north -- it's a viper up your pants leg. Bissell is intent on destroying the north end of the Appalachian Trail and already has a plan in place to accomplish that task. Motivation? Just to satisfy his ego, make his claim to fame and cement his legacy at the expense of the ATC and certainly to the detriment of the Appalachian Trail. Shut him down. Protect the Appalachian Trail. Do Your Job.

    2) ATC Leadership -- Stop thinking about retirement. Get your can in gear. Protect the Appalachian Trail from any and all tinhorn sheriffs running you ragged, running you in circles, making you look like the fools you have been. Instead, act leader-like. Impose your will on any and all tinhorn sheriffs et. al. Protect the Appalachian Trail. Do Your Job.

    3) ATC Leadership -- Begin insisting on copious notes being taken by staff and board members -- telephone calls, meeting notes, internal discussions. Everything. Not the usual "we had Kool-Aid and it tasted great with the donuts." The situation up north, in case you don't already know, it's gonna go bad. You in the ATC leadership trying to be friendly and be a get-along, back-slapping group is to the great detriment of your duty. What you've seen up north is just the start. Build the file so anyone in the future knows of your tireless effort to get the guy up north to come to a workable solution. When he doesn't, have the supporting documentation showing you have done all you could and you now need will imposed. Then request it -- make the request to have your will be imposed. Stop being run ragged by being the nice guys in the equation. Impose will. Protect the Appalachian Trail. Do Your Job.

    4) ATC Leadership -- A few people from the Attorney General's office along with the appropriate Senators beats a nutcase Governor, a tinhorn sheriff and two pair any day. Get things lined up -- get prepared -- get your ducks in a row. Take the gloves off. Don't wait -- get stuff done today, not tomorrow, not next week or next month. Protect the Appalachian Trail.

    Do Your Job.

    Datto

  11. Matt j nc | Feb 03, 2017
    It will all be okay, everyone just breathe!
  12. NoWorries\m/ | Feb 03, 2017
    Having Hiked the AT SOBO in 2016, I understand all too well the plight of the NOBO thru hiker, and the utter frustration that will occur with the arrival at a closed gate at BSP following such an incredible journey.  This year's SOBO thru hike was met with trail closures due to wildfires as a result of the extreme drought.  Hearing of impending trail closures, the end of my hike turned into a sprint to get ahead of them.  I relate to the aversion to AT thru hiker caps in BSP.  However, it is critical to understand that as a part of the original land trust of BSP to the state of Maine. BSP operates under strict limitations in an attempt to satisfy the will of Percival Baxter, who gifted this land to us. It is important that we preserve the fragile landscape of these parks for future generations.  I agree with the ATC approach of using a scientific evaluation of the impact of AT thru hikers, though any changes made as a result of such a study will still have to fit into the limitations of the BSP trust.  There is no easy solution to this issue, though there are two things that I believe could be done better by the ATC to promote cause of AT thru hikers attempting to enter BSP.  1: better training and enforcement of Leave No Trace principles. It is ridiculous the number of thru hikers I met, that either didn't know or didn't care about LNT practices. Regardless of the current capping, I want future generations to be able to enjoy the splendor of this great land and this trail in its entirety.  2: a system for determining who is genuinely doing a distance hike of the AT.  SOBO, NOBO, FLIPFLOP, and SECTION.  Hiking every step of the AT is an accomplishment, no matter how it is achieved.  What annoys me are the number of people I found to be Yellow-blazing, skipping sections and still claiming thru hike status.  If our numbers are going to be capped, I want to ensure that every one of those slots goes to someone who is or has genuinely put foot to trail for the entire 2186 miles.  I don't want that person who hiked the entire thing at a slow reasonable pace to miss there opportunity to someone who cheated there way to Maine. I know that the ATC will continue to work with BSP to ensure that the best solution for all. We, as hikers, need to remember to do our part to protect and enforce the rules governing this land we love.
  13. Logman | Feb 03, 2017
    Go to the Baxter State Park web site and read the rules.  And while there read about the mission of Baxter per its gifting to the State of Maine.  This change does not sound to onerous to me.  I think we AT hikers need to be aware that such rules apply to us and note that several other locations, including hostels have closed due to hiker behavior.  
  14. Caitlin | Feb 03, 2017
    Could it be possible to move the Northern Terminus? It seems to me that Baxter does not want any thru hikers in their park at all, so why not give them what they want? I don't know if there are any other mountains that would suit in Maine, but why not have the AT join the Long Trail, or circumvent Baxter to end elsewhere?
  15. Paul | Feb 03, 2017

    How much of Baxter State Park does the NPS/ATC own? None, right?

    Not an inch of trail inside Baxter belongs to the ATC.

    Seems ATC needs Baxter more than Baxter needs them.

    I say close the Birches, and stop giving AT hikers special treatment -

    They pay $10 to stay, everyone else pays $32.

    They can just show up randomly and stay a special site built just for them.

    All other visitors must reserve 4 months in advance, and some even camp out at HQ in January hoping to get spots.

    AT hikers have Park staff dedicated to their special needs.

    End it. Full stop. Make AT hikers follow the same rules all other visitors do.

  16. Warren Doyle | Feb 03, 2017
    Please delete/disregard my previous post. I didn't read carefully enough. I see that you can get your permit in person at Katahdin Stream CG (which eases my concern).
  17. Warren Doyle | Feb 03, 2017
    Obtain your permit in person at BSP headquarters in Millinocket which is 25 miles from the trail at Abol Bridge? You gotta be kidding me!
  18. Seriously Though | Feb 02, 2017

    Seriously? The cap is applied not "due to lack of research" but because far too many people are shitters who do not apply Leave No Trace and end up causing volunteers time, effort, and money to clean up after shitters every year.

    Caps are imposed because there are always a minority of people in any demographic that shit on the rest of us.

    What do you want as a "science based" approach? A spreadsheet of the number of dried piles of human shit left on the trail that volunteers had to clean up? The weight in pounds of trash that hikers leave behind that volunteers have had to collect? The volume of erosion that volunteers had to fix on the trail because hikers cut switchbacks and leave the trail?

  19. John | Feb 02, 2017
    I have lately got back to that glorious society called Solitude. My son and I are hoping to find that on the AT.... Not Rubber stamps and fences!
  20. Gina | Feb 02, 2017

    Day hikers are more likely to be Maine residents, which would be BSPs priority rather than thruhikers.  If they choose to institute limits on the number of thruhikers entering the park, that's their prerogative.  

    Having the park as the terminus is a privilege, not our right, if the growing rate of long-distance hikers coming in is causing a negative impact, then I think we should respect that and look for someplace else to be the northern terminus for the trail.

  21. Chelsea | Feb 02, 2017
    I plan on thru hiking this year and I had the same thoughts as Gary. I registered my hike online, I have my yellow tag, and I'm looking forward to finishing the hike in Baxter atop Mt. Khatadin. I don't think the trail should be re-routed away from Baxter, but I do think more education is in order. Worst case scenario, people panic, get greedy, stealth camp carelessly and increase the threat to the ecosystem. 
  22. Chris | Feb 02, 2017

    I'm scared that I'll be forced to go hike Maine now, thus destroying my chronological journey as a northbounder... every year now Baxter is closer and closer to crushing my dream. 

  23. Mr. Shoes | Feb 02, 2017
    Any idea what Rule 1.3 says?
  24. Grampie | Feb 02, 2017

    Last year ,2016, was a banner year for AT compleations. This year, 2017, Baxter is allowing 15% more thru-hikers than last year. With a better economy in the future less folks should be thru-hiking so I doughty  that the new Baxter numbers will be reached. By doing this, limiting the number of thrus, Baxter is doing something to help the thru-hiker situation in Baxter park. It's not the number of folks climbing Katahden each season that is causing the Baxter problems, It's the number of thru hikers who are not following the rules, demanding more and in general making themselves a pain in the ass.

  25. jeri Lynn owen | Feb 02, 2017
    This is extremely disappointing.  My husband, a medically retired veteran, myself and our five children are starting our through hike on March 12th.  It is going to take a long time... we understand the miracle it will be for all seven of us to arrive... but to make it all that way, and not be able to finish it the way many others will???  After all my husband and our family has given??? This is our detox from combat and constant separation.... and now add the weight of hoping to get to just finish it the way its been done?  Wow!?!?!
  26. Sarah | Feb 02, 2017

    For the people who said BSP needs to limit day hikers instead - Baxter already does that. "Day use has been limited to the parking lot capacity at each campground, trailhead and picnic area in the park. This is not to preserve the parking areas, but to minimize impacts of overuse on the trails. Once a parking lot is filled to capacity, that trailhead is considered full and visitors should choose an alternative hike or activity in the Park." http://www.baxterstateparkauthority.com/hiking/parking.htm

    I think my opinion is relatively unpopular with the through-hiking community. But I think overcrowding IS a problem that needs to be addressed. Overcrowding does have a negative impact on the land, and the facilities in place (bear cables, privies, shelters, etc) aren't designed to handle such large numbers of people. However, the approach Baxter is taking makes no sense, as many have said it's just going to serve to concentrating the bubble to earlier in the season. I wish the ATC could have a mandatory thru-hiker permit system, with only a certain number of people being allowed to leave each day, similar to the JMT, to spread out the crowd and limit use. However since the trail is so long, and there are people using the trail for day trips/ sections / etc, this seems like it would be impossible to enforce. 

    Baxter's solution doesn't work, but I don't think re-routing the AT and letting the NOBO crowds get out of control is the right answer either...

  27. JKD | Feb 02, 2017
    If is true that Baxter is only limiting the number of hikers per day (see comment #3) then at least for 2017 when my wife and i will attempt a NOBO the worst that will happen is when we reach BSP and the permits are all gone we will have to wait until the next day. Not the end of the world. I agree the long term solution is to relocate the northern terminus. The Baxter people will not let this thing go. 
  28. Hoozurmama | Feb 02, 2017
    It sounds like another shot across the bow. The prudent thing is to start planning on moving the terminus elsewhere. It's clear Baxter does not care about the AT (in fairness that's not their mission strictly speaking) and has no intention on working with the ATC, only dictating. I do like the idea of tying the permit to thru hike registration. I just don't think Baxter will stop here.
  29. billy smith | Feb 02, 2017

    Absolute shame that the ATC was stabbed

    in the back by Jensen Bissel and the rest of them up in Maine. Myron Avery would be ashamed of the leadership of Baxter.

  30. Shawn smith | Feb 02, 2017
    I guess they want lots of hikers stealth camping near the gates to get a permit if the thru hiking permits run out. :-)
  31. Miner | Feb 02, 2017

    The new rules won't stop a hiker from finishing their hike as some as stated.  It will complicate the end of that hike for the people who are finishing later in the season if AT hiker numbers increase much more as they will now have to follow the restricted rules that other users must follow once the yearly quota is reached.

    I agree with moving the trail terminus as the only real long term solution.  From hiking out west, I'm already brainwashed that trails should end in Canada anyway. ;-)

  32. Turtur | Feb 02, 2017
    When I finished the AT last summer I was amazed at the number of day hikers going up to Katahdin's summit. The only trash I saw being left behind was from day hikers not long distance hikers. If they want to limit traffic,limit the day hikers not AT thru hikers.
  33. Paul Davies | Feb 02, 2017

    Thru hikers have no more impact than regular hikers......if anything, they are more tuned in to the whole idea of conservation having travelled so far and spoken to so many others along the way about the need to basically LNT. Does Baxter wish to discriminate against hikers or educate them , when necessary?

    Hikers should be welcomed to such a special place, not have to be concerned for weeks and months about whether they will even be allowed to complete such an epic hike once they reach the grand finale.

    Back to the drawing board for a more sensible solution.......

  34. kestrelchick | Feb 02, 2017
    Well now I am totally confused... I called Baxter today and what I was told is that they are not stopping thru-hikers from completing their hike... just that they are only allowing a limited number of permits and once those permits are gone, the thru-hiker camp area will be closed and thru-hikers will be considered day guests and will have to go through that entrance. If the day guest entrance is full for the day, the gate gets closed and hikers will be turned away until the following day where they can try to get access again... I don't see anywhere that they are not allowing hikers to finish???? Am I missing something????
  35. Lit'l John | Feb 02, 2017
    Maybe it would be a good idea to look for new northern terminus so we don't have to contend with yearly distraction. The southern terminus was relocated so the relocating the northern on is not impossible.
  36. Jason | Feb 02, 2017

    I think we all should let Baxter State Park know how we feel about this.

    Baxter State Park:  Phone: (207) 723-5140

  37. Joe | Feb 02, 2017

    I am disappointed in my home state. Baxter is quick to lay blame on thru-hikers (I was one, last year) but quick to overlook the intense traffic driven up the mountain by tourists and day-hikers/weekend warriors.

    Percival Baxter wanted the land to be kept wild, but he also wanted it to be used, enjoyed, and treasured.

    Stop limiting access. Increase education.

    Sincerely,
    A Mainer, born and raised.

  38. Beth | Feb 02, 2017
    It isn't only thru-hikers that use the trail to the summit of Katahdin. I summited on July 4, 2015 and it was super busy with tourists. My group of long distance hikers were a party of three(flip floppers, long section hikers). How is BSP going to tell the difference? If they want to limit thru hikers then limit everyone.  I agree that ATC should come up with an alternative ending for the future. This friction will continue. 
  39. Big Lou | Feb 02, 2017
    Move the Northern Terminus to Deasey Mountain - now that the National Monument in place, the feds and Quimby can deal with it.
  40. Paul | Feb 02, 2017
    Attacking them as your first move? Not very bright, Ron. How's that been working for you so far?
  41. Robin "Miss America" Hobbs | Feb 02, 2017
    Baxter should move the cheese.
  42. Tom | Feb 02, 2017

    Here's an idea.  Move the trail away from Baxter.  It's a mismatch of cultures that is only going to worsen over time.  

    The thing Baxter wants is fewer people and less traffic.  The thing the AT provides is increasing amounts of both.  

    Start a contingency plan; get prepared to walk away from this situation before the hostage taking gets worse.  It's not a matter of IF but rather WHEN.  Don;t get caught unprepared or unable to deal with this.

  43. Monica | Feb 02, 2017
    I am planning to hike the trail NOBO this year.  I was planning on starting in March.  When I first heard of the new permit BSP is requiring I was irritated and kind of scared.  I am now considering leaving mid February.  Maybe other people planning to hike will also change their plans: start earlier, flip flop or go SOBO.  Could it be a good thing?
  44. David | Feb 02, 2017
    how will the status of a nobo,sobo, flip-flop, or section-hiker be documented or proven? Agree with earlier posters comment on utilization of self-registration as some facet of an improved restricted access system. What Baxter has poorly defined and poorly disclosed is not a viable solution as the 2017 class is already underway. Anyone know whether the permits provide a window of access such that the race will be to interrupt your hike and get a permit and go back to your hike? 
  45. NOBO 2017 | Feb 02, 2017
    Some of us are old and slow, but that doesn't mean we don't deserve to complete the trail as it was intended.  If I walk from Springer to Baxter and can't get a permit because of these restrictions... man, that'll put a damper on the end of an otherwise amazing experience.  Please don't let them do this.
  46. Jason Richard | Feb 02, 2017
    Maybe you should have thought about that before you promoted Jurek's trail run and brought this whole thing to a head. Start focusing on serious through-hikers consider that your hike-your-own hike rhetoric has just turned the AT into a yellow-blazing party. -JGR (ME to GA 2000) 
  47. Gary Sizer | Feb 02, 2017
    Since I don't want to complain without offering a solution... What if: Baxter permits were somehow tied to the ATC online registration? Perhaps your ATC hang tag is the Baxter Thru Hiker Permit? The system is already in place. Based on start dates, we can estimate the impact on Baxter months in advance. If someone has to quit mid-hike, they are on the honor system to contact ATC or Baxter to "free up a spot". Just a thought.
  48. Gary Sizer | Feb 02, 2017

    How will this affect the ATC's efforts to encourage hikers (NOBOs specifically) to spread out their start dates?

    It seems to me that only issuing them in person is going to push everyone to "race to Katahdin" before they run out of permits. This will concentrate "the bubble", which as we've seen has even more impact, not just in Baxter but along the entire AT. 

  49. Tina | Feb 02, 2017
    I hope they are open-minded to your suggestions.
  50. Trisha | Feb 02, 2017
    Please please please and thank you!

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