As the popularity of completing the 2,189-mile hike from Georgia to Maine known as the Appalachian Trail continues to grow each year, officials in Baxter State Park in Maine are threatening to take drastic steps by rerouting the end of the trail away from its famous endpoint of Katahdin Mountain in Maine.
Citing what he sees as an unsustainable growth in visitors and an increasing party-like atmosphere on the trail, Jensen Bissell, director of Baxter State Park, has warned the Appalachian Trail Conservancy that his park may no longer be willing to host the trail’s finish line on the steep, boulder-spotted slopes of Mount Katahdin.
Bissell said that he realized the situation might be reaching a breaking point after seeing video of ultramarathon runner Scott Jurek celebrating finishing the trail in 46 days by popping a bottle of champagne atop Mount Katahdin.
"When I saw the video, it spoke to me," Bissell said of the event. "I thought, it's time to speak more loudly about this because we're not having an effect."
Jurek received three citations from Bissell for drinking in public, littering and hiking with an oversized group. He is appealing all three citations, and told The New York Times that Jensen was using him as a scapegoat to propel a personal mission to move the trail out of Baxter State Park.
"He wanted to tarnish me to further his cause about moving the A.T.," Jensen said of Bissell. "He stood on my shoulders."
Still, Bissell is adamant in his stance that the Appalachian Trail has assumed the feeling of a frat party as of late and isn’t adhering to Baxter State Park’s mission to keep the park in a “natural, wild state.”
Plus, with the amount of Appalachian Trail hikers up 18 percent in his park from 2013 and the Robert Redford movie, A Walk Through the Woods that focuses on hiking the trail set to premiere, Bissell thinks that even more people will soon try hiking the trail, a growth he doesn’t think can be sustained.
“If we have 2,000 hikers now, how will it be when we have 3,500 or 4,000 hikers?” Bissell told The Boston Globe.
And while he said the possibility of moving the trail still remains a drastic step, Bissell remained ardent in his support of Baxter State Park’s mission of providing a natural wilderness.
"It's hard, when there are 200 people at the summit, to say this is a wilderness experience,” Bissell told The New York Times.
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