Mt. Katahdin in the 21st Century
As hikers and tourists alike continue to travel to Baxter State Park and Mt. Katahdin, a rising issue is occurring for both state park officials and Penobscot tribe members. A principal concern is hiker's and tourist's increasing lack of respect towards Mt. Katahdin's environment and cultural significance.
Both Baxter State Park officials and volunteers are establishing the Leave No Tract movement for their park, a popular organization emphasizing for individuals to take care of and respect natural environments. Yet, this has not always been the case for hikers along the Appalachian Trail and their arrival at Mt. Katahdin. In the past, Baxter State Park has issued numerous warnings to hikers and visitors who reportedly left trash or camping equipment behind. These warnings eventually turned into citations and fines for those caught in the act of littering or were reported by rangers and other hikers.
During one incident in 2015, an Appalachian Trail hiker, Scott Jurek, found himself charged with three fines from Baxter State Park officials. They released a statement claiming:
"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."
Another Appalachian Trail hiker, in 2004, recorded her experience when reaching Mt. Katahdin stating:
"The whole trip I tried hard to leave no trace (not litter) and would pack out the trash I saw someone else left behind, but when I opened that bottle of champagne, the cork flew 30 or 40 feet in the air and the wind caught it and sent it even further. I looked but that cork was gone…."
As Baxter State Park officials and volunteers work towards eliminating litter and waste, members of the Penobscot Tribe are working towards carrying out their cultural traditions on Mt. Katahdin. In past years, Penobscot members have practiced a pilgrimage that lasts for several days, often beginning at Indian Island and then finishing at Mt. Katahdin. Penobscot leaders, along with park officials and rangers have worked out a deal, that sections of the trails, including the Appalachian Trail to Mt. Katahdin, be closed to all hikers and visitors until the ceremony finishes. However, this has sparked controversy with hikers as many claims point to the inconvenience for timing and determined closed trail sections. As a response, Baxter State Park recommended a variety of different trail sections that hikers could explore until the ceremony finishes. Other resolutions included expanding the campgrounds to accommodate more hikers and visitors as well as potentially closing Mt. Katahdin's summit completely until the ceremonies and pilgrimages are completed.