Why rules matter

For several summers now, rangers in Acadia National Park have been dealing with a hardcore group of bicyclists intent on using the Cadillac Mountain Summit Road as their personal time-trial track. Often, these cyclists ignore proper riding rules, including those against excessive speed, passing cars in an unsafe manner and blowing past the stop sign at the bottom of the mountain.

Recently in Baxter State Park, a man intent on setting a speed record for a transit of the Appalachian Trail, an effort underwritten by large corporations whose logos appeared in every photograph, held what park officials deemed an inappropriate celebration, tailor-made for crowd of video cameras and film crews waiting on the top of Katahdin. Those crews themselves also were, apparently, in violation of park rules.

With so much of the world branded and overrun in the quest for money, fame or personal glory, officials in state and national parks should be congratulated for standing their ground and insisting that the forces of commercialism leave these few cherished areas unmolested.

Enforcement fatigue from the onslaught of organized athletic events sometimes leads to overreaction, as evidenced when a small group of runners sharing a jog up Cadillac earlier this month were ticketed for running an unpermitted event.

Later, Acadia officials agreed to drop the charges and initiated talks with interested parties to develop better rules about when and where event permits are needed. Sadly, the days of just throwing a casual invitation out on social media are past; 100 people may show up.

In the aftermath of the situation at Baxter, meetings among interested parties have been held and an effort launched, all along the Appalachian Trail to better educate hikers about that park’s mission and proper comportment.

Sadly, when an individual athletic feat becomes an event, when athletes become a brand, when a small group of friends getting together becomes a semi-organized race, unintended consequences can threaten the spirit and sanctity of special places like Acadia and Baxter State Park.

Any event likely to draw crowds, the presence of which runs counter to a park or preserve’s mission, needs to comply with traditions and rules. Those truly respectful of such precious places understand that. Those who insist protective rules should not apply to them are exactly why enforcement vigilance is needed.

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