BAR HARBOR — Acadia National Park Chief Ranger Stuart West will make a recommendation to federal prosecutors to dismiss a citation issued to a local man for organizing a group run in the park without a special use permit.
Andrew Kephart was issued a citation by a park ranger on Aug. 13 after he invited local runners on Facebook to meet him for a midnight run up Cadillac Mountain to observe meteor showers.
He and six other runners were met by the ranger at the base of the mountain with a copy of the Facebook post. He was issued a court summons on the permit charge that carries a $175 fine.
Even though they were allowed to continue the run, it caused discontent among the running community on social media and led to an informal meeting with West Monday night at Agamont Park in Bar Harbor to resolve their concerns.
“Although, by the letter of the regulation, the ranger was correct in issuing a citation, I will be making a recommendation based upon the greater good,” said West. “That greater good is working with Andrew [Kephart] and the rest of the running community to get everyone on the same page about when a special use permit is required.”
The meeting, organized by West and Kephart, also was attended by members of area running clubs and other park personnel.
“The meeting was a positive thing,” said Deputy Superintendent Michael Madell. “The runners understand our position better now.”
The reason a special use permits is required, explained West, is to allow the park to help better manage an event.
According to West, there are four things the park needs to take into consideration before granting a special use permit. They include possible damage to the resources of park, negative impacts on non-participating visitors, the safety of the participants and any long-term ramifications the park might face if the permit is approved.
Kephart organized a similar event last year by posting on Facebook that he was going to run up and down Cadillac and invited friends to join. “We had about 30 people show up,” he said. “I didn’t know how many were going to come this year.”
It was an open event, and West said a permit would have allowed the park to put a cap on the number.
“The park wants to ensure that the person running the event has the ability to manage it,” he added. “If 100 people showed up, the person might not have been able to.”
In 2013, the park cited the organizer of a seasonal running camp for teenagers for conducting group runs on the carriage roads without a permit.
The park, he said, could have provided cars with emergency lights on the vehicles to alert drivers about the runners going up and down the mountain along with providing suggestions regarding required safety gear and parking for the participants.
The special use permit for an organized running event costs $50, which is refunded if the park deems the permit is not required.
“The park has long been a supporter of the running community,” said West. “They are some of our most considerate and supportive user groups. To have an incident blow up into a much larger misunderstanding is a shame. But social media has a tendency to do that.”
Another conversation has been scheduled at park headquarters for Wednesday, Aug. 26, to discuss future actions to avoid such a situation.
“I look forward to speaking with the running community at large to discuss ways in which we can improve the special use permit program to make the regulations crystal clear,” West said. “Our next meeting should get us all on the same page so everyone knows when permits are required.”