Photo Courtesy of Luis Escobar
There has been no shortage of fanfare and support from the running and outdoor communities in the wake of Scott Jurek’s historic, record-setting performance on the Appalachian Trail. Nearly every major media outlet has covered the incredible feat, and social media has been ablaze for several days with congratulatory comments from well wishers.
But there is another perspective on Jurek’s capture of the A.T.’s new “fastest known time.” Purists say he missed the point, that he rushed through a trail that’s meant to slow hikers down and put them more in touch with the natural world, all in the name of gamesmanship and competition.
Others have gone a step further, essentially accusing Jurek of bastardizing the Appalachian Trail in pursuit of commercial gain. The most authoritative member of this camp is Maine’s Baxter State Park, which houses Baxter Peak and the Mount Katahdin, the northern terminus of the A.T.
In a Facebook post published this morning, park officials accused Jurek of littering, drinking alcoholic beverages in public places, hiking with an oversized group, facilitating non-permitted media coverage within the state park boundaries, and drew attention to the help he has received from his corporate sponsors.
Ultramarathoning in Baxter Park – another perspective.
Our Facebook page is a great place to celebrate the nature of Baxter State Park. On occasion, we need to use this platform for serious discussion.
Scott Jurek’s recent completion of the Appalachian Trail in the shortest time on record is a remarkable physical accomplishment. With all due respect to Mr. Jurek’s ability, Baxter State Park was not the appropriate place for such an event.
Let’s be clear and concise, Scott Jurek’s physical abilities were recognized by corporations engaged in running and outdoor related products. The race vehicle used to support Scott in his run, as well as Scott’s headband, clearly displays these corporate sponsors. The sponsors are providing money and equipment to support Scott’s run in exchange for advertisement and engagement that they expect will protect or increase their market share and improve their profits. Included in this exchange are media companies such as “The Game Changers, LLC” of Laguna Beach CA, who were hired to capture video and photographic coverage of Scott’s run to enhance the opportunities for commercial benefit from his run.
When Scott arrived at Baxter Park to complete his run at the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail, he brought all of this to Baxter Peak, in Maine’s largest wilderness.
Mr. Jurek and the corporate sponsors were careful not to mention in the media coverage that one of the unfortunate outcomes of the celebration party at Baxter Peak at the completion of the event were 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. Not much to be proud of there.
An additional discouraging observation. The Appalachian Trail provided the challenge and backdrop for this event and consequently, provided the conduit for this event to land in Baxter Park. The profile of the AT is large enough to attract the corporate sponsorship necessary to support and carry such an event. The AT is apparently comfortable with the fit of this type of event in its mission. The formal federal designation and authority of the Appalachian Trial does not extend into Baxter State Park. The AT within the Park is hosted at the consideration of the Baxter State Park Authority. The Authority is currently considering the increasing pressures, impacts and conflicts that the Appalachian Trail brings to the Park and if a continued relationship is in the best interests of Baxter State Park.
Thousands of people, including Mainers and others from all over the world, visit Baxter Park and hike in the Park’s wilderness, including a climb to Baxter Peak. People celebrate their accomplishment, often with their families and often many times over, quietly and with appreciation for this precious gift left to us in perpetuity by Percival Baxter. These “corporate events” have no place in the Park and are incongruous with the Park’s mission of resource protection, the appreciation of nature and the respect of the experience of others in the Park. We hope for the support of the AT and BSP communities to help us steer these events to more appropriate venues in the future.
How do you feel about Baxter State Park’s response to Jurek’s post record-setting celebration? Let us know in the comments below.