There are four times the number of Appalachian Trail thru-hikers hiking and camping in Baxter State Park than there were 20 years ago – when I did my hike. According to Jensen Bissell, Director of Baxter State Park, this is straining resources.
“From the perspective of Baxter Park, we are concerned that the use of Baxter Park is nearing or has surpassed an acceptable limit for the facilities and effort available from the Park to accomodate A.T. hikers”
A letter to ATC Executive Director, Ron Tiptop, lays out the current issues – many of which focus on thru-hikers that overwhelm park resources and occasionally don't follow the rules of Baxter Park (ie. no public consumption of alchohol or drugs, camping only designated areas, no dogs in to the park, etc).
Bissell states, and I agree, that this problem will only get worse with the release of Wild and Walk In The Woods in the next twelve months, and with the popularity and Internet accessibility of Appalachian Trail documentaries that generate additional interest in thru-hiking.
Let's all hope that Baxter State Park gets federal funding to expand their operations, because there's no better place to finish (or start) an Appalachian Trail thru-hike than at Mt. Katahdin in the Park.