It’s no secret that Baxter State Park has it’s eyes fixed on the hoards of Appalachian Trail thru-hikers that visit Katahdin each year. Concern for the future of the Northern Terminus is exponentially growing as park advocates attempt to balance conservation with popularity.
Over the last 24 years, the Appalachian Trail has seen about a 75% increase in foot traffic. And the trail’s growth in popularity is not expected to cease. In an attempt to accurately monitor long distance hikers, Baxter State Park has announced that they will be implementing a permit system beginning in 2016.
Northbounders, Flip-Floppers, and Section Hikers are now required to redeem a permit from one of the following locations:
- Park Headquarters in Millinocket
- The Appalachian Trail Lodge in Millinocket
- Directly from the BSP/AT Steward at Abol Bridge
- Katahdin Stream Campground in Baxter State Park
Southbounders are currently exempt from this requirement. The permit will be dated when issued and then dated again at Katahdin Stream Campground upon the completion of each Katahdin hike. Long Distance Permits will also be required for hikers staying at the Birches facility. There will be no limit on the number of distributed permits. No cost is associated with these cards at this time.
A count of issued permits will be updated daily on both BSP’s facebook page and website. Similarly to hiker registration with the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Baxter State Park will publish a list of hikers on their website at the close of each season.
It’s possible that this is the first step to limiting thru-hiker foot traffic in the park. Since Northbound hikers account for the largest percentage of thru-hikers, the permit system may be a means to accurately address just how much of an impact thru-hikers are having on the park. Baxter State Park already restricts the number of cars that are allowed to enter the park each day. This has proven to be an effective way to limit day-hikers.
Katahdin’s delicate Alpine zone and the overall health of the park is undeniably influenced by human traffic. Baxter State Park has reason for concern as thru-hiker numbers soar. Although Katahdin has marked the Northern Terminus of the Appalachian Trail for nearly a century, current events demonstrate that it is not impervious to change.