Acadia: Split up or get a permit if you have more than 5 people on a trail

I’m back with another update to the story about who needs get a permit to gather as group at Acadia National Park.

The park had a meeting with the public last night at its headquarters to talk about the issue of when a permit is really needed. I spoke with John Kelley, the public information officer for the park, and he told me about 80 people showed up — members of the running clubs as well as representatives from Mount Desert Island high school athletics.

Kelly confirmed with me that these are the park’s guidelines for when you need a special use permit:

  • a group of 20 or more people on a paved road or carriage roads
  • a group of 5 or more people using on a single-track trail
  • a group of 10 or more people using the Schoodic section of the park.

These are the same guidelines the park has had, Kelly said. And those guidelines aren’t specific to running — the idea is that any time a large organized group might displace other visitors of the park, the rangers want to know about it, so they can try to “work around that impact” of having a large group use a facility in the park all at once.

“The key to the special-use permit is that it is a process,” Kelly said. “It’s a case by case review of the activities of all varieties — activities that we want to happen in the park, at least to the extent that they don’t impact other visitors.”

And to clarify earlier questions about the permitting process, the $50 fee is refunded if a special-use permit is not required — or not granted, Kelly said.

Both when I talked to Acadia National Park Chief Ranger Stuart West last week and when I talked to Kelly today, I asked about what would happen if a large family wanted to go on a hike or run together, and the recommendation is that they should split into smaller groups as to not impact other visitors on the trail — or apply for a permit.

Another suggestion that came out of the meeting last night was to be able to issue a permit for a repeating activity, such as the high school cross country team taking training runs.

I’d seen a few posts on Facebook about concerns around this very issue — that the MDI team wouldn’t be able to run in the park any more.  For example, this post from Secretary of State (and former MDI runner) Matt Dunlap on his personal Facebook page:

Regarding those statements, Kelly said that the guidelines to run in the park haven’t changed, and the high school team isn’t being denied a permit. They just need to apply for a permit to run in the park.

(MDI cross country coach Desiree Sirois declined to talk to me for this blog post.)

Gary Allen, MDI Marathon race director and co-founder of Crow Atheltics running club – where this blog post all started — was at the meeting, and he shared his thoughts with me:

I appreciate the park both calling the meeting and working to clarify the rules.

I get a sense that a lot of this is still about them writing a summons that never ever should have been written in the first place and rather admitting that they may have made a mistake, they are instead overhauling the whole system.

To me, hikers and runners are all pedestrians, and telling groups on foot they can no longer visit a national park unless they comply to what feels like random quotas feels a lot like overkill. ANP should be a leader in encouraging people to get outdoors versus making them wonder if they are compliant. Statistics show our country has never been more unfit, and in my humble opinion, these kind of regulations appear to favor tour buses versus people power are pretty ridiculous.

(Allen is referring to the fine the runner faced after planning a group run at midnight on Aug. 13 up Cadillac Mountain. Chief Ranger West said that the park wanted to work with the court to drop the fine.)

Kelly said that he took pages and pages of comments and suggestions at the meeting last night, and the park is reviewing them.

Coincidentally I was on Cadillac this Monday enjoying the park with my family.

Coincidentally I was on Cadillac this Monday enjoying the park with my family … from a car.

“We’ll look into considering some of the ideas that came out of the meeting,” Kelly said.

Pattie Reaves

About Pattie Reaves

I'm a new mom and renegade fitness blogger at After the Couch. I live in Brewer with my husband, Tony, our daughter Felicity, and our two pugs, Georgia and Scoop.