Newly-Expanded Appalachian Trail Visitor Center Opens;
Will Prepare Long Distance Hikers for Final Stretch of their Journey, Protect A.T. Hiking Experience
Monson, ME (June 20, 2016) – A newly-expanded, full-time Appalachian Trail (A.T.) Visitor Center opened today in Monson, Maine. It will help hikers prepare for the unique circumstances and environment in the last section of the Trail, which extends through the boundaries of Baxter State Park (BSP).
The Center will be staffed seven days a week from today through October 16 by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) and the Maine Appalachian Trail Club (MATC). At the Center, hikers will learn about guidelines for hiking into BSP and the permits northbounders now need for the final climb of Katahdin, the northern terminus of the A.T. Northbound thru-hikers were previously exempt from BSP permit rules, while other categories of hikers and campers were required to obtain permits and reservations for their stay in the Park.
The ATC has developed those guidelines to help preserve the special nature of the Trail and manage the increasing number of long-distance hikers entering BSP. Strategically located in the last town northbound thru-hikers encounter before entering BSP, the Visitor Center allows them to pre-register for the Baxter Long Distance Hiker Permit Cards and make plans for their stay in BSP and their ascent of Katahdin.
The ATC is dedicated to increasing its presence on the A.T. in order to assist and educate hikers. The organization has developed a number of initiatives to minimize the impact of large groups on the A.T. in Baxter.
“These are common-sense principles that most hikers know but are particularly important to be reminded of as we all strive to preserve the hiking experience for everyone and the unique alpine environment on Katahdin,” said Ron Tipton, Executive Director/CEO of the ATC. “Working closely with partner groups such as the Friends of Baxter State Park, Appalachian Long Distance Hikers Association and Baxter State Park staff, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy developed these smart-hiking guidelines to help preserve the Appalachian Trail experience for all who wish to hike the A.T.”
In addition to educating hikers and providing information about local hiking opportunities, the Visitor Center has other benefits as well. For example, the Center will support tourism in Piscataquis County and help Monson continue its critical role as an Appalachian Trail Community for all varieties of hikers and visitors interested in learning more about the A.T.
According to the Bangor Daily News, the “fact that Monson is a favorite destination for Appalachian Trail hikers was another factor in [Monson Town Manager Lucas Butler’s] decision to pursue a job in the community. ‘The Appalachian Trail is the town’s biggest asset,’ said Butler. ’So I’m going to do what I can to help bring new business to the community.’”
At the Visitor Center, the ATC staff and volunteers will educate hikers on the following themes:
— Because of its unique mission to protect natural resources and keep its lands in a wild state, Baxter State Park has some regulations that differ from elsewhere on the A.T. in Maine.
— Camping is allowed only in designated sites.
— The BSP Birches campsite is for long-distance hikers only and fills on a first come, first serve basis. It costs $10 and is available to each hiker for one night. Hikers must pay in cash.
- Camping at Katahdin Stream Campground or any other campground in BSP requires a reservation prior to entering the Park.
- Groups, whether hiking on the Trail or camping overnight, are limited to 12 individuals.
- Dogs are not allowed in the Park.
- Plan on climbing Katahdin by October 15.
— Baxter State Park and Katahdin are special places and have their own regulations. So when you’re there:
- Hike in groups of 12 or less, remembering that the solitude of the A.T. is one of the more special elements for others.
- Celebrate quietly in BSP and on Katahdin, and save the alcohol for later.
- The consumption of alcohol in a public place in the State of Maine is prohibited, including anywhere in BSP.
An estimated three million people hike on the 2,190-mile A.T. every year, and some 3,000 will attempt to thru-hike the entire Trail this year. A unit of the National Park System, the Trail is one of the longest and most popular hiking-only footpaths in the world, extending from Springer Mountain, Georgia to Katahdin, Maine.
The A.T. was completed in 1937 and spans 14 states, eight national forests, six national park units, two national wildlife refuges, 24 wilderness areas, eight national natural landmarks, three national historic landmarks, some 60 state protected areas, 88 counties and 168 townships and municipalities.
The Trail is managed under a unique partnership between the public and private sectors that includes the National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, an array of state agencies, ATC, and 31 local Trail-maintaining clubs. Last year nearly 7,000 volunteers contributed 272,000 hours to manage and maintain the A.T.
About the Appalachian Trail Conservancy
The ATC was founded in 1925 by volunteers and federal officials working to build a continuous footpath along the Appalachian Mountains. A unit of the National Park System, the A.T. ranges from Maine to Georgia and is approximately 2,190 miles in length. It is the longest hiking-only footpath in the world. The mission of the ATC is to preserve and manage the Appalachian Trail – ensuring that its vast natural beauty and priceless cultural heritage can be shared and enjoyed today, tomorrow, and for centuries to come. For more information, please visit www.appalachiantrail.org.
Contact: Javier Folgar
Appalachian Trail Conservancy
Email: [email protected]