Congratulations! And Here’s Your Citation, Sir

“Did you hear about Scott Jurek?” someone asked me recently during a Saturday group run.

“Yeah,” I said. “He set a record for running the Appalachian Trail.” The ultrarunning legend had completed the 2,200 mile trail in just over 46 days. One 50-mile run is a real challenge for me; Jurek averaged 50 miles a day.

“When he finished he got a littering citation,” my friend added, “for spilling champagne on the trail.”

"You can see for yourselves the damage that can be wrought by an inferior brand of bubbly."

“You can see for yourselves the damage that can be wrought by an inferior brand of bubbly.”

That sounded like one of the ludicrous but true stories in the This Is True newsletter (which I subscribe to, and recommend). But I suspected there was more to it than Prohibitionist park officials. And as an Outside magazine subscriber, I received an email linking to their story on the subject. If you’re at all interested in our National Parks, you should read it (click here).

Jurek had finished on Mount Katahdin in Maine’s Baxter State Park, and the park’s director decided to set a public and highly visible example. The champagne wasn’t the real issue; rather, it was the commercial aspect of his finish, which hadn’t been authorized by the park. There were also far more people there than park rules allowed.

It’s ironic that efforts to get people exercising outside, and to experience our wilderness areas, can lead to overstressing the wilderness. We entrust park officials to preserve and protect the parks but also to permit public access to them. It’s a fine line to walk.

The story remains controversial. (For another perspective, read the Runner’s World article here.) But perhaps that’s the point. Hopefully it will bring abuse of park property into focus and help educate people how to enjoy wilderness while preserving it for others.

In an upcoming post I will address my disgust with another controversial “athletic” activity taking place in our National Parks. While “following your passion” sounds great and fulfilling on the surface, it can wreak havoc with other people who don’t deserve to have to clean up when things go wrong.

In the meantime, I’d welcome your thoughts on whether the Baxter State Park director acted appropriately or went overboard with Mr. Jurek.

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6 responses to “Congratulations! And Here’s Your Citation, Sir

  1. And here’s a comment via email from my friend Leora:

    “Thanks for pointing out this news – I wasn’t aware of it. One issue that everyone skirts, even though it’s absolutely glaring is that there are too many people in the wilderness because there are just plain too many people. I have a friend that doesn’t agree with me at all on this point, and I can’t fathom his thinking, and he can’t fathom mine. . .”

  2. Like it or not: Every park has rules and Mr. Jurek and his enterprise knew about them when he set out for his admirable run. There were times when athletes set out quietly, without cameras and sponsors, but that’s another topic.
    Why do we have parks and rules? Because we have beautiful spaces that need protection. Masses of visitors and pristine wilderness, commerce and conservation just don’t go together.
    In that respect I am all for the action the director of the Baxter State Park took.
    Mr Jurek is not the first and not the last athlete that beat the speed record for the AT. As everybody else, who walks the trail on a more leisurely pace on their own dime, he should respect the rules.

    • Thanks, bearly! Just goes to show how people who agree that our parks should be protected have different views on how to enforce that protection. Seems to me that both parties could have benefited from a little more communication and a little less posturing. Best, Jeff

  3. I thought it was handled very inappropriately. They knew when he was going to reach the end. They could’ve kept the whole situation from happening. I posted this in the comments on their childish post that publicly shamed Jurek (and stole his photos), “What a terrible way to address the issue, Baxter State Park. Your disappointing decision to shame Jurek, who you’d already disciplined through the appropriate process, instead of use this as an opportunity to share your philosophy and intentions for the Park lacks integrity. What an educational eye opener this post could’ve been had you not posted it in anger.”

    • I agree they could have handled the situation without the staged drama while still making their point. As for Outside’s article, I’m used to their stuff being smart-ass, so it didn’t strike me as outside their norms. But theirs isn’t the only one covering the event, so there’s a good chance there will be a balanced discussion about it. Thanks for contributing.

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