An open letter to Baxter State Park

To whom it may concern,

On July 22nd, 2014, I entered Baxter State Park at around 9PM with the intent of camping at the Katahdin Stream Campsite.

Upon arriving at the clearing with the bathroom facilities, ranger station and employee housing near the daicey pond campsite, I took note of the sign informing me that I would not be able to check into the camping site after hours. Specifically, the sign said I would not be admitted. It was after midnight and I had walked nearly fifty miles that day. As a thru-hiker, I had become very accustomed to often reaching my destinations very late. This was the first indication I had seen that I would not be able to sleep at the Katahdin Stream Campsite. There was no indication that I could continue to the campsite and pay in the morning. The sign simply stated that I would not be admitted. I knew that “stealth camping,” or unauthorized camping, was not permitted, so I chose to sleep, very uncomfortably, on a gravel pile directly in front of the employee station, so when I woke up in the morning I could promptly pay the $10 fee that would have been required if I had arrived before the Katahdin Stream Campsite closed.

When I woke up and was packing my tent, I indeed met an employee driving towards the Daicey pond site in her truck. I believe her name was Rita. Rita refused my $10 and reported me to the law enforcement ranger. She asked me for identification and I provided it, willingly.

The Baxter State Park Rules and Regulations book states that camping is limited to certain sites to preserve flora and fauna. I slept on a gravel pile next to a gravel road in front of a building. Presumably, this gravel road and building destroyed a lot of fauna in their construction. Had I any intention of dishonestly avoiding the $10 fee, I would have simply stealth camped in the woods, and would have never been discovered. I would have never given your employee who was not physically capable of pursuing me my identification. Yet, I chose to limit my ecological impact and sleep on the gravel pile, and to attempt to pay the $10 fee despite having slept on a gravel pile.

After my encounter with the first park employee, I talked to the ranger at the base station. He acted like he was sympathetic to my story and told me the employee I talked to earlier “liked her job too much,” and was making a big deal out of nothing. He said she had been on the radio making a big deal about it. He said he didn’t care, but it would probably be a good idea for me to check in with the law enforcement ranger.

I hiked up to the end of the trail at Katahdin and upon my return, went to talk to the ranger at the base station about how to contact the law enforcement ranger. He informed me that the law enforcement ranger was leading a convoy of construction cranes, and that to link up with him, I would need to run a half mile to the road and hop in his truck. I did.

The officer, Isaac Needell, summarily proceeded to tell me that I broke the law and that he would be writing me a ticket for it. I brought up the fact that the park’s charter, and the intent of the law, was to preserve the ecology of the park, and what I had done had satisfied the spirit of those requirements. I told him that I believed that this had nothing to do with preserving biodiversity, and everything to do with revenue.

I do not deny that I broke the law by sleeping most miserably on your gravel pile. Your policy communicates to people that it is better to dishonestly avoid the law, than to respect the spirit of a law and approach any breaches honestly. I voluntarily slept in front of your employee station on a pile of gravel that was left over from park development projects that most assuredly destroyed the flora and fauna your charter claims it protects. I voluntarily confronted your agents, provided my identification, and entered officer Needell’s car. The fact that I was penalized for my honesty and conscientious behavior, and that my money was refused in favor of the opportunity to extort me, speaks volumes about the true intent of Baxter State Park – commercialization of natural resources and revenue through extortion.

Best regards,
Calvin Froedge

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