An ultra-marathoner who set the speed record for completing the Appalachian Trail paid a $500 fine yesterday to settle citations over his celebration atop Maine's Mount Katahdin that struck a nerve with park officials worried about crowding and commercialization of the historic footpath. Scott Jurek got into trouble with park rangers when he popped a bottle of champagne while surrounded by a group of supporters after completing the 2,189-mile trail from Georgia to Maine in 46 days, eight hours. A ranger later cited him for public drinking, littering, and hiking in an oversized group. A district judge signed off on an agreement in which Jurek paid a fine for public drinking and the other citations were dropped.
Jurek says he was unfairly singled out, he never once littered while passing through 14 states, and a friend brought the champagne after first checking with a park ranger. The growing number of hikers on the Appalachian Trail has become a management problem at Baxter State Park, which operates under strict rules to maintain the vision of the late Percival Baxter, who donated the land with the understanding that it'd be managed in line with his vision of "forever wild." Jurek's attorney says the situation was blown out of proportion—and that it's a good thing more people in an increasingly sedentary society want to get outdoors. "Part of Percival Baxter's legacy was that people should be enjoying the park, getting outside and being part of the outdoors that he so dearly loved," he says.