On Aug. 14, Keith Taylor (letter, “Why are Baxter officials hostile to park visitors?”) shared his frustrations from a visit to Baxter State Park to pick up his son, who had just completed the Appalachian Trail.

In my 36 years of visiting the park, I have always felt welcome, and not once have I experienced hostility — or anything other than friendliness — from a staff member. I have observed, however, that an increasing number of visitors think the rules apply to everyone else, but not themselves. Not getting your own way, especially when you are asking someone to bend the rules for you, does not mean the other party is being hostile.

Taylor expressed frustration with the day use parking reservation system because he arrived several hours late for his reservation. The park began offering parking reservations several years ago to increase access to Katahdin, and to eliminate the need to get in line before 4 a.m. Parking reservations clearly state that reserved spaces will be held until 7:05 a.m. and then released for use by other visitors.

Taylor is not the first person to overlook this, but that doesn’t mean the system is flawed. Nearly everyone I speak with really appreciates the ability to make a parking reservation.

Taylor’s letter is an excellent example of why AT thru-hikers consume more than 20 percent of ranger time, even though thru-hikers comprise only about 3 percent of park visitors.

The families of thru-hikers are often eager to greet loved ones who have just completed the trail. This is completely understandable — finishing the AT is an incredible achievement. But it does place heavy strain on Baxter State Park staff, who are continually asked to make exceptions, bend the rules and cater to special requests.

Park staff are there to help Maine residents, as well as visitors from around the world, enjoy the park “in the right, unspoiled way” as Gov. Percival Baxter intended. They are ready, at a moment’s notice, to put their own lives on the line to rescue visitors like Taylor. All of the park staff I know are supremely good at what they do, in addition to being highly trained, dedicated and friendly.

Baxter State Park staff members do an admirable job of meeting the needs of park visitors, and balancing those needs with the park’s primary mission of wilderness preservation. I encourage Taylor to join Friends of Baxter State Park and help us offer constructive solutions to the issues the park is facing related to AT thru-hikers. Our organization offers a forum for discussion about these issues, and we welcome his ideas, as well as those of others who are interested.

Aaron Megquier is executive director of the Friends of Baxter State Park.

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