FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — A Washington state man is accused of defying federal regulations that limit the number of people who can hike rim-to-rim at Grand Canyon National Park.
Joseph Don Mount, of Chehalis, organized a trip in October with more than 150 people who hiked from the canyon's North Rim to the more popular South Rim, according to a complaint filed this week in U.S. Magistrate Court in Flagstaff. He's accused of a handful of misdemeanors that each carry as much as six months in jail and possible $5,000 fines.
A special use permit is required for groups of 12-30 people in normal years. Larger groups aren't allowed, even if they split up. The park has further restricted group sizes during the pandemic.
The complaint also alleges that Mount wasn't authorized to provide commercial services. Park officials combed through Mount's social media postings and discovered he was planning a large group hike and had charged fees for it, the complaint states.
When park officials told him that wasn't allowed, they say he denied planning the trip. Through a Facebook group, he recommended that people separate themselves in smaller groups and communicate through handheld radios while hiking.
“Remember, there is nothing stopping you from hiking the Grand Canyon on this day,” Mount wrote online, according to an affidavit.
Mount did not return a call Thursday from The Associated Press. He's scheduled for a court hearing later this month.
Some of the hikers told park officials they were in a group of 100 or more “from all over," the complaint states. Most were evasive when asked about the planning efforts or the trip leader.
Others on the trails that day complained that the group wasn't distancing or wearing face coverings to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, and that they clogged the path, delaying itineraries.
The Daily Beast first reported on the case.