Three-hundred hikers. Well, not quite 300, but almost, according to Grand Canyon National Park rangers. And they all descended on the park last October 19 in a bid to hike from the North Rim to the South Rim. In one day.
Behind the hike-in was Scott Beck, a Phoenix man who tried to convince rangers that even though he chartered five buses, and even though he told the participants to tell rangers, if approached, that they were "not with a group of 300," that this "23rd Annual" outing was not a commercial endeavor.
Now, that many hikers can, and did, cause some problems on their cross-canyon trek.
"The large number of hikers in the canyon that day caused impacts to vegetation and created long lines at the Phantom Ranch canteen and restroom facilities," noted the park's Canyon District ranger, Debbie Brenchley. "The Phantom wastewater treatment operator reported that the sewage treatment plant was operating at capacity. Rangers took complaints from hikers who complained about congestion on the trails. Several minor medicals and search and rescue operations were also attributed to Beck’s group."
Rangers investigating the surge of hikers were told by some that they were "only with a small number of friends and not as part of a large group, but many appeared to be avoiding contact with rangers and they all described similar travel arrangements," the district ranger noted in her report.
During interviews, Beck claimed that his trip was “organized” but not commercial, and that he had not profited, Ranger Brenchley added.
However, when rangers served a search warrant on an online event registration website that Beck had used to solicit trip participants and collect fees, they estimated that his gross income for the event was nearly $50,000, and that his profit was about $9,500.
Charged with engaging in an illegal business operation and making false statements, Beck was convicted last month on one count of engaging in business operations without obtaining a permit, the ranger said. Pursuant to a plea agreement, he was sentenced to a year of probation, during which time he is banned from Grand Canyon National Park and from conducting or advertising for any tours or guided trips on national park or national forest lands. He was also fined $500 and ordered to serve 50 hours of community service.
"Beck has since formally notified all trip participants that he will no longer be conducting his annual trip, and has pledged to donate $2,000 to Grand Canyon National Park," said Ranger Brenchley.