ACADIA NATIONAL PARK, Maine — Somebody took it upon themselves to clear some vegetation near a popular climbing spot on Champlain Mountain and park rangers are trying to find out who.

Doing anything to change the landscape in Acadia National Park, without approval from park officials, violates federal law.

According to Ed Pontbriand, someone took a saw to about a dozen trees near the top of South Wall, a climbing area south of the Precipice Trail. Four or five trees a few inches in diameter were cut completely through, while another eight had limbs removed, he said.

“Somebody went in there this spring and cut a bunch of trees,” Pontbriand said. “We really try to push the leave-no-trace ethics.”

Pontbriand said such cutting is punishable by a $100 fine. But he added that a federal judge has the authority to increase the penalty to six months in jail and a $5,000 fine.

“We consider it destruction of natural features,” the ranger said.

He added that rangers are looking into the possibility that someone may have installed additional climbing anchors into the rock at the site. Acadia rangers found out about the improper cutting earlier this month, he said.

Pontbriand said that South Wall is one of several places in Acadia where rock climbing is allowed, but park officials have to approve any sort of modifications to the landscape, whether it is cutting vegetation, installing anchor bolts or moving rocks. A major part of the park’s mission is to protect natural resources, and that means minimizing the impact that visitors have on park property.

Some climbers get it, he said, and even use rock-colored chalk to make sure they are not leaving behind highly visible traces of their presence. Unfortunately, not all park visitors are so conscientious, he added.

He said that at climbing sites such as Otter Cliffs, South Wall or South Bubble, climbers are asked to sign in to a ledger on site so rangers can get an idea of how much the site is used. He said large climbing groups of more than five people should contact park staff ahead of time in order to make sure they are available and to minimize the impacts overly large groups might have.

Pontbriand said rangers want to get the word out about the incident to help educate the public about what not to do, but they also want to find out who cut the trees.

“We’ll make sure [the culprit] gets an education on it,” Pontbriand said. “It sure would be nice to figure out who did it.”

Rangers with Acadia can be contacted by calling 288-8791.

Bill Trotter

A news reporter in coastal Maine for more than 20 years, Bill Trotter writes about how the Atlantic Ocean and the state's iconic coastline help to shape the lives of coastal Maine residents and visitors....