Guilty plea to man who led a large Grand Canyon hiking group

Washington State man admitted organizing Grand Canyon National Park's rim-to rim hike for 139 people, even though such groups are small.

Guilty plea to man who led a large Grand Canyon hiking group

He pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges related to the October 2020 trip.

Joseph Don Mount was sentenced to two-year probation after admitting that he had violated the park's limit on group size. Mount, from Chehalis (Washington), is also forbidden to enter any national parks in northern Arizona for the next two years.

Since the park was established in 2005, the maximum number of people allowed to visit it in hiking groups was limited to 11 people. This restriction was in place to avoid trail congestion and remained in effect throughout the pandemic.

Mount was advised about the limit on size and the prohibition of splitting large groups into smaller ones in an attempt to circumvent the rule.

Investigators claim Mount maintained the organization of the one-day hike, recruiting potential hikers, posting an itinerary, a list and other preparations.

Ryan Stevens, Ryan's attorney, stated that his client was trying to bring together people of similar religious beliefs for an outing that would be a break from isolation caused by the pandemic.

Stevens stated that many people had already committed to the trip when his client was confronted about the group size of his upcoming trip by park employees.

Other trail users complained that Mount's group didn't practice social distancing, or wear masks to stop the spread of coronavirus. They also clogged the paths, delaying itineraries.

Mount was accused of collecting thousands of dollars from hikers in registration fees to pay for guide services, transportation, and other expenses.

According to court records, Mount once projected that he would make about $65, after paying those costs.


 

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