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Thread: My letter to Baxter State Park>>>>

  1. #1
    Senior Member SpencerVT's Avatar
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    My letter to Baxter State Park>>>>

    I have been a frequent hiking visitor to the park for quite a few years. I am writing with concerns regarding your staff. Some folks on your staff are ornery and seem like they do not want to be there. I have definitely encountered some staff whom are wonderful and friendly; however some of the other employees we have interfaced with evoke an unpleasant lack of friendliness which is really off-putting to users of the park.

    I fully respect that there are rules, management regulations, and that their jobs can be difficult. It’s not about that. It’s really about that these staff do not even say “Welcome To Baxter State Park” upon arrival. Instead, they almost treat visitors like a nuisance. The tone, demeanor and behavior of some of your park staff more accurately reflect a State Trooper who has pulled someone over for doing something wrong, rather than an ambassador for the outdoors at a wonderful Maine State Park.

    As mentioned, my wife and I have encountered some very welcoming and helpful personnel in our hikes there. However, some of the other staff act curmudgeonly and quite unfriendly. Baxter State Park is one of the most wonderful and beautiful natural areas anywhere, and it is my hope that you will take this letter to heart and address these issues with your staff. It would be so nice to hear “Welcome to Baxter State Park” upon arrival instead of the current cold, unwelcoming demeanor manifested by some of your staff. I appreciate your time and consideration.
    Spencer
    Bigfoot

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    Strange, I normally find the gate house attendants in summer quite pleasant. Considering they work in perpetual dust cloud from vehicle traffic they have always been friendly to me. I rarely if ever see an actual ranger but my interactions have been pleasant with a few staff going out of their way.

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    Senior Member CaptCaper's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SpencerVT View Post
    I have been a frequent hiking visitor to the park for quite a few years. I am writing with concerns regarding your staff. Some folks on your staff are ornery and seem like they do not want to be there. I have definitely encountered some staff whom are wonderful and friendly; however some of the other employees we have interfaced with evoke an unpleasant lack of friendliness which is really off-putting to users of the park.

    I fully respect that there are rules, management regulations, and that their jobs can be difficult. It’s not about that. It’s really about that these staff do not even say “Welcome To Baxter State Park” upon arrival. Instead, they almost treat visitors like a nuisance. The tone, demeanor and behavior of some of your park staff more accurately reflect a State Trooper who has pulled someone over for doing something wrong, rather than an ambassador for the outdoors at a wonderful Maine State Park.

    As mentioned, my wife and I have encountered some very welcoming and helpful personnel in our hikes there. However, some of the other staff act curmudgeonly and quite unfriendly. Baxter State Park is one of the most wonderful and beautiful natural areas anywhere, and it is my hope that you will take this letter to heart and address these issues with your staff. It would be so nice to hear “Welcome to Baxter State Park” upon arrival instead of the current cold, unwelcoming demeanor manifested by some of your staff. I appreciate your time and consideration.
    Ha..state employee's. Can't get fired unless drunk on the job or other unusual situations. Better yet maybe temp state workers without benifits or working for a company hired by the state to run some aspects of the park.

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    Senior Member Mike P.'s Avatar
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    I'll be eager to see what the reply is from the State of ME to a non-resident.
    Have fun & be safe
    Mike P.

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    Senior Member maineguy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mike P. View Post
    I'll be eager to see what the reply is from the State of ME to a non-resident.
    I would expect it to be similar to the reply a ME resident would get writing to complain about employees in a CT state park

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    Quote Originally Posted by maineguy View Post
    I would expect it to be similar to the reply a ME resident would get writing to complain about employees in a CT state park

    I'd think both states would have a prompt courteous interaction.... now,New Yorkers on the other hand.

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    Quote Originally Posted by CaptCaper View Post
    Ha..state employee's. Can't get fired unless drunk on the job or other unusual situations. Better yet maybe temp state workers without benifits or working for a company hired by the state to run some aspects of the park.
    The majority of state park workers in any of the northern New England states are seasonal part-time workers. There are only a handful of full-time, year-round, permanent state government jobs in state parks in any of the states.

    It's common for parks workers at busy parks to get burned out by the public, and since they often have to deal with the worst that the public leaves behind, it's easy to cop an attitude towards visitors. It can be a difficult to stay fresh and bright, but any park worker should see this as a welcome professional challenge, and one that any new visitor deserves. It's what the work brings and should be expected.

    Although one of the unique qualities of northern New Englanders is the grumpy old Yankee. Even if an interaction with such an individual might seem less than rosy - it might be a cultural experience we wouldn't want to lose. (Spencer my guess is this is not the only interaction type you are referring to). I managed staff at a number of park sites that all had their curmudgeons (including myself), and quite often had to field complaints about the cranky Yankee. It often including explaining unique personality types and trying to get the visitor to understand that people are challenging and different, then going to the employee and explaining the same thing.

    I have had my own difficulties in Baxter with staff since I like to be out into darkness.

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    I guess its easier to throw mud then to do the research but BSP employees are not a typical state employee. BSP is an odd amalgam of state entity and a private trust. Percival Baxter set up the rules and the Deeds of Trust and then forced the state over multiple legislative sessions to acknowledge that the land and the associated significant trust fund that went with it would be managed in perpetuity by his rules to keep short term politics out of the operation.

    A quote from the website may be helpful While Baxter State Park bears the name “State” it is separately administered, free from any connection with the larger State Park system (Bureau of Parks and Lands/Dept. of Conservation). The Baxter State Park Authority, a three-person authority consisting of the Attorney General, the Director of the Maine Forest Service and the Commissioner of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, has full power in the control and management of the Park and in the exercise of all Trust obligations.

    Practically in the long term the park is run by a "benevolent dictator", the BSP director. The authority makes broad policy decisions and hires the director but management of the park is by the director and his staff. Talking to staff and some fairly knowledgeable locals over the years, it takes a long time with a lot of vetting to become full time staff and many seasonal folks without the appropriate degrees and skills toil away as seasonal employees for years. Many folks gave up and usually end up in the regular state park system. The vast majority of staff that a typical visitor will meet are seasonal staff and there is no formal seniority system for the seasonal staff. Those who do a good job at a particular task are usually rehired for the same task or are recommended for new opportunities but its at the will of the park director. There is no union in place (unlike other parts of the state government). Talk to any seasonal employee and they are not doing it for the pay, the hours are long and they get minimal days off. The park has had a tough time filling the front country positions. Especially since the demise of the mills in the area, long term jobs with benefits are rare and competition for the few full time jobs is intense.

    The new park director who was hired just a few years ago was young for the position and he had a steep learning curve. This article from a few years ago implies that he knew he had some learning to do https://bangordailynews.com/2019/10/...reasured-park/
    The park spread a wide net for candidates around the country with high expectations and I am unsure if the current director was the first choice. The position was empty for several months before he was hired and his chief ranger who was filling the position left the park soon after he came on board. Its been speculated that the timing was not coincidental. The park hired the former manager of the AMC facilities in Maine as chief ranger to step in but there were two relative greenhorns in place in the spring a few years back and there were numerous comments that the parks well oiled machine was not that well oiled for that first summer. My guess is Covid really impacted the park and staffing last year. No doubt they didnt staff up early and the staff they did hire had to work differently. No doubt some folks were stressed.

    One of the big things that first time or occasional visitors do is demonize the current administration of the park for decisions that Percival Baxter "cast in stone" in the Deeds of Trust and additional directives. Some things may be considered outdated and some may have some wiggle room (usually technologies that didnt exist) but the park commission usually goes back to the very well documented history of Percival Baxter to rationalize what his intent would have been. He was dead set against pets in the park despite being a dog lover thus the ban on pets in the park. Pet owners will rail at the unfairness of it but that is not going to change. The deeds are also very specific that the roads are primitive and will stay that way, when the park commission tried to improve the roads they were successfully sued by outside parties. Thus if you cant drive 50 MPH on the park roads and have to get up an hour or two early to get to a days destination, its not the current park staff, its Baxter's dead hand. He also put in place preference for Maine residents for reservations. The other thing that bugs folks is that everyone in the park has to be in official campsite or shelter at night. There is no option for camping in the rough. It there was the option, no doubt bootleg campsites would be built and some of the wildness would go away. The rangers are responsible for knowing where everyone is and they are the ones that have to head out all night if need be to track a unaccounted person down. This does not sit will with the AT thru hikers but its back to Baxter's dead hand.
    Last edited by peakbagger; 05-04-2021 at 07:54 AM.

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    Senior Member Puma concolor's Avatar
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    No matter where I go, I expect a parade or at least something akin to everyone enthusiastically saying “Norm” when he walks into Cheers. Anything less is a disappointment.

    Seriously though, I have never had an issue of any type with either the courteousness or professionalism of the staff I’ve encountered during my many visits to Baxter State Park. Of course, I was a State Trooper for 21 years of my life so my standard may be a bit different than that of the OP.
    Last edited by Puma concolor; 05-04-2021 at 02:54 PM.

  10. #10
    Senior Member skiguy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by peakbagger View Post
    I guess its easier to throw mud then to do the research but BSP employees are not a typical state employee. BSP is an odd amalgam of state entity and a private trust. Percival Baxter set up the rules and the Deeds of Trust and then forced the state over multiple legislative sessions to acknowledge that the land and the associated significant trust fund that went with it would be managed in perpetuity by his rules to keep short term politics out of the operation.

    A quote from the website may be helpful While Baxter State Park bears the name “State” it is separately administered, free from any connection with the larger State Park system (Bureau of Parks and Lands/Dept. of Conservation). The Baxter State Park Authority, a three-person authority consisting of the Attorney General, the Director of the Maine Forest Service and the Commissioner of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, has full power in the control and management of the Park and in the exercise of all Trust obligations.

    Practically in the long term the park is run by a "benevolent dictator", the BSP director. The authority makes broad policy decisions and hires the director but management of the park is by the director and his staff. Talking to staff and some fairly knowledgeable locals over the years, it takes a long time with a lot of vetting to become full time staff and many seasonal folks without the appropriate degrees and skills toil away as seasonal employees for years. Many folks gave up and usually end up in the regular state park system. The vast majority of staff that a typical visitor will meet are seasonal staff and there is no formal seniority system for the seasonal staff. Those who do a good job at a particular task are usually rehired for the same task or are recommended for new opportunities but its at the will of the park director. There is no union in place (unlike other parts of the state government). Talk to any seasonal employee and they are not doing it for the pay, the hours are long and they get minimal days off. The park has had a tough time filling the front country positions. Especially since the demise of the mills in the area, long term jobs with benefits are rare and competition for the few full time jobs is intense.

    The new park director who was hired just a few years ago was young for the position and he had a steep learning curve. This article from a few years ago implies that he knew he had some learning to do https://bangordailynews.com/2019/10/...reasured-park/
    The park spread a wide net for candidates around the country with high expectations and I am unsure if the current director was the first choice. The position was empty for several months before he was hired and his chief ranger who was filling the position left the park soon after he came on board. Its been speculated that the timing was not coincidental. The park hired the former manager of the AMC facilities in Maine as chief ranger to step in but there were two relative greenhorns in place in the spring a few years back and there were numerous comments that the parks well oiled machine was not that well oiled for that first summer. My guess is Covid really impacted the park and staffing last year. No doubt they didnt staff up early and the staff they did hire had to work differently. No doubt some folks were stressed.

    One of the big things that first time or occasional visitors do is demonize the current administration of the park for decisions that Percival Baxter "cast in stone" in the Deeds of Trust and additional directives. Some things may be considered outdated and some may have some wiggle room (usually technologies that didnt exist) but the park commission usually goes back to the very well documented history of Percival Baxter to rationalize what his intent would have been. He was dead set against pets in the park despite being a dog lover thus the ban on pets in the park. Pet owners will rail at the unfairness of it but that is not going to change. The deeds are also very specific that the roads are primitive and will stay that way, when the park commission tried to improve the roads they were successfully sued by outside parties. Thus if you cant drive 50 MPH on the park roads and have to get up an hour or two early to get to a days destination, its not the current park staff, its Baxter's dead hand. He also put in place preference for Maine residents for reservations. The other thing that bugs folks is that everyone in the park has to be in official campsite or shelter at night. There is no option for camping in the rough. It there was the option, no doubt bootleg campsites would be built and some of the wildness would go away. The rangers are responsible for knowing where everyone is and they are the ones that have to head out all night if need be to track a unaccounted person down. This does not sit will with the AT thru hikers but its back to Baxter's dead hand.
    Well summarized. I’m sure running the Honey Wagon could make oneself a bit cranky by September also.
    "I'm getting up and going to work everyday and I am stoked. That does not suck!"__Shane McConkey

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    Typically people whose job is facing and interacting with the public - the kid behind the counter at McDonalds, the nurse in the hospital, the cop who pulls you over and yes the employee in the public park - are going to tend to mirror the behavior/vibes they are getting. Before my first winter backpack at Baxter I had heard horror stories about the checkin process and getting the once over; likewise the gear check at Chimney Pond before you go off to do the Armadillo or equivalent, has a very bad reputation in climbers circles. But I personally sailed through both of those occasions several times and had enjoyable conversations with the rangers. You catch more flies with honey...

  12. #12
    Senior Member TCD's Avatar
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    Public facing employees also tend to mirror the vibes they get from how they are treated by their own management. Treat your people badly, they will treat the customer badly. Treat your people well, they will treat the customer well.

    Of course as in any "social science" assessment, there is extremely wide variation, and many unknown inputs...

  13. #13
    Senior Member skiguy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by OldEric View Post
    Typically people whose job is facing and interacting with the public - the kid behind the counter at McDonalds, the nurse in the hospital, the cop who pulls you over and yes the employee in the public park - are going to tend to mirror the behavior/vibes they are getting. Before my first winter backpack at Baxter I had heard horror stories about the checkin process and getting the once over; likewise the gear check at Chimney Pond before you go off to do the Armadillo or equivalent, has a very bad reputation in climbers circles. But I personally sailed through both of those occasions several times and had enjoyable conversations with the rangers. You catch more flies with honey...
    Most excellent! I have been frequenting BSP since the 70's. I have brought many fellow hikers and climbers in to the Park over the years for their first visit. Much of the time my partners have been resistant before a trip do to all the so called regulations. Every single one of them once arriving to the Park come to a quick realization why regulations are in place and then welcome the framework with open arms. Baxter is easy breezy compared to a lot of other places on the planet when it comes to toeing the line.
    "I'm getting up and going to work everyday and I am stoked. That does not suck!"__Shane McConkey

  14. #14
    Senior Member SpencerVT's Avatar
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    Whenever I do encounter friendly staff at Baxter, I am reminded that: "This is what it could be!"
    I do not think it's unreasonable to expect staff at Baxter to have a welcoming demeanor instead of a cold, sour one.
    The unwelcoming State Trooper vibe you sometimes get there does a disservice to the public and detracts from the greatness of what Baxter embodies.

    The librarian at one school I went to growing up clearly did not like kids. And I always thought to myself: "Why the hell are you a librarian in a school if you don't like kids?!"
    I don't like dogs (due to a bad experience I had growing up). I am not about to go work at the Humane Society. It would piss everyone off! I know better and would not want to bother pet owners, LOL.

    If someone is breaking the rules, littering, being a pain in the ass at Baxter, then they thoroughly deserve an irritable attitude by the staff.
    But if you're just arriving or walking to a trailhead innocently, you do not deserve the nuisance attitude by some of those park staff.
    I have been to many, many parks and never have I experienced anything close to the orneriness of some of the Baxter staff.
    Spencer
    Bigfoot

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    Senior Member Puma concolor's Avatar
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    Thread needs a healthy dose of State Troopers doing the State Trooper thing.

    Maine State Trooper issues speeding ticket

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