How Does the Government Shutdown Affect the North Country Trail?

Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2013, 2:00 p.m. EDT

With the shutdown of the federal government and publicity about the National Park Service (NPS) closing our national parks (the North Country National Scenic Trail is one such national park), we are being asked about hiking or doing trail work on the North Country Trail.

The situation today is still quite fluid, meaning we’re still working through the interpretation of NPS directives, consulting with our sister trail organizations, our Board of directors and others. We appreciate your patience and understanding as we try to negotiate these uncharted waters.

What is very clear is that the NPS Volunteer in Parks (VIP) program is shut down, and there is no injury insurance and liability protection for individual volunteers working on behalf of the Trail. NCTA has organizational liability insurance, which remains in place and is unaffected. Out of concern for our volunteers we ask, and the NPS has directed, that any maintenance, trail construction and other similar work on behalf of the trail be suspended until further notice.

Our official position on group hikes sponsored/led by NCTA is that they are not prohibited, with the caveat they should not occur on federal land. As long as hike leaders understand the absence of the VIP injury insurance safety net as they carry out their hike leading responsibilities, these sponsored hikes would not be in violation of the NPS’s cease and desist order.

By the same token, outreach activities, such as tabling at public events, can be conducted as long as care is taken to minimize the display of NPS logos or mention of the National Park Service, or otherwise creating the impression that you are acting on behalf of or in relationship with the NPS.

Finally, we have determined that continued operation of the North Country Trail Association is not in violation of NPS directives as long as our activities are not funding by or carry out our cooperative agreement with the National Park Service. Under these circumstances NCTA will remain open as long as our resources can sustain our operation.

Bruce Matthews
Executive Director

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