GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK - A Washington state man is accused of organizing an illegal 153-person hike in the Grand Canyon despite park officials repeatedly telling him it violated their COVID-19 restrictions.
Authorities said healthcare executive Joseph Don Mount spent months planning the hike back in October 2020.
Groups with more than 30 participants are not permitted rim-to-rim along the inner canyon, officials said.
Mount had reportedly denied that he was planning a large-scale hike, and told the Grand Canyon Commercial Permits Office that he was only planning to take 12 people. However, court documents allege that he had already registered 118 people by that date.
"Mount continued to defy park regulations despite receiving official advisements from a park employee in the permits office," court documents said.
Officials said a string of 12 vehicles arrived at the North Kaibab Trailhead on Oct. 24, with dozens of people mingling together.
Ranger Andrew Sprutta said he saw 200 to 250 people leaving the trailhead at the same time. "Many of the hikers told me that they were part of a large group of 100 or more from all over."
Many of the hikers were not wearing masks and did not practice social distancing.
"In my 7 months of work, I have never witnessed so many individuals traveling in the same direction in such a condensed period of time and space," another ranger said..
One person who complained said the size of Mount's group was "way out of control."
Mount now faces a number of charges, including giving a false report to authorities, interfering with a government employee, soliciting business in a park area without a permit, and violating an activity restriction.
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