FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — Groups of hikers and runners who want to do grueling excursions across the Grand Canyon will soon need a permit — a move officials say will cut back on overcrowding, litter and safety issues at the popular tourist attraction in Arizona.
The permit requirement begins on Sept. 15 and involves any group that publicly advertises a trip from rim to rim.
The trips take visitors 21 miles over steep, rocky and winding terrain, with elevation changes of a few thousand feet and temperature variances of more than 20 degrees.
The park has no limit on the number of one-day permits it will issue. The $175 fee will help park officials educate visitors about trail etiquette and free up rangers to respond to life-threatening injuries, Grand Canyon spokeswoman Maureen Oltrogge said.
She said people have abandoned gear, left litter on trails and crowded restrooms near the Colorado River, sometimes with little regard for fellow visitors.
"People might not be thinking about the impact to others," she said. "Everyone comes to the canyon generally with a different idea of how they're going to experience it."
The permit requirement comes as Grand Canyon National Park is revising its backcountry management plan and will be in place until that plan is issued sometime next year.
Each group can obtain a single permit each day for up to 30 people. At least one member must be certified in wilderness or emergency medical response and CPR, and there must be general liability insurance.
The rim-to-rim excursions are most popular in May and October, and officials said hikers and runners must be able to complete them within 24 hours. The traffic on Bright Angel, South Kaibab and North Kaibab trails can include as many as 600 hikers and runners headed across the canyon.
The California-based Project Athena Foundation is set to take a group of hikers on the trip in October. Founder Robyn Benincasa said she understands the intent in making sure that groups are responsible for their members.
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