Campers cut down live trees to use for an illegal campfire on Tumbledown Mountain in Weld, according to state authorities. Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands photo

WELD — Tumbledown Mountain is now closed to overnight campers after an increase in discarded equipment, fire damage, tree-cutting, trampled vegetation and feces on the popular mountain in western Maine.

Overnight camping has never been designated at the summit, though the site has a long history of informal camping dating back to before the state owned it. Despite the mountain not being officially sanctioned for camping, the practice has been overlooked by authorities for years.

However, on Friday, the state announced that because of poor behavior by campers at the mountain’s various unauthorized sites, including a significant increase in littering, damage to vegetation and “leaving behind human and dog feces” over the past 18 months, the practice was banned.

“Growing season is much shorter due to the high elevation, so the mountain is much more susceptible to damage and doesn’t recover as quickly,” Bill Patterson, deputy director of the Bureau of Parks and Lands, said. “Vegetation cannot be replaced, and the situation is obviously worsened when you throw in unorganized camping.”

The summit’s ecosystem is “fragile,” according to the bureau news release announcing the ban, and the “habitat for native plants and wildlife is especially susceptible to damage due to the harsh climate and thin soils.”

Discarded equipment included tents, coolers, beer cans and clothing. The fires were unauthorized, and campers also sometimes played loud music, which was a further disturbance, according to the bureau.

A large rock on Tumbledown Mountain in Weld is scarred by an illegal campfire. Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands photo

To prevent future camping, officials said, park rangers and Maine Forest Service rangers will be patrolling the area. Patterson said rangers will mainly focus on stopping campers at the trailheads through specific signs and interactions.

There will also be “periodic patrols at specific times, where people frequent for camping,” and if spotted with any camping equipment such as tents, hikers will need to leave the mountain immediately.

People recreating on the mountain are expected to follow the seven “leave no trace” principles, which include disposing of waste properly, minimizing campfire impacts, and respecting wildlife.

“We’ve documented it for years through photographs and we’ve also worked to educate people up there, going back a number of years, hoping to encourage sustainable camping practices,” Patterson said. “We received input from both a general advisory committee and the general public on what steps to take.”

Ultimately, the bureau determined “it is in the best interest of the environment and public enjoyment to eliminate camping at Tumbledown all together,” the release stated.

Patterson said that while some people will be disappointed, many from the public requested that camping be shut down.

“There were certainly people who made the case for continuation of respectful camping there, but lots from the public felt it was detracting from day hikers,” he said.


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