March 17, 2010

Katahdin paraglider avoids paying fine

— The Associated Press

click image to enlarge

This June 16, 2007 photo provided by paraglider Christopher Kroot shows Kroot on Mount Katahdin, in Millinocket, Maine. Kroot argued that he didn't violate the letter of the law at Baxter State Park, where rules forbid the piloting of "any model craft, hot air balloon or hang gliding device of any kind." (AP Photo/Christopher Kroot)

AP

click image to enlarge

This June 16, 2007 photo provided by paraglider Christopher Kroot shows Kroot on Mount Katahdin, in Millinocket, Maine. Kroot argued that he didn't violate the letter of the law at Baxter State Park, where rules forbid the piloting of "any model craft, hot air balloon or hang gliding device of any kind." (AP Photo/Christopher Kroot)

AP

MILLINOCKET — A paraglider who took off from Mount Katahdin in June has avoided paying a $200 fine for his high-flying adventure.

Christopher Kroot of Chelsea, a state employee, argued that he didn't violate the letter of the law at Baxter State Park, where rules forbid the piloting of ''any model craft, hot air balloon or hang gliding device of any kind.''

Last month, District Court Judge Kevin Stitham agreed with Kroot's argument that the rules don't specifically forbid paragliding.

''If you want to outlaw something, you have to be as specific as possible,'' District Attorney Christopher Almy said Monday.

Kroot, 47, and another man climbed Katahdin and used paragliders to take off from the Tablelands, just below the 5,267-foot summit.

The Bangor Daily News, which first reported on the incident, said Kroot had tried several times since 2002 before succeeding in paragliding from Katahdin on June 16, 2007. A video of the episode was posted on YouTube.com.

Kroot told The Associated Press that it was tricky because it's unsafe to launch when the wind speed is greater than 15 mph. He hiked up at 2 a.m. so he could be airborne in the morning, before the wind picked up.

He said he had no regrets about his 40-minute flight.

''It was awesome. It was one of my most fabulous flights ever, and I've flown all over the world,'' Kroot said. ''It was my destiny.''

Afterward, Maine State Police issued summonses to both men. Rufus Hellendale of Brooksville paid the $200 fine but Kroot decided to fight it.

In 2006, the park created a rule to ban model craft, hot-air balloons and hang gliders, in response to concern that Kroot's attempts to launch off Mount Katahdin might trigger a costly rescue mission if he should fail, he said.

Kroot contended that a paraglider does not use a fixed wing like a hang glider. Instead, he was hanging from underneath a parachute.

Richard Johnson, a friend of Kroot's dating back to Gardiner High School, handled the case for him in Millinocket District Court.

Kroot, who is a geographic information systems manager for the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, said he has been told that Baxter State Park officials plan to revise the rules to ban paragliding, in addition to hang gliding.

Despite that, Kroot plans to ask the Baxter State Park Authority to allow paragliding from a specific takeoff and landing zone. But he doesn't hold out much hope.

Park officials told him they're concerned that paragliding and hang gliding could take away from the park's wilderness experience, in addition to the concern about safety and the potential cost of a search and rescue.

Several officials at Baxter State Park did not return calls from The Associated Press seeking comment Monday.

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