Former Health Care Exec Facing Federal Charges For Grand Canyon Hike That Broke COVID Rules

Former Health Care Exec Facing Federal Charges For Grand Canyon Hike That Broke COVID Rules

“Knowingly and willfully encouraged participants to travel through the canyon despite advisements from park officials to the contrary, provided participants with tips and information to circumvent park laws, and denied leading any large scale-rim-to-rim groups to investigating park officials throughout,”

Joseph Don Mount, former chief operations officer at Steck Medical Group, is facing federal charges for allegedly organizing a 153-person hike through Grand Canyon National Park in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic.  Denver 7 reports federal court filings recently released claim Mr. Mount spent months planning and organizing the Oct. 24, 2020 hike, and collected thousands of dollars from participants.

Having a group that large was not allowed inside the park even prior to pandemic safety protocols. Tour groups were limited to 30 people prior to March 2020. During the pandemic, groups were limited to 11 people. It should also be noted that the park does not allow larger groups to break up into smaller groups once they get there.

Mount had contacted the permit office in September and requesting permits for a group of 12 people. He was told the maximum group size was 11, and that groups of 10 or less do not require a permit. Officials caught wind of the illegal hike through a facebook posting showing he was charging $95 per person. On the day of the hike, park rangers spotted larger groups, at one point about 70 people  gathered in a single location. In an affidavit a park ranger said Mount urged participants to bring walkie-talkies so they could avoid being detected.

Mount was charged with giving a false report, intentionally interfering with a government employee, soliciting business without a permit, violating activity restrictions and violating coronavirus restrictions. His is a court hearing later this month.

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