- The Washington Times - Monday, October 8, 2001

HAGERSTOWN, Md. A field trip turned fearsome for hikers who took an Appalachian Trail detour and wound up facing Army M-16s.
The encounter Thursday between military police guarding a communications antenna and hikers from a Baltimore County private school ended peacefully. However, the encounter illustrated how recreational activities and tighter security measures have clashed occasionally since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Hikers, boaters and hunters who pursue their hobbies near military installations or federal buildings are watched, checked and sometimes kept from their usual routines.
Eleven sophomores and two teachers from St. Paul's School for Boys didn't know they were close to a restricted area near the Appalachian Trail, Principal John Thorpe said.
When some of the students and a teacher took a side path to an overlook near Pen Mar, a tiny community just south of the Pennsylvania border, two military police officers in camouflage guarding the antenna ordered them out of the woods, said Charles Dasey, a spokesman at Fort Detrick.
Several military installations in the area are managed from Fort Detrick, Mr. Dasey said.
The other teacher, watching from a distance, sent the remaining students up the trail and then used a cell phone to tell police his colleague was being held at gunpoint, said Mr. Thorpe and State Police Cpl. Benjamin Townes.
Mr. Dasey said the hikers had not entered the fenced restricted area around the antenna but were close enough to concern the soldiers.
As long as hikers stay on the trail, "there should be no impact on the recreational opportunities up there," Mr. Dasey said.
Hunters who come near the tower likely will be asked for identification, he said.
"It's part of the heightened security for all military facilities in the area all military facilities around the country," Mr. Dasey said.
Hunting has been banned this fall on some government installations that normally permit it, including Fort Detrick, the Ravenna Army Ammunition Plant near Sandusky, Ohio, and the Department of Energy reservation at Oak Ridge, Tenn.
In Maryland's Catoctin Mountain Park, the national park surrounding the Camp David presidential retreat, some roads, trails and campgrounds have been closed periodically since the attacks.
The Coast Guard says it has searched about 140 boats on the Potomac River near the District since Sept. 11.
Mr. Thorpe said groups from St. Paul's School have been hiking the Appalachian Trail for 15 years, always assuming it was a safe place to visit.
After yesterday's incident, some parents decided against letting their children spend a scheduled night on the trail, he said.
"I'm glad there is a group of people that is keeping our bases secure," Mr. Thorpe said, "but it would be nice to know, if there are areas which are going to be restricted in some way, how would we know about them?"

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