While running Nashville Hiking Meetup for over five years, one of the questions I hear most often is, “Why do you set attendee limits on hikes at public parks?” The short answer to this is, “Because we are responsible leaders.”
Usually, but not always, the hikes local to the city will allow more RSVPs because we all drive ourselves so we feel like the more the merrier. Regional hikes, such as those where we meet and carpool for one to two hours, will almost certainly have a limit simply because it’s more difficult to organize and keep a ton of people straight. Remember field trips as a kid? There was always a set student-to-teacher ratio to manage the juvenile herd. After all, more moving parts increases the chances for unpredictable deviations from the plan.
Sometimes the hikes may be limited simply because of the impact on the trails or our agreement with partners we team with. Just as time is required for recovery after vigorous workouts, it takes time for a forest or trail to recover after dozens of hikers pass through in a given day.
The bottom line is, it’s difficult for our volunteer trip leaders to manage more than a certain number of hikers. In addition, we must remain respectful of other hikers out that same day who probably wouldn’t appreciate a large group of fifty (50) outdoor enthusiasts blowing by them, potentially disrupting their nature experience. Attendee limits are set in order to be responsible, safe, and respectful — not only to the environment, but to other hikers.