Harrison, Arkansas – On March 7, 2023, Mr. Jeffrey Johnson, was sentenced to two years probation, a two-year ban from Buffalo National River, $600 in fines, $80 in processing fees, and ordered to pay $2,686.27 in restitution. The amount of restitution equals the cost of both search and rescue operations performed for members of his hiking groups by the National Park Service in the spring of 2022.
On two separate occasions in the spring of 2022, Mr. Johnson led a group of hikers on a very rugged and remote unofficial trail within Buffalo National River. One of these hikes ended in a carryout of an injured hiker and another hike on May 7, 2022, ended in the death of a hiker within Johnson’s group.
Mr. Johnson was found to be running a guided hiking service thru Meetup.com to gather people with similar outdoor interests. Mr. Johnson was found to be soliciting donations and charging an annual membership fee for users of the Meetup.com group, which would allow the member to join as many hikes led by Johnson for the year as the member wished. Mr. Johnson advertised that hikers could pay the fee by check, by Paypal, or in person on the morning of their first hike. An investigation showed that Mr. Johnson had never applied for nor received a permit to operate a business within the park.
On December 6, 2022, Mr. Johnson was convicted on one count of engaging in or soliciting business inside a national park without a permit and one count of soliciting money inside a national park without a permit.
The permitting system is paramount for ensuring a quality visitor experience from our permitted business partners. A Commercial Use Authorization (CUA) permit allows for approved commercial activities to occur in the park while ensuring visitor safety and the preservation and protection of park resources. Providing services or operating a business for compensation of any kind inside the park boundary is prohibited without a permit. For more information on how to obtain a CUA please visit the park’s website at the link below.