Ranger Kathryn's Arches

October 10, 2013

Trespass and vandalism: civil disobedience, or misplaced frustration?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 9:14 am
Tags: , , , , ,

Things are quickly going from “okay” to “not okay” in our parks, and it isn’t because of the animals. My friend/colleague in California offers a ranger’s-eye view —

Meanwhile in Death Valley National Park, the tally so far stands at:

– 6 padlocks cut
– 7 closure signs removed
– 3 locks picked
– 2 deadbolts vandalized beyond repair
– 2 piles of poo outside locked restrooms
– 2 big-ass boulders moved aside for a vehicle to drive off-road around a locked gate
– And an unaccountable number of traffic cones and sandwich boards tossed aside or run over by a vehicle

Thank you for vandalizing! Please come again!

Multiply this by more than 400 park units. People intent on getting into a forbidden place rarely stop to consider the consequences of their actions. I fully understand the public’s anger at being locked out of public lands, and their ideological ‘solution’ of trespass, but the repercussions contain unforeseen outcomes. Resource destruction is guaranteed; there is no one to clean and stock bathrooms, monitor trails, protect priceless rock art or other cultural treasures, staff visitor centers, empty trash bins, stop graffiti-ists. Emergency help will be far away. Damage repairs and resource restoration could take years — yes, years. And, not at all subtly, the Park Service ends up being portrayed as the enemy against whom desperate measures must be employed.

Storm clouds rolling in at Canyonlands -- and in every other NPS unit.

Storm clouds rolling in at Canyonlands — and in every other NPS unit.

It’s our elected officials in Washington, remember???

Chills went up my spine when I read that an elected county commissioner in southeast Utah disclosed plans for “peacefully removing barricades” to Lake Powell and other federal areas, stating that “local sheriffs are in on the plan, too.” He states, “This is not anarchy. This is government doing what government does which is look after the health and welfare and safety of their citizens.” And I sit in disbelief, wondering how barricades ordered put up by one government can be taken down by another, claiming they are a health and safety issue. Health and safety issues would be exacerbated, not alleviated, by having no bathrooms, maps, and helpful personnel nearby. No — let’s call it what it is: an economic hardship, and a difficult one. Removing a few barricades might feel productive, but it is an inferior solution. We need answers from the top, from those who don’t appear to be listening right now.

No matter what the media says, we’re not trying to “make things as difficult as possible.” My Death Valley counterpart, a law enforcement ranger, was told the exact opposite: be as low-key and accommodating as possible. It is not our goal to stir up trouble, no matter whose political agenda that might help, and I am issuing a plea: DO NOT TAKE OUT YOUR FRUSTRATION ON THE NPS. Please avoid using inflammatory language like “gestapo” and “Nazi.” I am feeling the same sense of helplessness as you are. Writing an email or making a phone call to your representative in Washington may feel like banging your head against a locked door, but DO IT — every day! And, if you’re contemplating civil disobedience, read this brilliant link first — “Do Visitors Really Need to be Shut Out of National Parks During the Government Shutdown?”: http://www.parkadvocate.org/qa-do-visitors-really-need-to-be-shut-out-of-national-parks-during-the-government-shutdown/

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