Whose Park Is It, Anyway?

I start off by saying the usual disclaimer that these following words are my thoughts and represent NOTHING official.

After hearing about an incident between a law enforcement ranger with a taser and a dog walker visiting a newly acquired National Park Service unit in San Francisco, I sighed. There is so much time used up enforcing laws, why not just respectfully enjoy nature? Seriously, when a cop pulls you over, what do you do?? It’s the same with park law enforcement!

But then again, that’s why I’m not in law enforcement. There have been so many times that I have approached people with dogs [or people breaking any number of rules or laws], and they’ve either blown me off, acted like they were going to comply and then sneak away, or, in the times I cringe the most, argued. Not that my job is -that- hard, but a taser would make things so much easier [yea, right...I'd probably just cry instead]. I wouldn’t have to waste so much breathe and time trying to protect resources.

But then a few weeks after hearing about the incident, I stumbled upon an NPR article: Who’s A Park For? Dog Owners Fight Park Service. Of course, my hackles raise, with a traumatic hostage training session [officially called "Active Threat" training] still at the top of my thoughts. Seeing coworkers get shot by soft pellets was a little much for me. It’s no secret that parks and ‘gateway towns’ across the country have their differences–just look at Yellowstone, Cape Hatteras, and now apparently Golden Gate. My park isn’t immune either, hence the graphic training session. The part of training that hit me the hardest, and the part that seems nearly ironic, is that there are people trained and willing to put their lives at risk to act as the thin green line when things get *that* bad–to save those that are caught in the crossfire. Over what would someone be willing to throw themselves on an armed attacker? And for what would someone fatalistically storm a federal property, possibly throwing away innocent bystanders’ and their lives?  An idea. A stupid idea.

It’s nothing new that humans fight and die for ideas daily. It just strikes me as dumbfounding to do it in a park–a recreational setting where happy things are supposed to occur, not the total opposite! If emotions aren’t your cup of tea, then maybe the logical side might make more sense: the National Park Service’s mandate, the whole reason it exists, is to protect resources so that they may exist and be enjoyed now and in future generations. Spelled out by the Organic Act, it goes like this:

The mission of the National Park Service “is to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life herein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.”

The whole Park Service system is touted as “America’s Best Idea” [don't talk to Canadians about that--they did it first!], and yet, we can’t seem to agree to agree on it! I’m sure most people are aware of the conflict involving the wolves at Yellowstone. Arguments between parks and communities range from how to “best” use a piece of land, to what wildlife should be there, to variations between. Where I am dumbfounded is how people get so confused…these parks were created by an act of Congress [you know, for the people, by the people] to preserve [not conserve] some natural thing of beauty and all the other, maybe not so beautiful but just as important, other things within the park’s boundary. And by preserve, it isn’t meant that these things remain pretty just while one visits.

These parks are investments.

When the rest of the country is as built up as the suburbs of Paris, at least wildlife will have a tiny piece of land to huddle in. And while a person may not understand the value of one plant species or one bird species or one pocket gopher species, there is thankfully a professional scientist out there trying to save these endangered species, not to mention the ecosystem as a whole! So to be angry because a certain activity was deemed as detrimental to a resource within the park boundary and banned is absurd! Would it not be a violation of the Organic Act, of the whole reason the park is there in the first place, to allow visitors to walk their dogs, ride their bikes, poach elk, drive all over the beach, pet the bison, feed the prairie dogs and stellar’s jays, run over snakes, pick flowers, and carve on redwoods.

Don’t argue…I’m just trying to do my job. Now, where did I put my taser!?

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8 thoughts on “Whose Park Is It, Anyway?

  1. Completely agree. At a fundamental level, this goes back to values like respect and humility. People who think only of their own pleasure and don’t respect the rights of others – whether they be human or species less able to defend themselves – are the ones this brings to mind. These aren’t always “bad” people, either. I have to argue with my own husband about whether or not we should bring our dog to parks that explicitly state that dogs are not allowed. Conclusion – follow the rules.

  2. ” the whole reason the park is there in the first place”

    Except that in this case the park wasn’t there in the first place, people, and that individual, had been walking their dogs there for many years.

  3. That is a good point Anne, they aren’t bad people, they are possibly just not fully aware of the benefits of following rules, like protecting resources.

    Bob, you do have a point and I think it does bring up the question of ‘grandfather clausing’ certain activities that occurred before the parks’ creation. That will be the major issue as new parks are created and new lands acquired. But it doesn’t negate the purpose of the park–the whole reason it is there or created, to protect resources unimpaired for this generation and future generations’ enjoyment.

  4. Oh dear. You hit on a tender spot for me. I recently posted about dogs and “mountain” bikers on public lands (http://natureid.blogspot.com/2012/02/habitat-021812-fort-ord-blm.html) and photographers who don’t respect reasonable distance, sometimes – shamefully – myself included (http://natureid.blogspot.com/2012/02/sea-otter-021212-coast-guard-pier.html). I’ve even complained to peer-reviewed published Lepidopterists about their collecting methods (they do qualify as scientists). It’s not always cut and dry. I wouldn’t mind having a taser… hmph, it would be much easier than saying something, having dogs growl and threaten to bite you, or putting up with the increasing regulations.

    • Seems like we are on the same wavelength Katie. I often have the same complaints when out in parks and natural areas about the manners of other visitors. The lovely white mold that grows on the feces here really draws attention to all those little piles…ick!

  5. From my point of view, I use the overly-general Park Service/Forest Service management ‘dichotomy’. Preservation [Park Service] signifies no resource harvesting, managing for the well-being of the ecosystem, species, etc, with light recreation as a secondary usage. Conservation also manages for the ecosystem as a whole, but allows resource removal and heavier forms of recreation [ORVs, dirt bikes, resource collection]. I do think conservation is more realistic in that it includes humans in the ecosystem equation, but preservation has its place in our rapidly growing world.

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