Richard Wendt

I realize that some people do not like to follow rules even though they seem to be trivial to them and do not like to be told they cannot do something in the parks. As a retired State Park Ranger of 20 years I have heard it all.

It is not pleasant to tell park visitors not do what they think is trivial, unnecessary or not harming in their own view. Rangers have the job of protecting the park environment whether it be animals, so called weeds, which are plants to most who visit the parks, the land and yes, safety to all the people. They are the custodians of the parks, to do less should not be tolerated.

There is a good reason to limit the number of vehicles, a.k.a, cars in each campsite so as to not infringe upon the safety of others trying to use the roads and not be endangered by roads being blocked or narrowed and creating hazards to people walking or driving on them.

Allowing vehicles to park wherever endangers all — the plants, animals, creating damage to the land, causing ruts which ruin the roadsides destroy the so-called weeds which later bloom into native flowers or even the vistas people come hundreds or thousands of miles to enjoy. They don’t want to see the ugly ruts, bare hills and grounds, which once looked beautiful and like a link taken out of a chain, weakens not only the appearance but the fragile environment of parks which are preserved for all not just the local people. This is especially true during the rainy season.

Some people need to look at the larger picture other than just what they want to do during their visit to the parks. All of the parks are special in that they are preserved in various degrees and allowances for people’s use depending upon which kind of park classification hence their use not abuse so they may exist for future generations.

Some parks are for off road use, others are for camping some for drive-in others for hike-in, some are historical parks to preserve a piece of history; others are preserves and reserves and with very limited use of viewing and saving flora and fauna, which may not be elsewhere due to their habitats or environment being destroyed, as natural resources, etc.

The rangers are charged with not only law-enforcement of all crimes, but crimes against destroying the parks little by little, intentionally or not.

People need to realize that rangers are not in parks to ruin people’s trip or fun, but to protect the parks from naive users of the parks who might not realize the damage or danger they are creating for themselves, others or the parks. Sometimes the rangers do not have the luxury to stop and explain why someone cannot do something due to the urgency to avoid danger to everyone.

For example. What would have happened if the cars partially blocking the road caused someone to crash into them. Someone would be sued and probably the rangers for not doing their job in keeping the roads and driving safe.

One might think, it is only a campground or a beach or dunes, but if the rangers don’t do their jobs they would be legally liable in today’s climate of suing everybody for anything.

Over my 20 year career, I have been involved in overnight searches rain or shine for lost children and adults, became an EMT to provide better first aid to the public, driven tired hikers who “bit off more than they could chew” and had to be found and driven back to the campground. I was trained in wildland fire responses, horse patrol, foot patrol, boat patrol, worked with other K-9 rangers in high enforcement areas, learned cliff rescue, ran miles into the back country to assist visitors and get a “chopper” ride to hospital, campfire programs, school programs, nature or interpretive walks, and continued training and reinforce skills already learned, especially enforcement skills, and yes riot control and many arrests working from South, Central and Northern California.

I have and other rangers have been trained by sheriff, highway patrol, local police, F.B.I, Cal Fire personnel, etc. We are not trained to just go out and harass people. If you are doing something harmful to others or the parks you will be informed and sometimes the necessity of sitting down and discussing it is not a luxury as stated earlier.

In closing I’d say to everyone, these parks are for everyone’s use and people from all over the world come here to see and enjoy them. It is nobody’s own backyard to do with as they please.

Develop an attitude that rangers are in parks to help you have a good time and not at the expense of others or the parks themselves.

Richard Wendt lives in Del Norte County and is a retired state park ranger.

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