Is Family Outdoor Recreation Facing Legal Harassment?

Now that summertime is here, I am sure you will want to enjoy the freedom of the great outdoors while participating in recreational activities like hiking, fishing and camping. Of course, some of the most popular sites for inexpensive and safe recreation is at state parks. But are state park rangers chasing away the family fun and the families with their zealous show of authority?

Lately, I have realized that there is no freedom even within the confines of the great outdoors. Why? Because responsible adults are being stopped and questioned as if they were low down criminals by park rangers over seemingly pathetic excuses.

For example, one man was stopped today by an old, grouchy-looking ranger at Scioto Trails State Park as his party of seven got into their cars to leave. This man was asked to show identification, explain why his front tag was in the car front window and not attached to the car, apologize for playing “so-called” loud music when entering the park half an hour earlier, and ultimately had to climb into a dumpster to retrieve his empty water bottle. The reason given by the ranger for such interrogation and lectures was that he had seen the young man begin walking the trail with a bottle of water and didn’t see him carry it back out. Fortunately for this young man, he did not litter as he was being accused of doing, but had put the empty bottle into his girlfriend’s bag until she appropriately discarded it.

Another example happened at Pike Lake State Park when a family consisting of two parents and three prepubescent children was skimming rocks across the empty lake surface. A young ranger stopped them and said that they had to stop having old fashioned fun or be fined. The father said he didn’t know and that his family would stop. Then the ranger said that the reason why was that there was going to be a boat dock built there. [uh?] Two summers later, there still hasn’t been any construction.

One family received a fine after driving their car partway into the grass in order to help their disabled, elderly grandmother reach the only free picnic area. Another family received an invitation to leave after being “too loud” at the swimming area. One couple was questioned by a ranger for having their trunk open while sitting in the car. The reason gave by the ranger was that he was on the lookout for people dumping their home trash into a state park dumpster. Luckily, their trunk was open because their teenage children had retrieved the basketball and didn’t shut it before walking off.

This kind of treatment by rangers to visitors is not uncommon, and it is having an impact on family fun. Some say it is not hurting anything for the proper authorities to be overly concerned with the visitors and their movements. But for many people, having their young child watch as a “policeman” harasses them for no apparent reason does hurt their child’s view of them. After all, don’t we teach our children that policemen are there to catch the bad guy? If you are a good, then you have nothing to fear?

This is the reason that some parents of small children reconsider their weekend plans, . The park’s missing profit from those families probably isn’t enough for the park operators to take notice. Possibly, this behavior scares away those that might come in with drugs and alcohol, but this isn’t proven. So who is the real victim of the ranger’s authority? Our most precious resource- the kids, when they must miss out on a chance to catch their first fish or swim in the lakes and creeks.

If you have been or know someone who has been questioned without just cause, you may report them to that state’s Department of Natural Resources.