Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Celebrating Independance Day the American Way...with a campground brawl

For many American's Independence Day (that's the 4th of July for you regular folks) means 3 days of camping and drinking beer. Lucky for us rangers, this year we get 4 days of camping and drinking beer. Everyone knows what happens when you get too many liquored up campers crammed into one spot...Fights!

Glendo brawl breaks out (Jackson Hole Star Tribune)

One man was stabbed in the arm and a park ranger fired his weapon during a large fight at Glendo State Park Saturday evening, officials say.

Agent Don Farmer of the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation said a rather large brawl” broke out at Sandy Beach, one of the most popular -- and often rowdiest --
Glendo locations.
Campers tried to break up the fight and a young man was cut on the arm with a knife, Farmer said. The victim was taken to Memorial Hospital of Converse County in Douglas and treated for minor injuries.

A park ranger drew and fired his sidearm. No other details were released, and no one is in custody as a result of the incident, Farmer said. DCI was called in by state park officials to
investigate the ranger discharging his weapon. The park ranger who fired his weapon, whose name was not released Monday, is on paid administrative leave pending the investigation.

Sandy Beach is a popular location where partying and wild crowds have long plagued park rangers, especially on holiday weekends. Last year the state Department
of State Parks and Cultural Resources unveiled improvements intended to create a more family-like atmosphere and ward off troublemakers. They installed a barrier between the cottonwood-canopied campground and the beach to thwart four-wheeling on the sand and increased law enforcement levels. Several volleyball courts with covered picnic shelters were
added near the campgrounds for larger groups.

It seemed to work last year, state parks public information officer Gary Shoene said. We a’re hoping that this was just an isolated incident.

He estimated between 13,000 and 15,000 people are visiting Glendo for the holiday weekend, and said about 1,500 to 2,500 were at Sandy Beach Saturday night.

Anticipating large crowds, the park added seven law enforcement officers to its standard two for the Fourth of July. Also, Wyoming Game and Fish Department contributed at least three wardens, with the Platte County Sheriff's Office and Wyoming Highway Patrol keeping a visible presence in the area. Typically, problems center on underage drinking, isolated drug use and a few fights, Shoene

During the whole weekend we did have increased patrols, he said. When the initial fight started, our people were not far away.

Officials didn't vacate Sandy Beach after Saturday night'’s incident, and most
campers carried on with their holiday festivities, he said.

Shoene is hopeful this year's problem isn't a harbinger of trouble to come, he
said. State parks officials will discuss the season this fall.

“There's not going to be a knee-jerk reaction to this, but if it looks like a
problem that persists, we will address it, ” he said.

He noted an apparent influx of Colorado visitors this holiday, and in particular
people who appeared to be either affiliated with gangs or “wannabees,” exhibiting dress and behavior that could portend more trouble.

This "campground" located 100 miles north of Cheyenne appears to be nothing more than two miles of sandy beach with a parking area - not individual campsites. This type of campground that allows as many idiots as possible to cram into one area just invites this kind of trouble. The Wyoming State Parks website even states this about the Sandy Beach Campground:
Room enough here for hundreds, sometimes crowds in the thousands.
We support these giant drunk fests as a legitimate form of receation by creating campgrounds that do not have designated campsites.

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