Sunday, August 13, 2006

Why Mom told you not to pick up hitchhikers

Mom was always over protective and exagerated the hazards of picking up hitchhikers or people stranded on the side the road. She would always say something like "those guys are probably Hells Angels who just had a shootout with a rival motorcycle gang and are running from the cops."

It is hard for me to say this, but...Mom, I guess you were right.

Officers arrest shooting suspects (The Rapid City Journal)

The two suspects in the biker-gang shooting Tuesday in Custer State Park asked the wrong person for a ride.

The suspects, Chad John Wilson, 30, of Linwood, Wash., and John James Midmore, 32, of Valparaiso, Ind., fled the scene in a white Ford pickup after the late afternoon shooting, took a back road and later got stuck, according to Custer County Sheriff Rick Wheeler. Wilson and Midmore then left the vehicle and traveled on foot through the woods for two or three hours, he said.

They came out on U.S. Highway 14 near Stockade Lake, saw a man with a vehicle and asked him for a ride. The man turned out to be an off-duty park ranger who immediately called for backup. Other law enforcement officers had just gone past, Wheeler said. “We had two units there real fast.”

Wilson and Midmore were arrested without incident about 11 p.m. Tuesday. They were not carrying guns, Wheeler said.

The two were charged Wednesday with five counts of attempted murder for allegedly shooting five people affiliated with the Outlaws motorcycle gang at Legion Lake Resort.

Wilson is a member of the Hells Angels, and Midmore is affiliated with the Hells Angels, according to Sara Rabern, a spokeswoman for the South Dakota Attorney General’s office.

The Hells Angels and Outlaws are rival motorcycle gangs, according to state Division of Criminal Investigation director Kevin Thom.

Authorities said the shooting victims are either Outlaws members or associates of Outlaws members.

Wilson and Midmore are being held in Pennington County Jail.

They likely will make their initial court appearances this morning in Rapid City, according to Tracy Kelley, Custer County state’s attorney. Kelley said she was awaiting paperwork from investigators before filing formal charges.

Kelley said that there were six total injuries but that only five people were shot. One woman suffered injuries not related to a gunshot, she said.

Two of the shooting victims were in critical condition after undergoing surgery at Rapid City Regional Hospital, Rabern said. Another victim was flown to a Sioux Falls hospital and was listed in stable condition, she said. Two other shooting victims, as well as the woman who suffered a nonshooting injury, were treated and released, she said.

Names of the victims were still unavailable Wednesday afternoon.

No one else was injured, although there were about 40 people nearby who witnessed the shooting, Wheeler said.

He said the Outlaws bikers had pulled over at the edge of the parking lot off the highway next to Legion Lake Resort. A white Ford pickup came up behind them from the east, and one or both men inside began shooting, Wheeler said.

The shots hit the Outlaws bikers but were also in the general direction of the lake, Wheeler said. He didn’t know the locations of the witnesses, but the lake is a popular gathering spot for tourists.

“We were very fortunate that we didn’t have other people hurt,” Wheeler said.

An off-duty volunteer at the campground down the road from the shooting site was in his motor home when he heard what sounded like firecrackers.

The volunteer, who would not give his name because he was told not to speak about the incident, said that when he heard another half-dozen or so shots, he knew they were bullets. He said he then saw a white pickup truck speed by.

Bikers on Wednesday morning showed up to survey the scene and look at blood stains and clumps of what appeared to be gore on the driveway leading to the park restaurant. A few feet away were rolls of crime scene tape, no longer in use.

Mark Nicoson of Des Moines, Iowa, said the Sturgis motorcycle rally has been quiet this year as it has the past two times he has attended the Black Hills event.

He said that the shooting is likely an isolated incident and that most bikers are nonviolent people.

“They’re not out to hurt anyone. This is between each other,” Nicoson said.

David Berkley of the South Dakota Highway Patrol said a trooper and an ambulance had been parked at the resort during the rally because it’s a central location in Custer State Park from which to respond to calls throughout the park. Another trooper said he had left moments before the shooting to make an arrest on a separate incident.

Members of the Outlaws have been staying at a campground near the intersection of South Playhouse Road and Iron Mountain Road, according to Wheeler. The Journal incorrectly reported Wednesday that the Outlaws members were staying at a house there.

Custer State Park returned to normal Wednesday, according to park superintendent Richard Miller. “They’ve been busy at the gate,” he said. The Legion Lake parking lot was partly full because of a downpour. “It looked like business as usual,” Miller said in a phone interview.

“We are doing everything we can to ensure that the park is the same safe, family-friendly environment it has always been,” he said.

Miller said the park had never had a serious incident involving rallygoers in the past. “The park annually hosts tens of thousands of bikers. They are good customers, and the staff enjoys working with them,” he said. “Rally riders come to the park for the same reasons all of our visitors do - to enjoy the wildlife and the beautiful scenery.”

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Yobs fail to heed stark warnings

Teen hooligans are causing so many problems at a park in Great Britain that the local police have gone to the drastic measure of issuing "stark warnings" that they will notify their parents the next time they are caught. Apparently if this is not enough to curb the yobs "anti-social" behavior, then they may need to hire a park ranger to patrol the park.

Yobs turn park into booze and drugs den (News & Star)

Workington's Vulcan Park has become a haven for underage drinkers, drug-takers and yobs over the school holidays. Police have received complaints about teenagers drinking, fighting, urinating and littering the area with broken bottles. Some park users have also reported discarded needles in the park.

Police have launched an operation to crack down on the problems before they get out of hand. Officers have confiscated alcohol from young people almost every night this week. And they are issuing a stark warning to under-age drinkers that if they'’re caught, their parents will be informed.

Sergeant Jason Robinson said the police are operating a three-strikes-and-youÂ’re-out approach. He told the News & Star: "“If they're 16 or above, we can deal them with a penalty notice for disorder. If they're below 16, we'’ll take them home and speak to their parents and they will go onto an anti-social behaviour register. “If they get three hits on that within a month then they will get a visit at home by myself or the inspector and we could consider an anti-social behaviour contract. “This can impact on where they'’re allowed to go and who they'’re allowed to hang about with." He said that targeting Vulcan Park is part of Operation Beehive an operation designed specifically to tackle anti-social behaviour and youth disorder. Areas such as the bus depot and hotspots in Seaton and Moorclose are also being monitored under this banner.

Sgt Robinson added: "“Historically the holidays are always a problem time for Vulcan Park for under-age drinking and people taking drugs like cannabis. This is a pre-emptive strike, which has worked to stop some of the disorder."

Keith Southward, who lives on nearby Park Lane, often witnesses underage drinking. He said: "“I have seen young ones who have had too much to drink urinating against a tree." He added that he would not park his car on his own street because vehicles there have had windows smashed.

Pat Hull, of Moss Bay, regularly takes her grandchildren to the park, which is open 24 hours a day. She said: "In the early morning there are bottles and litter around the war memorial. There are bins but the children ignore them. “I would not walk through there at night time. “It is a lovely park, I think it is great for the children but they have to come in at a certain time. “I have seen needles and bottles. “It is sad because it is a children'’s play park."”

A spokesperson for Allerdale Council said the authority was aware of the problems in the park. She said: "The council clean up such vandalism, litter and filth in the park on a daily basis, generally before the public sees the full extent of the mess."

She added that the council is considering employing a park ranger to try to tackle the situation.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Remembering a fallen colleague: Kris Eggle

Four years ago today at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, a young and bright park ranger lost his life while pursuing a suspect who had crossed the Mexican border and illegally entered the U.S. Kris Eggle had a promising future as a park ranger. He received the Director's Award while attending FLETC and was well respected by his peers.

Many people forget that park rangers are law enforcement officers that must risk their lives to protect our parks. Take a moment to remember officers like Kris Eggle who gave their lives to protect our country's precious natural resources and those who visit them.

Those of you that are park rangers remember to never let your guard down because any stop can turn into a felony stop.

Park Ranger Kristopher William Eggle (The Officer Down Memorial)

Ranger Kristopher Eggle was shot and killed while he and several U.S. Border Patrol Agents attempted to apprehended two armed, illegal aliens.

The suspects had fled from Mexican authorities into Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Arizona at 1400 hours. The Mexican authorities called the Border Patrol and notified them of the suspects. A Border Patrol helicopter in the area located the suspects and directed Ranger Eggle and Border Patrol Agents to the area.

One of the suspects was apprehended without incident, but the second suspect opened fire with an AK-47 rifle. Ranger Eggle was struck below his vest, causing a fatal wound. The suspect then fled on foot south toward the Mexican border. He ran to approximately fifty yards from the border, where approximately 30 to 50 Mexican officers from numerous agencies opened fire from Mexico killing him. A medivac helicopter was sent to the scene, but Ranger Eggle had already succumbed to his wounds.

The suspect who was arrested during the incident was sentenced to 15.5 years in prison.

Ranger Eggle was a recent recipient of the Director's Award at FLETC. He is survived by his parents and a sister, who is also a law enforcement ranger for the Park Service.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

What kind of park needs a $50,000 patrol vehicle?

Apparently park rangers at Hollister Hills State Vehicular Recreation Area, a California park designed off road driving enthusiasts, receives a new $50,000 Land Rover SUV to patrol the park in each year.

While I'm a little jealous of the ride, I'd probably sell the Land Rover and buy two pickup trucks, an ORV, and a mountain bike to use for patrols. Heck I would still probably have enough left over for a year's worth of gas.

I'm just glad that I don't have to work at an off-road park. The smell of partially burned hydrocarbons mixed with musky testosterone makes me feel nauseous. I guess that shouldn't be surprising since I never really enjoyed snapping naked guys with a rolled up towel in the locker room either. That's just the way I am.

Head for the Hills (Hollister Free Lance)

Mike Stavro doesn't break a sweat when he's spinning the wheels of a donated luxury Sport Utility Vehicle while trying to climb up a dusty, rock-strewn hill at what seems like a 45-degree angle. Its just another day at the office. But for Stavro, a ranger at Hollister Hills State Vehicular Recreation Area, the office is a Land
Rover LR3 and his workplace is one most popular parks in the state for off-road driving.

The 3,200-acre state park attracts about 300,000 visitors annually and is considered "the Disneyland of off-highway riding," according to Chief Ranger Jeff Gaffney. In addition to miles and miles of trails, the park offers camping, picnic areas, a practice Motocross track, an ATV track and a mini-bike track. Elevations ranging from 660 feet to 2,425 feet above sea level make Hollister Hills an ideal off-road park for both amateurs and professionals, Gaffney said.

Even during the hot and dusty off-season at Hollister Hills thousands of visitors from across the country are drawn to the park's 88 miles of off-road, dirt bike and all-terrain vehicle trails each weekend.

Hollister Hills is divided into two sections. The 800-acre Upper Ranch is reserved for four-wheel drive vehicles, while the 2,400-acre Lower Ranch is for ATVs and dirt bikes. Visitors can spend the day spinning their wheels and kicking up dust in either section of the park for $5. But the majority of visitors spend the weekend at one the park's several dozen camp grounds for $10 a night. "It's the cheapest fun you can have on two, three or four wheels," veteran Hollister Hills Park Ranger Mike Stavro said. "Most people come for the whole weekend."

Hollister Hills is also testing site for Land Rover North America and the proving grounds for Four Wheeler Magazine's annual Top Truck Challenge. Land Rover North America even donates one of its SUVs to the park each year. It started donating vehicles after a company executive visited the park and learned that state officials wouldn't allow rangers to spend money on anything other than Ford, Dodge and Chevrolet trucks, Stavro said. Hollister Hills Park Rangers can be spotted driving around in a $50,000 2006 Land Rover LR3 while on routine patrols in the Upper Ranch this season, the fourth such vehicle donated by the company.

And while only the best of best attempt Hollister Hills' Tank Trap trail, the park has other trails for the novice and faint of heart, Gaffney said. Although the majority of visitors spend their time on motorcycles and ATVs in the Lower Ranch, the Upper Ranch is becoming more and more popular. "We've started to see a lot of 4x4s in the last few years, ever since SUVs became popular," Gaffney said. "But still the majority of (Hollister Hills) users come with motorcycles."

Off-road enthusiast Mike Matheson does both. The 52-year-old San Jose resident has been coming to Hollister Hills since the park opened in 1975. Matheson, depending on the season and his mood, will either bring his 1975 Toyota FJ40 or his Yamaha bike. "I'm not one of those tear-em-up guys," Matheson said. "I just like to go out there and enjoy the trails." Matheson, who visits the park about 20 times a year, said he keeps coming back because Hollister Hills is nearby and well-maintained. "It's a good place," he said. "And it's not one of the hard-core (off-road) places. Anyone can have fun out there." Dirt biking and off-roading is often a family activity, Stavro said. And Hollister Hills has become a frequent family vacation destination. "People come back again and again. They love it," Stavro said. "It's a family sport. We have families that come here, raise their kids here and then their kids grow up and bring their own family here. It's awesome."

Hollister Hills, the first of six State Vehicular Recreation Areas in California, was bought by the state in 1975 from local rancher Howard Harris, who built the majority of the park's trails and operated it privately for many years, Stavro said. The state opened the park to the public on Oct. 1, 1975 and it is paid for largely by gas taxes.

Peak season at Hollister Hills is in fall and winter months, when temperatures drop and rain is more frequent. "The first weekend there is moisture on the ground, it's a zoo," Stavro said. "They call it 'Ego Dirt.' You have so much traction that you ride like a pro." In 2005, the park had to close its gates six times when too many visitors showed up, Gaffney said. This summer, construction began on two new off-road areas, which are being dubbed the "East Ranch" and "West Ranch," on recently acquired park land. The two new areas will keep lifelong visitors on their toes and ensure that the park holds its ground as one of the premier SVRAs in California, Stavro said.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Ft. Lauderdale to replace park rangers with security guards

The city of Fort Lauderdale is considering firing its staff of six park rangers and replacing them with a dozen private security guards. The change would save the city $100,000 a mere .02% of the city's $452 million budget (this represents 2% of the parks department's $5 million budget). I am sure that there won't be any change in the quality of services offered despite the fact that these guards will be paid one quarter of the salary of a ranger (security companies, like most temp agencies retain approximately 50% of the rate charged to clients). Hey, it seems to work great in the malls, so why not do it in the parks?

Park rangers' future shaky (

Fort Lauderdale city commissioners completed a request for a proposal this week to find a private security firm that could either beef up or possibly take over the decades-old park ranger program. The goal is to save the city money.


This isn't the first time the rangers have been threatened with layoffs. In 2003, amid the city's financial crisis, commissioners reduced the ranger workforce from 12 to six -- a relatively small staff to oversee Fort Lauderdale's nearly 70 parks.

For Shefferman, the transition was tough. ''You couldn't always get [done] what you needed to,'' he said. ``You go between three parks a shift and make sure people are happy and safe.''

Park patron Matt Weiss spends much of his time in the expansive Holiday Park on Sunrise Boulevard.

He is the president of Fort Lauderdale Holiday Park Youth Baseball and Softball, which hosts about 700 players.

''We have a lot of drug dealing and prostitution [at Holiday Park],'' he said. 'The rangers take a lot of pride and care in making sure our kids are safe. I wonder if a private guard would make those kinds of rounds and have [the rangers'] attitude.''

According to the city's 2006-2007 budget, which will be approved in September, park rangers cost $740,948 for 10 full-time positions and five part-time. A private firm might be able to provide twice as many guards for at least $100,000 less, said Mayor Jim Naugle, stressing that the hunt for a security firm doesn't mean that the city will actually hire one.


''This is a means to explore our options and what the cost difference would be,'' he said. ``From what I understand, a ranger makes $67,000 a year. If we can get someone to do the same job for less, we should.''

Sanford Smith, a ranger for 16 years, says he makes less than $40,000. The Sunrise father says he always keeps an eye peeled for suspicious activity in Holiday Park.

''There's a personal investment,'' he said. ``This is my home, too. I live in the area and I care.''

Rangers also work with police and fire-rescue, using the department's dispatch system for emergencies. That relationship came in handy on Tuesday when a ranger found a young woman in the park who had apparently tried to kill herself by drinking two bottles of rubbing alcohol.

''The ranger went up to her to see how she was, how she was responding,'' said ranger supervisor Bryan Greene, 32. ``We had rescue workers here immediately.''

Greene's top pay, he said, is $43,000. ''I don't know who's making a lot of money doing this job,'' he said. ``People do it because they want to help.''

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Why you shouldn't bring your laptop fishing

It's just common sense that bringing your laptop comupter with you on a fishing trip is going to ruin the peace and tranquility. Apparently it can also ruin your vintage pickup truck, camping gear, rifle, cell phone, gps, and wallet. It might even leave you stranded out in the middle of the desert in 110 degree heat.

"Exploding" Dell Laptop Destroys Truck, Imperils Outsdoorsmen (

It all started as Thomas Forqueran and a friend, Rod Riddle, were packing up after a two-day fishing trip at Lake Mead National Forest in Nevada, on July 13, 2006. Truck Fire Thomas Forqueran's vintage Ford truck post-fire Happier Times Forqueran and "Jenny" in happier times Forqueran put his Dell Inspiron laptop on the floor of the passenger side of his truck as the two men started packing. Riddle heard a popping noise coming from the cab while loading equipment but was not alarmed until Forqueran smelled smoke. "Flames were shooting about three feet out the window," the 62-year-old Forqueran said. "I ran to the driver's side door and the flames were rushing at me and the three boxes of bullets in the glove compartment. It was extremely accelerated. It was like someone was firing napalm." Forqueran screamed to Riddle for water, hoping to save "Jenny," his 1966 Ford F-250. "I could tell by the look of the fire from where I was that there was no way we were going to put out the fire," wrote Riddle in his hand-scrawled witness testimonial. Both men ran for cover as bullets zinged past and the rapidly spreading flames in the cab of the antique truck reached the gas tank. Everything in the truck was destroyed in the subsequent fuel explosion. "Flames were shooting 12 feet into the air above the truck for about 10 minutes," Forqueran said. "There was a very large pillar of black smoke in the sky."

Park Ranger Brandon Marsmaker responded to that pillar of smoke. "When I examined the vehicle I noted the remnants of shell casings," Marsmaker wrote in his incident report. "I also noted what appeared to be the remains of a laptop computer. … The flame pattern indicates that
it started on the passenger side of the vehicle and primarily worked its way back to the bed of the truck. … All items inside the vehicle were destroyed by the fire."

The flames engulfed Forqueran's wallet, Winchester rifle, GPS unit, cell phone, camera and both men's camping gear -- Forqueran estimates close to $5,000 worth of damage, not to mention a $500 tow. The men were trapped in a breezeless canyon for eight hours in 110-degree heat, with few supplies, before the tow truck finally arrived. By that time, Riddle was sick from heat exhaustion, which had set in that morning -- before Forqueran's Dell Inspiron 1300/B130 set
his truck ablaze.
You've been warned. Leave the laptop at home.

Friday, August 04, 2006

The search for cheap gear continues

Yesterday, the folks over at notindoors let us know about a new price comparison website designed to help you find the best deals on outdoor gear.

notindoors: cheapest gear

If you’re not the spawn of a Rockefeller, Rothschild, or Gates and you feel the need to find the greatest outdoor gear at the best value (read: cheapest price), we have a website for you., in their own words, ‚“displays updated pricing and shipping information for outdoor gear from top web retailers.”
Since I am always on the lookout for a good deal (read: too poor to pay retail), I thought I would check it out. Unfortunately, looks like it still needs some time to expand its database. I searched for four different items and compared the results with some well know price comparison websites: Froogle and BizRate.

Camelbak MULE


C & C Outdoors

Men's North Face Stretch
Venture Jacket


Sports Basement

Oregon Mountain Community

MSR Hubba Hubba Tent

River, Road and Trail


Jetboil Personal
Cooking System


Modern Mountain Man

Travel Country states that they only include stores that are "worth buying from."
We will only feature gear from stores that have the following characteristics: exceptional site usability, great product selection, excellent customer service through live chat or phone, top brands, efficient order processing, and timely fulfillment (just to name a few). If a merchant is featured here, it's worth buying from them. Period.
Perhaps this is why Froogle consistently finds lower prices. I think I will wait until they expand the number of stores in their database before I start using their services. Version 3.0 of their website is due out this fall. We'll check back then.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Point Reyes National Seashore's secret garden

Naturalists hiking through Point Reyes National Seashore may stumble upon a plant they won't find in their field guide, Cannabis sativa. Apparently, someone has planted thousands of marijuana plants in a secret garden in a remote area of the park. Inconsiderate park rangers have removed the plants and ruined an entrepreneurs plans to make tie-died hemp t-shirts.

Rangers find 2,470 pot plants in national park (Point Reyes Light)

Park Service Rangers uprooted 2,470 marijuana plants last Thursday on National Park land along the Bolinas-Fairfax road, upsetting some Olema valley residents. The raid was part of what has become an annual hunt for pot in the park. In the day-long operation, two helicopters hovered near Dogtown as 12 Park Service rangers, six Marin County sheriff deputies and a State Park ranger cut down the crop. No one was arrested in the operation.

Rangers swooped over the area in a National Guard helicopter on Tuesday and spotted marijuana in a stand of Manzanitas. It was easily seen from the air since it was greener than the other vegetation.

"“Were on the look out all the time" said Head ranger Colin Smith.

For a park that is more than 100 square miles, eight rangers just isnÂ’t enough to spot everything said Smith. After they checked the site from the air they moved in the next day with a ground patrol and two helicopters; one lifted the plants out and another hovered near-by. These kinds of operations are particularly dangerous, explained Smith, since the growers have the advantage of knowing the terrain.

The abandoned site was about two acres and had a crop of plants 2-3 feet tall. The growers had been camping and their tents, propane tanks and stove were surrounded by garbage. Irrigation and fertilizer were also found on the site. It took a full day to transport the confiscated marijuana away. The site is still not completely cleaned of the debris. The 6x6 foot pile of pot is in a locked and secret location and will be burned.

Park rangers may be pleased with their find but residents in the Olema valley had no idea what was going on and were annoyed by the flyovers. Robert Francis Buckenmeyer who lives in Dogtown said that on Tuesday a black helicopter flew about 250 feet above his property. "It was like a police state for two days," said Buckenmeyer. "“It freaked me out."

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Baywatch: NPS Style

National Park Service lifeguards from across the country gathered at the Gateway National Recreation Area to test their lifeguarding skills in the 22nd annual NPS All-Women Lifeguard Tournament last Wednesday.

Taking the physical challenge (Ashbury Park Press)

"This event is more of an athletic skill than a rescue skill. A rescue skill is when you go in the water and come back out," said Purpuri of the Run-Paddle-Run.

"My mind set is to sprint as fast as you can to your board and once you get to your board, you just go. So, that's my strategy. Get out as fast as you can and then from there you don't let yourself lose your lead."

Neither Pammel Anderson nor David Hasselhoff were seen at the event. No one seemed to be disappointed.

Park ranger celebrates 100th birthday

National Park Service pioneer Dr. Irving Townsend celebrated his 100th birthday today. Townsend is one of just a handful of park rangers alive who predate the 1916 establishment of the NPS and might very well be the oldest living park ranger.

Townsend began his career as a seasonal park ranger in Yosemite in California in 1929 and remembers patrolling the park via motorcycle, horseback, or skis depending on the season. Some summers the family home was a tent along the Merced River. Housing was even an issue when he was named superintendent of Aztec Ruins National Monument in 1944. Townsend recounts, “Our house was not ready when we arrived at Aztec in New Mexico. We ate out of a tent that was placed somewhere back of the museum. At first we lived in two places. My wife and I in an old adobe and my son, age 4, and daughter, age 11, in some old barracks. It was a challenge being a house away from the kids. They thought they had the biggest playground in the world.”

Townsend spent seven years as a temporary employee performing a variety of duties before getting his first permanent NPS job. Many of his favorite memories are from the years he spent as a seasonal in Yosemite. He also vividly remembers working at Carlsbad Caverns NP in New Mexico when the access to the cave 700 feet below the surface was via a long and steep trail.

Townsend’s first permanent position was at Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas in 1936. The following year he transferred to the newly created Boulder Dam National Recreational Area in Nevada. Townsend returned to Hot Springs NP as the Chief Ranger in 1939.

In 1944 Townsend was named the superintendent of Aztec Ruins NM. He had to receive permission from the War Price and Food Rationing Board to buy the 110 gallons of gasoline needed to move his family from Arkansas to New Mexico.

Townsend made a lasting impact at Aztec Ruins NM. He discovered upon arrival that many of the ancient structures were in dire need of stabilization and repair. Three kivas and 39 rooms had been undermined by extensive water damage caused by the local topography, soil conditions, surrounding irrigated fields, and a nearby unlined canal. Many roofs, including the Great Kiva’s, leaked and some had exposed roof timbers. Several walls had collapsed due to the disintegration of wall bases. Townsend undertook the construction of a complex deep trench drainage system to protect the resource. The 17 month long task was hampered by mechanical break downs, labor shortages, and cave-ins. Townsend even operated some of the heavy equipment himself in order to successfully complete the elaborate project.

Townsend was a pilot and traveled by plane to keep in touch with family members when separated by work. He and his family also loved road trips. His son said, “I believe that we toured every national park and monument in the western United States. My folks would always fix really neat picnic lunches for all of us. Sandwiches made with potted meat, mayonnaise, and chopped olives. Man, that was living high on the hog!”

Townsend remained at Aztec Ruins NM until 1953 when he retired from the NPS to pursue a teaching career. He received his MA and ED from the University of New Mexico. He taught undergraduate and graduate courses at the University of Albuquerque and became Dean of the Graduate School before retiring from his second career in 1973. Throughout his life, he has continued to explore different parts of the country and the world. His travels include trips to Australia, Europe, Libya, Japan, Russia, and Africa.

The lifetime member of the NPS Employee and Alumni Association now resides near San Diego, CA and fondly recalls his time in the ranger ranks. “The twenty years I spent with the NPS were most inspiring. I always tried to do my best for the Service,” said Townsend.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

California park rangers losing bid to become armed

Park rangers working for the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District near San Francisco continue to have their requests to become armed denied despite hazardous working conditions. Why won't the district's board allow the rangers to carry guns? They are afraid that the public will percieve them as police officers. Now let's see if we can analyse this logic. We want park rangers to enforce the laws, but we don't want the public to think that park rangers are law enforcement officers. Hmmm...Don't see any flaws there. Seems like a solid plan.

Park rangers' gun bids likely to be shot down (Oroville Mercury Register)

"A lot of people key in right away to the fact that we don't have a gun. A lot of people also think that means we don't have any authority." he said.

The issue of ranger protection has come up many times in the district's 34-year history, but rangers decided to bring it back again after a major marijuana bust on the district's Sierra Azul Open Space Preserve in Santa Clara County last summer resulted in the shooting of a California Department of Fish and Game warden and the death of a suspect guarding the site. A district ranger discovered the pot field and contacted authorities, which led to the bust.

"It was a real eye-opener that this kind of activity was happening on public land," said John Lloyd, a ranger on Skyline Boulevard and president of the district. Lloyd said he regularly discovers trail signs full of bullet holes and spent casings on the ground.

Craig Britton, district general manager, said it was highly unlikely that a ranger would ever find himself in a shootout. Because they do not carry a gun, they are instructed to leave the scene at the first sign of trouble and call for backup from the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office, which has the power to intervene.

"I don't know of any incident in the history of the district where it's been necessary to draw a weapon," said Britton, who added that the rangers' presentation was not likely to alter district policy on bearing a gun. "I've been here 30 years, and it's always been a priority of the board not to carry weapons."

Neither Lloyd nor Barresi have ever had occasion to use their pepper spray or batons to defend themselves on the job. Only three such cases have arisen since the district was founded in 1972, according to Britton. A report issued by an independent analyst in 1998 found the idea of rangers carrying guns problematic, because it would cause the public to perceive them as police officers, as well as make them more of a target for violence.

Rangers counter that they already look like police officers, so they might as well have a similar mandate. "We're in uniform. We wear the same colors as the Santa Clara Sheriff's Department wears. We look the part of law enforcement, and we're peace officers under the penal code," Lloyd said.

East Bay Regional Park District has a designated category of police officers who carry guns; its rangers do not. Santa Clara County's Parks and Recreation District rangers stopped being armed in the 1980s.

Rangers have long complained that the district's rules of engagement mean they have to wait up to an hour for backup to arrive from the sheriff's department. In the meantime, they are sometimes trapped in a critical situation.

Loro Paterson, an 18-year veteran of the district, remembers one night in the mid-1990s when a poacher began shooting at her patrol vehicle on the Montebello open space preserve. Paterson drove to a clearing, radioed for backup and waited, unarmed, in her car for officers to arrive. "The first responding officer got lost. The second officer got to the scene 44 minutes later," she recalled. If a fellow ranger had been allowed to intervene, Paterson said, the poacher might have been caught.

Another time, Paterson gave first aid to a 4-year-old boy who had been attacked by a coyote in the Windy Hill reserve in Portola Valley. The animal stayed close by for a long time, but Paterson was powerless to shoot him. Eventually it left, and in the ensuing weeks officials had to shoot seven coyotes to make sure they had gotten the right one. Paterson said a gun was "basic law enforcement equipment." People come to us for protection and help and, in a worst-case scenario, we're not able to provide the help they're looking for," she said.

Britton said the district had responded to rangers' past security concerns by distributing body armor, upgrading its radio system, and issuing a new operating manual. He said the district might consider hiring a member of the sheriff's department to patrol its preserves full-time, but arming rangers was likely out of the question. "Speaking personally, I don't think a gun equals safety. I think a gun equals danger," Britton said.