Olympic National Park closure tickets stand

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PORT ANGELES — The U.S. attorney for western Washington rejected a request by two of the top law-enforcement officers on the Olympic Peninsula to dismiss citations issued to people who visited Olympic National Park amid the partial government shutdown.

Clallam County Sheriff Bill Benedict and Port Angeles Police Chief Terry Gallagher had asked Jenny Durkan to dismiss “closure violation” tickets issued Saturday.

Durkan and a park spokeswoman said Ranger Jennifer Jackson was right to issue the $125 tickets, the Peninsula Daily News reported Wednesday.

Three tickets were issued to people who stopped at the Barnes Point parking lot at Lake Crescent.

“It’s absurd. There was absolutely no reason to issue citations to these people,” Gallagher said Tuesday.

“To essentially issue a trespass citation to people for going to the park shows a lack of common sense and discretion,” Benedict said.

One ticket went to Kelly Sanders, a Port Angeles sixth-grade teacher, who was taking a group of international students for a hike to Marymere Falls.

Tickets also were written for Leanne Potts of Sequim, who was planning to hike the Mount Storm King Trail, and to an unidentified driver of a third car. Sanders and Potts said they plan to challenge their tickets in U.S. District Court in Tacoma.

In her email response to Sheriff Benedict, Durkan said the visitors drove past signs and cones that declared the park closed.

Sanders and Potts said the barricades were parted enough to allow cars inside.

They also said they were confused by the wording on signs that read, “Because of the federal government shutdown, this National Park Service facility is closed.”

Both said “facility” led them to believe the restrooms and buildings had been closed since the shutdown began on Oct. 1, but not trails.

In addition to those three citations, a pair of bicyclists in the Quinault area who had been asked to leave the park several times also were ticketed, park spokeswoman Barb Maynes said.

The “violation of closure” regulation is typically used when areas of the park are closed due to mudslides, fallen trees or washed-out roads, she said.