PORT ANGELES, Wash. — The Port Angeles police chief and the county sheriff asked the U.S. attorney to dismiss the $125 federal citations that a park ranger issued against a teacher and others who entered Olympic National Park during the government shutdown, with the chief saying it “borders on the ridiculous.”
But U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan, in an email response to Clallam County Sheriff Bill Benedict, defended the park ranger who issued the tickets and said those people who were cited drove past road signs and cones that declared the park closed.
“But when they purposely decide to ignore the law (and the signs and cones), there are consequences,” Durkan wrote Tuesday. “I never like it when a trooper gives me a ticket. But I pay it. And I know it is not his fault, but mine.”
Sixth-grade teacher Kelly Sanders entered the park Monday to show it to visiting students from Japan when a park ranger issued her and other visitors $125 tickets for “violation of closure.”
Sanders said she will fight the ticket in federal court.
In his letter to Durkan on Wednesday, Port Angeles Police Chief Terry Gallagher noted that Sanders was cited in the park when she attempted to take the six international students on a very short hike there on Monday.
“My purpose in writing is to point out that, from a law enforcement perspective, the issuance of the citation was completely unnecessary and borders on the ridiculous,” Gallagher wrote.
He added, “Contesting the citation will require an appearance in federal court in Tacoma. At that point I presume the judge will try and determine what threat six international students and their escort posed to our national park. I suspect he will be as befuddled as I am and recognize this for the political farce that it is, rather than a meaningful exercise of the federal government’s police powers.”
“My hope is that you will dismiss these citations and save those that received them a trip to Tacoma … perhaps with your help the park service can regain a portion of the respect it once enjoyed,” Gallagher said.
Benedict said “to essentially issue a trespass citation to people for going to the park shows a lack of common sense and discretion.”