Teacher, students get $125 tickets for visiting Olympic Nat'l Park

OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK, Wash. - Kelly Sanders decided to take her crew of six international students, including two visiting Port Angeles from its Japanese sister city, on a hike to Marymere Falls over the weekend.

"I've hosted a lot of international students for (Peninsula) college," said Sanders, a sixth-grade teacher from Port Angeles. "I like to give them experiences they wouldn't normally get."

An experience they got, along with a $125 ticket.

Sanders pulled off U.S. Highway 101 into the Barnes Point lot at Lake Crescent where two other cars were parked got out and posed the students for a picture behind the Storm King Ranger Station sign when she heard another car pull up.

It was Park Ranger Jennifer Jackson's patrol car.

According to Sanders' account, Jackson asked for her driver's license and the licenses of the drivers of the two other cars.

All three drivers received $125 tickets for "Violation of Closure (Government Shutdown)" as the students, the two Japanese students from Mutsu City and four Peninsula College students from Indonesia, Hong Kong and China, watched puzzled.

"I didn't know how to explain it to them because I can't really understand why all this happened myself," Sanders said Monday.

"I know they were surprised that we would get a ticket for trying to go for a hike."

The park has been closed since the federal government shutdown began Oct. 1.

Local park officials could not be reached for comment Monday because it was a federal holiday, Columbus Day.

Department of Interior officials also could not respond because of the holiday.

The driveway into the Storm King lot was partially blocked by orange road cones and a sandwich board with a sign stuck to it with duct tape reading, "Because of the federal government shutdown, this National Park Service facility is closed," Sanders said.

"It was a really wide opening wide enough I could get my car through easily," said Leanne Potts of Sequim, who also received a $125 citation from Jackson.

Potts set out that morning for a hike up the Mount Storm King Trail with her friend, Laura Clemons.

"If I knew I was going to get a ticket, I probably wouldn't have gone in there," she said.

Both were also confused by the wording on the sign.

"When I think of facilities, I think of buildings or bathrooms or features or something," Potts said.

"I don't think of a forest."

"I just assumed that it meant the bathrooms were closed, not that I would be breaking the law," Sanders said.

Sanders and Potts reported that Ranger Jackson was remorseful during the 20-minutes in which she issued the tickets, adding that she wasn't being paid while working.

"She said she was just doing her job," Sanders said of Jackson. "I understand that she thought that was her job. It just seemed a little excessive."

"She did say, 'Feel free to complain. We welcome your complaints,'" Potts said.

More cars drove up as the citations were being written, they said.

"I told one of them to turn around and go away because I didn't want them to get a ticket, too," Potts said.

Both women plan to challenge their tickets.

"I'm definitely going to go to the federal courthouse and try to fight it," Potts said.

Unfortunately, the federal courtroom is in Tacoma.

"Oh, yeah. I'll got to Tacoma and plead my case," Sanders said. "It'll be a nice drive."

As for the visiting students, they ended up driving to Madison Falls for a hike "because they are still open," Sanders said.

The students also got to attend the Dungeness Crab & Seafood Festival in Port Angeles and visit Victoria before going home.


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