In 2018 Maine’s Bureau of Parks and Lands reported that 3 million people visited state parks and historic sites. During peak times, Maine parks often have many of the same issues and activities as small cities.

By statute the bureau may designate their employees with law enforcement powers so rangers can properly deal with violations of state laws and regulations. Yet over the years the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry has refused to properly train their staff in efficient law enforcement practices.

Earlier this month, a legislative committee considered L.D. 527, which would require the bureau to establish a law enforcement training program for park managers and rangers. It was introduced by Rep. Thomas Skolfield, a seasoned legislator and highly respected retired regional park supervisor, who has seen through the ruse claimed by bureau directors that parks have very few enforcement issues, most of which can be handled politely. In this day of the opioid crisis, sexual predators, methadone labs and random shootings, the bureau’s assumptions don’t hold water.

Rangers are first-responders. They also respond to domestic disputes, which can turn violent very quickly. A parks director described those instances as mere squabbles.

In addition, needles were found on park beaches, lifeguard stands and bathhouses. Public intoxication, stalking and many other law violations were common occurrences in 2018, as were a wide variety of other threats.

Yet at a time when the Legislature has authorized rangers of the Maine Forest Service to carry firearms for their and the public’s safety, the Bureau of Parks has not only removed law enforcement authority but refuses to provide safety equipment and ignored training.

The bureau is leaving visitors and dedicated rangers who enter these outstanding areas, out in the cold.

 

Tim Caverly

Millinocket


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