Picking My Battles

As a write this, I’m a little angry.

Actually, I’m really angry.

And even though my neighbor is laughing at my outrage and my husband is telling me not to embarrass him, I feel the need to share my anger.

registrationEvery day, I take my dog for a walk through the park by my house. The PUBLIC (as in partly paid for by taxpayer dollars) park by my house. Sometimes, we even go there twice a day and enjoy a leisurely stroll.

Not tonight.

When I arrived at the park, there was caution tape haphazardly strewn up around a large section of the park. It had obviously been put there by amateurs, and I stepped over it.

I continued up a hill as a shrill voice called after me.

“Ma’am, you can’t walk here.”

I ignored the voice, partly because I just don’t like being called ma’am.

The voice got closer.

“Ma’am, you can’t walk here.”

I turned around.

“You have to leave, you aren’t allowed in this area. We are holding an event for Cub Scouts and you’re a security risk.”blocked playground

A security risk? Really? I gave her a look that said as much, but my words were “This is a public park. I walk here every day.”

“We rented it.” she said.

“I have a hard time believing that,” I said. “You can rent a shelter, but you can’t rent a section of the park.”

The woman, who wasn’t in the best of shape and had obviously exerted herself chasing after me, tried to puff out her chest and exude her importance in her orange day-glow vest, “We did. ” she said. “And you can’t be here.”

I didn’t want to get in a fight. I just wanted to walk up the hill, but I turned around muttering under my breath.

Apparently, I’m loud even when I mutter under my breath.

Three young people, who had also been chased off, smiled at me and pumped their fists. “Power to the people,” one of the young men said. We walked together along the outside the park fence, and when we approached the “open” section of the park, we said goodbye.

But I wasn’t done.

As I watched more “security guards” (i.e. parents in orange vests) walking the perimeter of the taped-off section of the park, three more young people, one of whom was carrying a basketball, walked down the hill from the PUBLIC basketball court.

“Were you chased out too?” I asked.

“Yes ma’am,” said one of the young men said, and I didn’t mind that he called me ma’am because he said it with respect.

“Don’t worry.” I said. “I’m going to complain on behalf of all of us.”

They nodded and walked off with their shoulders slumped while the Cub Scouts (all 15 or so of them) cheered behind them.

bbcourtI’m sure the Cub Scouts weren’t cheering because the teens had been chased off, but the sound made me even angrier.

I walked the perimeter taking pictures with my phone.

One of the parents in an orange vest, this time a man, asked if he could help me.

“I’m just taking pictures,” I said. Then I clarified, “but not of the few boys you are protecting. I’m not a security risk. I’m just taking pictures of how you aren’t letting me use a public park.”

There was no answer.

Maybe I AM blowing this out of proportion, and I DO understand the need to protect young children.

But I have issues with how this whole situation was handled.

Every day, there are dozens of children playing on the playground that was blocked off, and no one has ever before prevented me from walking my dog there. If the parents were that concerned about security, there are plenty of other more private and secure locations where they could have held their event. Even if the group had rented the park, and not just a shelter, they could have actually put up polite signs rather than tape that signaled anyone who crossed it was a criminal.

Most of all, there just weren’t enough boys attending the event to outweigh the members of the public who were prevented from using the PUBLIC facilities.

And all of that means I’m angry.  I am angry not only about the arrogance with which I was confronted but also about the self-righteousness with which I was told I was a security threat.

And because of that, this is one battle I am willing to pick.

Late comment: For those who think the park was well-marked and I should have walked away, here’s what it looked like from where I entered:   entrance

tents

About Trina Bartlett

I live in the Eastern Panhandle of WV, with one dog, two cats, a theater kid in high school, a band kid at West Virginia University and a husband who works strange hours. When I'm not working as a director at a nonprofit social service organization or being a mom, I can generally be found riding my bike, walking my dog and stirring things up.

Posted on July 31, 2013, in My life, perspective, writing and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 37 Comments.

  1. I’m on your side with this! I agree — I’ve never heard of people renting whole sections of the park, that doesn’t seem legit at all! Please post updates, as I really want to know what happened. I’m glad that you stood up to this!

    • So, after talking to several people, I received an apology from Parks and Recreation saying that the group did NOT have permission to mark off part of the park and prevent anyone from using it. So, I went back today and they were still there and once again tried to tell I wasn’t allowed to walk on “their space.” I said I was, and they said no “he” said I didn’t. Whoever “he” is. I showed the woman the email on my phone and she still acted like I wasn’t allowed, but I proceeded. Then, some guy with a clip board started chasing me down, and, since I knew I was absolutely in the right, I told him if they were going to be rude I was going to be rude too. I then told him I would walk along the trees and not bother anyone, and he shrugged and let me. Ironically, coming back through the park, I ran into the Director of Parks and Recreation, and he approached me. He apologized and was astonished when I told them the group was back again tonight and doing the same thing. He said he would take care of it, but I don’t know if he did or not. To be honest, it’s just a matter of principle with me more than anything else. These people were trying to control me when they had absolutely no authority to do so. They are in the wrong. I know they are in the wrong. I tried to tell them tonight and they still don’t get it. I wish they would acknowledge that they lied to me when they said they had permission to keep me out, but I don’t think they will.

      • This is just incredible! What makes them think they can take over the park, and what kind of example are they setting for these youngsters? Rules can be broken if you’re special enough? Enough of a bully? It’s not that I think all rules should be followed just because they’re rules, but it’s a public place! A rule designed so that everyone can enjoy the space! Very irritating. And, YEA it’s a matter of principle, that’s exactly what it is! Even if they weren’t lying (which, I wouldn’t doubt it if they were), then that means that still assumed they would have the right to take over a park, a public place? UGH.

        But still awesome that you were so active in keeping them in line and reporting them. If they’re so worried about “strangers” then rent out somewhere that allows you to create this kind of “protection”

  2. I’m with you on this too Trina! Sounds like you are on the side of common sense. Let us know how your battle goes.

  3. My goodness, what were they doing, firing rifles? What could possibly be a safety risk?If they were concerned about the scouts, it sounds like there were more than enough parents to protect them, if they were concerned about your safety, it seems like it would have been better to rent someplace other than a public park.

    • I think they were trying to keep anyone they didn’t know away from the kids. They were just doing it in a very inappropriate manner. Like I said in my blog, if they were that concerned about it, they shouldn’t have held their event in a public space. And, according to Parks and Rec, they didn’t have permission to block the area off.

  4. You should make a fuss about this, it sucks. So now if you have enough MONEY you can take access to a public space away from the PUBLIC. I call you-know-what.

  5. I’ve never seen areas taped off unless it was a crime scene. I agree with you 100%. I would be curious if they were given permission to block off such a large area of the park. Go Trina!!!

  6. Yup, you are blowing this out of proportion and as one of the parents of those scouts I applaud the volunteers who kept “strangers” out of the area. You walked in the taped off area, ignored the people who asked you not to enter, then you came back and took pictures while children were present? Not creepy or a security treat at all (notice my sarcasm). They rented the area, while a large part of the area as you say was being used, it was not the whole park and it is only for 3 days. I think you need to find other things to do with your time then go on and on about some boy scouts having a good time. Last time I checked I was a tax payer too and I would just walk my dog in the other area of the “big” park instead of being rude to people trying to keep children safe.

    • Allison,

      I really debated allowing your comment, but if I have a right to express my opinion, you certainly have a right to express yours. I have no problems with Cub Scouts having fun. I have no problem with Cub Scouts being at the park. The list of what I have a problem with is long, however. There was no signage yesterday indicating what the tape was for. I’m big on communication and there was only caution tape with no explanation. And then, when the woman started yelling at me that I couldn’t walk there, yes I got angry, especially since I was almost positive that she had no right to tell me that. And she didn’t. Parks and Rec has confirmed that the Scouts received no such permission, which causes me to question why a group that is supposed to promote honesty wasn’t being so with me. Then there were the adults patrolling the area as though I am a criminal. I’m a social worker. I understand protecting kids, but this was more of a “we are in power and we are going to put you in your place” almost military attitude. As for my being creepy or a security threat? Hardly. I simply fight for what is right and just. I always have and I always will. I was taking the pictures to document what your group had done. In other, words, it was evidence. Having two of my own children, I certainly wouldn’t want anyone taking pictures of them and I would never take pictures of other people’s children. If you look at my photos, there are no children. Only the adults who were “patrolling.” Yes, the park is big, but you did section off a large part of it. And that is the side I use to enter and leave it every day because of where I live. When I was initially chased out, I wasn’t even told the rest of the park was open, so I initially thought I was being chased out of the whole park. Again, signage would have been good. MOST IMPORTANTLY, this wasn’t just about me. It was about all the people you chased off and out. Most of them looked nothing like me, which makes me worry about them and feel the need to advocate for them even more. In other words, there wasn’t any diversity in your group of Cub Scouts, but there was a lot of diversity in the people you were asserting you had the right to keep out. Today, I went back and was once again approached and told I wasn’t allowed, when I knew for a fact I was.. So, yes, I proceeded when it probably would have been easier to walk around. the park. But sometimes, when you know you are in the right, you have to take a stand. And I WAS in the right.

      • “In other words, there wasn’t any diversity in your group of Cub Scouts, but there was a lot of diversity in the people you were asserting you had the right to keep out.”

        I had wondered about this initially when I read your post, and this person’s reply. Who were these children being “protected” from, exactly? People of color? Poor people?

        Good for calling them out on this. Again, I wonder about what type of principles this group of Scouts is really teaching the kids…

        And, now that I think of it, you kept mentioning someone with a clipboard — wondering if this was a way to seem more “official” than they were, because they knew they couldn’t take up all that space?

      • All of the adults I encountered were white. I honestly wasn’t paying much attention to the boys as they weren’t doing anything wrong, but from what I saw they all looked white to me. I can’t judge socio-economic status, but the kids who were chased off about the same time I did kind of had a goth look to them. The kids who were chased off the basketball court were all black. Later, two young women, one who looked to me to be Hispanic, were also chased off.

        No clue about the guy with the clipboard. To be honest, he didn’t act like he was very authoritative, he acted like a car salesman…that insincere friendliness. But I didn’t give him a chance to try to sell me anything.

      • Actually – if you look at the pictures posted one clearly indicates who and what the activity is and the other even has a phone number to contact. The barrier tape was a boundary that should have been respected – inconvenienced or not. You had the right to question it and got the correct answer, even if you didn’t like it and made it obvious. It’s usually better to step back and take the time to get the facts straight before getting others all wound up over what turns out to be a miscommunication by the Parks Department for which they’ve accepted responsibility for and apologized. Just sayin.

      • Wes, That probably wasn’t the best photo to indicate the situation. I entered the park from the creek side, where there was only yellow caution tape and a couple small yard sign that simply said “Join Cub Scouts.” There was no official signage from Parks or Rec indicating that the group had permission to keep me from entering the park. Not only that, but since I’ve walked dogs in park almost every day for nine years, that was the first time a group had ever blocked off that entrance to the park, much the less the rest of that area. The sign you are referring to was on the other side of the roped off area, and it did clearly indicate who the group was, but it still did not indicate they had permission to keep people out or chase people away. As the people from Park and Rec said, they have never let a group block off that part of the park, so I had every right to question their efforts to act like they had authority over me when they didn’t. And just to reinforce, when I entered the park I went all the way to the edge and was walking up a hill. I was no where near children or any of their activities and was obviously uninterested in them. I was just trying to get to the top of the hill so I could access the rest of the park (part of which they also had blocked off.) To be called a security threat for simply walking my dog and minding my own business was absolutely ridiculous. I hate to see how they treated people they might have perceived to be more threatening than me, a middle-aged woman in a biking (as in bike riding not motorcycle) shirt. They might have thought they had permission to chase me out, but the bottom line is they really didn’t and I did have every right to recognize there was something completely off about the situation. The bottom line is, that area should never have been blocked off and I and many others should never have been chased out. If I had never crossed the line and questioned people who thought they had the authority to take over a large section of the (but actually didn’t) a lot of people would have missed out on the fun they had at the park last night. Unfortunately, sometimes it takes someone like me who is willing to question so called authority to protect the rights of those who don’t. On one final note, for a group that claimed they were doing all of that to protect the safety of the children, they were doing so in one of the most public areas of the park. If common sense had been used from the beginning, they would have realized that was a really bad place for a private event. I have to wonder, given the amount of “security,” whether they actually realized that and were over compensating.

      • I added a photo at the end of my blog of what the area where I entered looked like. Nothing official. At all.

  7. It should be easy enough to verify if the Scouts legitimately rented the area or not. I would imagine they probably did though as it looks like from the photo a planned membership event. Most Scout leaders are pretty responsible and trustworthy citizens so if they said they did – that would be seriously worth considering. Many public parks are renting out areas to groups to increase revenue and offset budget deficiencies. If the Scouts rented it then you should have respected that. The organizers probably thought the sign, caution tape and orange vested adults would be enough to thwart most people from disrupting their activities (security was probably secondary unless your park has known issues). The fact that you chose to ignore all those indicators – then took offense to being inconvenienced and got indignant with them is probably why you got the reaction you did from them. Then it seems you published this blog out of anger and spite without yet verifying if they rented it – which is probably why your neighbor and husband are laughing at you and embarassed. I would be too. On the other hand – if you honestly find out that they didn’t rent the area as claimed, shame on them and I’d report them to the local Scout council and park officials.

    • Hi Wes,

      I did report the incident to both Parks and Recs and the Scouts. Parks and Recs said the Scouts did not have permission to rope off the space and had not reported they would be using it for such purposes. They had put in their application to rent the pavilion (and the pavilion only) that they were using it for registration and that was it. No permission granted to block the rest of the area. I received and email apology and personal apology from the Director of Parks and Recreation. I probably would not have reacted with such vigor if someone had politely explained to me what they were doing. Instead, there was no signage just the caution tape and a woman chasing me down to tell me I wasn’t allowed to walk my dog where I have never been told I couldn’t walk. The Boy Scouts have yet to admit they were in the wrong and, in fact, tried to once again keep me off the property tonight. I admit I reacted rudely, but they were definitely acting without appropriate authority.

      • Melanie,

        Sounds like the Parks Department acknowledges the mistake on their end. However, the scout leaders obviously do need learn how to deal with the public. They should have handled this a lot better – it leaves a negative impression on scouting that erodes public confidence and support for all the great things the organization does in your community, state and nation. Please keep in mind the leaders are mostly well meaning volunteers from all walks of life and like the public in general these days are not as adept at communicating respectfully and effectively as they should be.

        Wes

      • Trina,

        There is nothing wrong with pursuing an injustice – it helps us all be better. Hopefully the Parks Dept and scout leaders will learn from this and improve the way the schedule and handle the public.

        Wes

  8. The scout leaders could have handled the situation much better than they did. It is unfortunate that tape was used to isolate the area….it gives the wrong impression. Have you contacted Doug Band who is in charge of the scouts in this area?

    • I did Melanie. I actually called and ranted on Thursday, morning, because I was still so angry. Probably not the best impression – but you know me VERY passionate. He really didn’t say much other that he was actually at the event at the Park. He didn’t indicate that he agreed or disagreed with me, and to be honest, I don’t know that I gave him much of a chance as I was so focused on conveying my feelings. However, I did follow up with an email that contained this blog, and he never responded. I then forwarded the email the Parks and Rec sent me telling me that the Boy Scouts did not have permission to section off the park, and he didn’t respond to that. I sent him another email this morning telling him that I was confronted and questioned again last night, and he hasn’t responded to that either. So, if get confronted again tonight, I think I will call him again and politely explain how his volunteers are treating people.

  9. patches strine

    This has all been a big miss understanding. We believed the Boy Scouts were going to be at Poor House Farm Park. Not at War Memorial Park, but yes they had asked for War Memorial. The blame lies with us. We were trying to piece all the info together. They did have permission to be at Warm Memorial. Sorry about any of the confusion and inconvenience you suffered. We would also like to apologize to the Boy Scouts, who were only doing what they were told they could do.

    Thank You,
    Patches Strine
    M-BC Parks & Recreation

    • Thanks Patches. Just to clarify, I was told they were given permission to use the pavilion but they never had permission to keep people out of that section of the park.

      Thanks!

      • patches strine

        We didn’t realize it was at War Memorial. Mr. Catlett thought they were out at Poor House Farm Park. We don’t usually let people do that. That’s why we made the mistake and put down Poor House, but they are actually at War Memorial Park. The whole thing is our fault and we apologize to everyone.

    • Thank you for letting us know. I thought it seemed strange that a legitimate scout organization would intentionally capture a public space without permission.

      • As I told the staff person with the Boy Scouts, who cited concerns about safety, this would have all been easily avoided if they had chosen a different place to hold their event. War Memorial is a very well-used park and the space they were using is an entrance to the park for many of us. Common sense should have prevailed that that was a very bad location for an event they wanted to keep private. If they didn’t want members of the public near their event, they should have just chosen a different location.

      • patches strine

        Your correct sir. They did have permission. It is actually a camp to help your disadvantage young boys, giving them some kind of mentoring.

      • Sorry Patches… so many comments were coming in that I missed some of them. As I told Steve Catlett last night, I absolutely love War Memorial Park and what a welcoming environment it is for all people… and for dogs too. I love and appreciate the fact that dogs are welcome there. Thanks for all you do, and we all make mistakes. I obviously made some of my own in how I reacted to all of this.

  1. Pingback: Picking My Battles Part 2: Validation, Lessons Learned and Being a Role Model | Just So You Know

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