Rocky Mountain National Park rulebreakers busted despite shutdown

Rocky Mountain National Park didn’t experience the kind of absurd violations as Yellowstone, where a snowmobiler got way too close to Old Faithful, but there were some line-toers.

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A dog and his human at Rocky Mountain National Park. (Kevin J. Beaty)

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A dog and his human at Rocky Mountain National Park. (Kevin J. Beaty)

I was living in Estes Park the last time the federal government shut down and Rocky Mountain National Park completely closed with it. Even in the winter, it was a major bummer for visitors who wanted more than saltwater taffy and ghosts.

When the government closed again last Friday at midnight, the gates remained open. That turned out to be something of a bummer for the park when would-be troublemakers tried to break the rules. Unfortunately for them, park rangers were still on the prowl.

Now, Rocky didn’t experience the kind of absurd violations as Yellowstone, where a snowmobiler got way too close to Old Faithful, but there were some line-toers.

“Most visitors were following park rules,” public information officer Kyle Patterson said in an email. But, she said, “We did see a significant increase of dogs on trails as well as visitors driving at high speeds.”

Dogs are strictly forbidden to enter most of the park’s natural areas so they don’t “become prey,” “transmit diseases,” or “leave behind a ‘predator’ scent.”

As Patterson tells it, these ne’er-do-wells thought they might be getting away with something. Upon getting busted, she said, “Most were visibly surprised that we had rangers on duty.”

It wasn’t the government shutdown but the weekend winter storm that succeeded in closing the park. Five vehicles defied the closure, Patterson said, and they were all ticketed.