An amateur runner who has finished nearly 100 marathons was hit with a $100 ticket for running in Valley Forge National Park during the government shutdown. Now John Bell and his attorney say he is going to federal court to fight the fine, as a matter of principle.
“Washington may have shut down the government, but due process is not shut down,” said Jeremy Ibrahim, Bell’s lawyer.
Bell (pictured) has run marathons on every continent, including Antarctica. But he says that Valley Forge Park is his favorite running spot. With more than a million visitors per year, it is one of the busiest National Parks in the country. When it is open, that is.
Bell, 56, said that he parked his car Sunday in an area that was not blocked off by cones or barriers. He had seen other runners and cyclists in the park, so despite the shutdown, he had no idea that he was breaking any laws.
“I’m not putting together that [the park is] closed. Even if it was, I’d be thinking, ‘Oh, they’re just closing the visitor center,’” he explains.
He had run about four miles, which must have senn like a quick jog by his standards, when he saw the flashing lights of a park ranger vehicle.
Because the national parks are run with a skeleton crew of law enforcement, firefighting and emergency personnel during the shutdown, the parks must be closed to the public due in order to maintain safety, the National Park Service says.
But Bell’s lawyer says his client was just trying to stay in shape.
“We tell folks that we should all be healthy, we all should go online and sign up. He goes outside, does some running and gets a ticket for it,” Ibrahim told a Philadelphia TV station.
Originally a state park created in 1893, Pennsylvania turned the land over to the federal government in 1976. The National Park Service has run it ever since.
SOURCES: CBS Channel 3 Philly, Forbes