MONTARA, Calif. — Last week, a federal park ranger armed with a Taser zapped a man walking his two small dogs in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. His crime? Allowing one of the dogs to walk off-leash.
The Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA) is an enormous piece of real estate that stretches along the coast, north and south of San Francisco. Despite occasional postings noting that dogs are to be leashed, for decades many local residents walking and hiking through the more remote areas of the GGNRA regularly ignore the signs and allow their dogs off-leash. Such was the case with Gary Hesterberg, 50, who was stopped by a National Parks Service ranger and demanded to leash his 13-pound rat terrier, Jo-Jo.
According to the GGNRA’s after action report, the ranger informed Hesterberg about the ban on loose dogs and he immediately complied, clipping a lead to Jo-Jo’s collar. According to witnesses, Hesterberg was then told to wait while the ranger communicated on her radio. He repeatedly asked why he was being detained and if he was being cited. After a few minutes, Hesterberg is said to have announced he was leaving and began to walk away. The ranger grabbed him by the arm and ordered him not to leave the scene of the crime.
“We felt like he wasn’t doing anything,” Michelle Babcock told the Half Moon Bay Review. “The ranger was very rude. You could tell [Hesterberg] wanted to be on his way, but she kept saying, ‘no.’”
When Hesterberg tried to leave a second time, and the ranger unholstered her Taser and warned him she would use it. He pleaded with her not to zap him, citing a heart condition. Upon turning his back to the ranger, apparently to walk away, he was hit with the Taser from behind.
Another witness, John Barlett, said, “He let out a cry of agony as he fell on his back.”
Hesterberg collapsed on the ground, and the ranger reportedly began shouting at him to turn over face down so she could handcuff him.
Paramedics were soon called to attend to Hesterberg. Other than scrapes and bruises, he was seen fit to be immediately booked into county jail on three misdemeanor charges: including walking his dog without a leash, giving false information and failing to follow an officer’s orders. He spent the night in the pokey.
GGNRA officials say they are reviewing the incident, but so far they see no problem with the use of the Taser. They claim that Hesterberg was being uncooperative with the park ranger.
“It’s within the range of options available to a ranger, and it appears to us to fit within the permissible rules,” said Howard Levitt, GGNRA spokesman “At least twice, he attempted to leave the scene.”
Hesterberg is not talking to the media and has contacted an attorney.
This bizarre incident illustrates something that is occurring in many of our national parks that is very wrong: the parks are no longer ours.
The GGNRA was established in 1972 by President Richard Nixon, and began with a little island in the middle of the San Francisco Bay known as Alcatraz. Ever since then, a variety of eco-orgs, together with Senator Diane Feinstein, have cobbled together some 30,000 acres of land, now overseen by the Department of Interior.
The acreage is forever off limits to development, and, with the federal oversight, recreational activities within GGNRA are severely constrained. Recently a 2,310-page master plan was issued for the GGNRA, with hundreds of pages devoted to dog restrictions. The masterminds who put this plan together don’t just want dogs on a leash, they want them off the property altogether.
You have to realize something: radical environmentalists perceive dogs as an invasive species. The thinking goes, dogs have been bred by humans, and are a threat to the natural species in any region. This whacked mindset has been articulated by many GGNRA bureaucrats, including superintendent Frank Dean who has indicated parks officials want to ensure native vegetation and protected species are not disturbed while remaining sensitive to the needs of dog owners.
However, it’s not just that unleashed dogs are off limits; it’s humans that are being targeted too. As we’re seeing in more and more of our national parklands, wander too far from the trail or path, and you’ll be confronted by an armed ranger demanding you leave the environs immediately. Sadly, it’s not your safety that is of their concern. It’s the Department of Interior insuring that the ecological stability is not being displaced by you.
Because you are a human — an invasive species.