By Melissa Daniels/PA Independent
HARRISBURG — John Bell has gone for a run on all seven continents, Antarctica included. He has crossed finished lines in the Boston and New York marathons.
Sunday morning, he crossed a different kind of line.
The Delaware County marathoner wrapped up a run on the scenic trails of Valley Forge National Park about 10:30 a.m. He returned to his car, in a lot free of barricades, to find a pair of park rangers and a patrol car, lights flashing.
The rangers cited Bell, saying he was not allowed in the park during the shutdown.
Bell’s lawyer, Philadelphia-based Jeremy Ibrahim, said Bell was cited under a statute that gives the park superintendent the power to implement temporary rules during closures. But Ibrahim said the park failed in providing notice of the closure.
“The park system, the national park, the superintendent, did not provide adequate notice as required by the statute that you can’t park in any of the parking lots, you cannot use any of the trails, or be anywhere in the park,” Ibrahim said.
Ibrahim said Bell noticed a small sign near the park’s entrance and some barricaded roads, but that’s not unusual. The spot is a popular choice for 5Ks runs and walks. The lot in which Bell parked, near Varnum’s Quarters and Washington Memorial Chapel, had no barricades or signs.
Other park visitors also were using the trails, Ibrahim said.
“These signs that are minuscule don’t do the job, especially when you have other people running the trails and people walking on the trails,” he said.
The citation carries a $75 fine plus a $25 surcharge, or up to six months in jail. Ibrahim said a court date has not been set, but Bell plans to contest the charge.
The Associated Press reports the National Park Service has cited 20 people at Valley Forge during the shutdown.
“The Park Service says runners and walkers have gotten only warnings, while those cited drove past barricades or blocked entrances,” the report reads.
The Department of Interior, the federal agency in charge of parks, redirects the Valley Forge website to a page with a message saying all national parks and associated webpages are closed.
The Valley Forge Convention and Visitor’s Bureau posted on its website a notice about the park closures and suggestions for nearby open attractions.