Sequim man settles over ticket received during park shutdown

By Joe Smillie
Peninsula Daily News

TACOMA –– The federal government has dismissed a trespassing ticket issued to Sequim Army veteran Benjamin Schrenzel for picking mushrooms in Olympic National Park while the federal government was shut down.

A hearing on the $125 violation was scheduled for U.S. District Court in Tacoma on Monday, but Schrenzel opted to take a dismissal settlement offer from U.S. attorneys.

“I would have liked to have made a statement, but enough is enough,” Schrenzel said Tuesday.

“So I figured, why should I take a long trip into Tacoma and risk getting additional charges? Not, I mean, legal charges; I mean monetary charges.”

Schrenzel agreed to pay a separate $125 ticket for picking too many mushrooms while at the park Oct. 9 with a client, and in return, the shutdown ticket was dismissed.

Olympic National Park was closed from Oct. 1 to 17 after Congress’ failure to agree on a deal to continue funding and the government shut down parks and monuments across the country.

Schrenzel had taken a business client to pick chanterelle mushrooms in the Sol Duc Valley.

They parked their truck at the gate, where they saw the closed sign, and rode their bicycles 2 miles up to the road to find a prime chanterelle spot.

Schrenzel said he spoke with lawyer friends to come up with a defense.

“But all my lawyer friends said I was going to lose,” he said.

So he took the deal.

March 5 trial

Another Sequim resident ticketed for trespassing during the park closure, Leanne Potts, still has a trial set on her $125 ticket for March 5, according to the Central Violations Bureau for U.S. courts.

Potts was ticketed along with two other drivers of cars parked in the Barnes Point parking lot when she parked to hike Mount Storm King with a friend.

She said the U.S. Attorney’s Office said she could end the matter by paying the fine and some court costs ahead of time, but Potts said she likely will try to have it dismissed in court.

“At this point, I’m still planning to go challenge it,” Potts said Tuesday.

Emily Langlie, spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney’s Seattle office, previously told the PDN that rangers and park staff may be called to testify by Potts.

Clallam County Sheriff Bill Benedict and Port Angeles Police Chief Terry Gallagher both urged federal officials to drop the citations, saying the ranger used poor discretion in writing the tickets.

Jenny Durkan, U.S. attorney for the Western District of Washington, denied their requests.

She said those ticketed drove past signs and cones that declared the park closed.

Port Angeles teacher Kelly Sanders was ticketed the same day as Potts when she took a group of international students for a hike to Marymere Falls but decided to pay the fine rather than take days off work for several trips to Tacoma.

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Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Joe Smillie can be reached at 360-681-2390, ext. 5052, or at jsmillie@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: February 11. 2014 5:52PM
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