The Activity of Visiting State Parks
In Montana one can find a state park just about anywhere. All state parks have areas and resources for partaking in many activities. Lakes, streams, and rivers allow for swiming, boating, and fishing. There are also recreational areas one can picnic and camp at, as well as trails for hiking. During winter months, one can ski, snowshoe or snowmobile. The implied purposes are to spend time with family, and enjoy the outdoors and scenery. More explicit purposes would be educational trips, to exercise on bike trails, or just to take a break from the daily stress in our lives. The ultimate desired outcome is to help the public become more aware and appreciative of the parks unique ecosystem.
Juridic Rules and Regulations
Although visits to state parks are primarily to relax and be free, one must remember the rules to abide by while at state parks.
- Throw all garbage and litter in containers provided for this purpose, or take it out of the park with you.
- Prevent pollution: keep garbage, litter, and foreign substances out of lakes, streams, and other water.
- Obey all traffic signs. State traffic laws apply to the National Forest unless otherwise specified.
- Don't block, restrict, or interfere with the use of roads or trails.
- Don't carve, chop, cut, or damage any live trees.
- Indian sites, old cabins, and other structures, along with objects and artifacts, have historic or archeological value. Don't touch them!
- Obey fire restrictions. Fires may be limited or prohibited at certain times.
- Picnic sites, swimming beaches, and other day use areas can only be used between 6am and 10pm.
- At least one person must occupy a camping area during the first night after camping equipment has been set up, unless permission has otherwise been given by a Park Ranger.
- Don't leave camping gear unattended for more than 24 hours.
- You must pay a fee to enter certain developed sites. These sites have signs posted.
- No fighting or boisterous behavior.
- Pets must always be on some type of restraint.
- Pets (except guide dogs) are not allowed in or near swimming areas.
- Permits are required for any commercial activity.
- Fireworks are prohibited in campgrounds and recreational areas.
- Preserve the wilderness-"Leave only footprints, take only pictures."1
These rules can be made known through educational courses or posted signs in the park. A Forest Supervisor can inform these rules, while the District Ranger offices hold all regulation documents on file. Fighting, boisterous behavior, and loudness is enforced through criminal law derived from constitutions and state statutes, which are referred to as criminal codes. One who violates any of these regulations can face up to $5,000 in fines, 6 months in jail, or both.
The Burden and Frustration
The many laws that are put upon visiting a state park can make a person tiresome. For example, in the past, people have made campfires during the dry months. They did not pay enough attention to their fire and it caused a huge fire, destroying acres in the park. These careless actions forced the State Park system to put rules on campfires; therefore, many responsible people today are not allowed campfires. The laws create a little inconvenience. When asked how burdensome the laws are, a frequent park visitor commented about the fees to enter a park, saying, “It’s a privilege to use these State Parks, which we already pay for through taxes. People who abuse it cause more rules, restrictions and fees.”2
Not Quite as Burdensome
Although there are numerous rules and laws that should be abided by while visiting our beautiful state parks, it is actually quite easy to thwart these laws. Only about 8 to 12 staff members are on duty each day in a state park. It is difficult for so few people in authority to keep track of the countless number of visitors in a state park. Many people can get away with letting their dog run around unrestrained. They can get intoxicated or make a fire in an unauthorized area without getting caught. One way to lessen the restrictions is to be respectful of the land. Too many people litter and leave their messes. If more people were willing to take care of the park, the laws would not be so burdensome. The chance of getting caught isn't so high, but be prepared, because a park ranger might be near.