Local Man Fined For Jogging In Park During Shutdown - New York News

Local Man Fined For Jogging In Park During Shutdown

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VALLEY FORGE, Pa. -

Back in 1777, Gen. George Washington and his troops spent an entire winter at Valley Forge.

But today, we can't even stop by for a quick jog -- a lesson learned the hard way by a 56-year-old realtor from Chadds Ford.

John Bell has run marathons all over the world. And he figures he's raised more than $100,000 for charity during those runs.

Bell's own pocket is about to be $100 lighter, thanks to Uncle Sam, and he's not happy about it.

"Whatever is going on with the government, people should be able to use a public park," Bell said.

Most signs around Valley Forge National Historic Park make clear the park is closed due to the government shutdown and that the use of grounds, trails and parking lots is prohibited.

When Bell arrived at the Varnum lot for his usual Sunday morning run, the sign parking lot was accessible, and the sign nearby said simply that the facility was closed.

When he returned from his 40-minute run, he saw two park rangers with their vehicles surrounding his car.

They were there to hand Bell a $100 ticket for being in the park when it was closed.

"I said, 'What's the problem?' And they said, 'Don't you watch the news?' And I said, 'I do watch the news. What's the issue?' And they said, 'You're not supposed to be in the park.' I said, 'I'm just running, the way I always do, the way the other people out here -- bikers and runners -- are.' And they said, 'We're going to go and get them, too,'" Bell said.

During our visit, a FOX 29 News camera spotted lots of runners and bikers using the trails at Valley Forge. It's not clear whether they were stopped, much less ticketed.

Bell says he wasn't trying to make a political point. But others who've heard of his plight are.

Paul Dengler drove in from Reading to use the jogging trails and make a point about dysfunctional government.

"It's just ridiculous, and if they're going to catch me, they're going to have to tackle me," Dengler said with a laugh.

The Park Service did not leave a comment because their communications office is closed during the shutdown.

Bell plans to fight the ticket in court and make a federal case out of it. His story has attracted worldwide attention. He's fielded calls from all manner of radio, TV and Internet news sites even Runner's World magazine.

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