What Kind of Sick Society Allows Canoeing Without a Life Preserver?


Get out!

Steven Greenhut reports on the hype about a crime wave in California parks—which is actually not a crime wave at all but a new push against minor infractions like poolside horeseplay and starfish collecting:

The real news is that there are surprisingly few serious crimes at California's state parks. Mostly, the advocates for higher fees want more "boots on the ground" to catch average folks who might have a bonfire and drink some wine. Park advocates also champion the volunteer park busybodies who confront park-goers who aren't following the rules. Perhaps this is indicative of the new California. Why should the lifestyle at beaches, mountains and lakes be any different from any other aspect of life in this highly taxed, carefully monitored and absurdly regulated state?

I might as well declare that a crime wave has descended on my neighborhood, given that some neighbors regularly drive 5 mph over the limit, jaywalk, drink beer while they walk the dog and make a little noise during pool parties. Somehow, in the spirit of freedom, I prefer to deal with these piddling matters on my own (mainly by ignoring them) rather than call for the hiring of additional police officers to patrol the street, hand out tickets and snoop in our yards.

Last time I went rafting on the American River, we all had to wait while a surly park ranger searched our stuff to make sure no one was bringing along any beer. Is this really necessary in every aspect of our lives? This is more a story of the criminalization of recreational behavior and of the security-state mentality – which sees more police, more cameras, more searches and more rules as the answer to everything, lest anyone do anything wrong.

While the crime wave is new, the panic around minor safety risks and lewd acts out in the wilderness is an old one. Thank goodness somebody is finally standing up for law and order in the woods.

NEXT: Everybody Loves a Good War

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  1. Is this really necessary in every aspect of our lives?

    Like you have to ask. I’m sure someone out there feels much better, safer, and more snuggly smug knowing the parks are being patrolled and filthy degenerate partiers and getting their tickets.

    Not everyone can mind their own business. If someone, somewhere, is having fun they should be under arrest.

    1. I noticed this sentence too, and thought, “you must be new to California.”

  2. Park advocates also champion the volunteer park busybodies who confront park-goers who aren’t following the rules.

    All the national and public land BS aside. I’m not opposed to this. Having hiked a considerable amount there is a certain amount of self regulation you notice among those in the outdoors. You almost never see someone who spends any significant time in the wilderness or outdoors walk by a piece of trash on a trail and you will see them make comments to people leaving a trace (often in the form of helping them to not leave a trace).

    I don’t have any particular dislike for self regulating systems. The “back country” outdoor crowd seems to be pretty good at this. Even the 4X4 crowd is starting to recognize the need preserve their recreational environments more. (they were generally a pretty destructive group in the past)

    1. I think you are talking about hikers and other outdoorsmen policing themselves (which I also agree with).

      I think he was referring though to the programs that some parks have where they semi-deputize volunteers. These busy bodies then go out and harass park users as though they had the power to arrest them.

      I had a run in with one of those types when they tried to admonish my kids about throwing rocks (from the beach) into Lake Superior. She wasn’t impressed when I laughed and told her I wouldn’t let them fill the whole lake up.

    2. I agree that the self regulation in backcountry type situations is a good thing and it works pretty well. But I guess that these people are thinking more of getting people to tattle on others. I doubt that you would hassle anyone for drinking a beer on a trail where it is forbidden, as long as they are not littering or being obnoxious.

    3. Ya, I think I misread that.

  3. Same society that allows people to ride motorcycles without a helmet. PRetty sad aint it?


    1. I don’t wear a helmet. I do it to piss off you and your statists bretheren.

      1. Hey Gob, the Anon-Bot represents the Matrix, not the State. When full sentiency is attained and SkyNet activated we are all fooked…Until then his witty commentary should be talken with a small amount of salt substitute.


      2. Maybe the ‘bot thinks it is sad that we don’t have equal freedom in all areas of our lives. I try to be charitable in my interpretations.

  4. Last time I went rafting on the American River, we all had to wait while a surly park ranger searched our stuff to make sure no one was bringing along any beer.

    If this happened in Montana, the story would end with, “And when he saw we had no beer, he made us go to the store and get some.”

    1. Ned Flanders: Ouch, that smarts. Boys, get the alcohol-free alcohol.

      1. Who goes rafting, boating, fishing, hiking, etc, without beer?

    2. Did they ask anyone carrying illegal drugs to surrender them, or be arrested when the snifer dog found them? SOP is to arrest those who volunteer, arrest those who get a hit from the drug dog then spy on the remainder with high powered binoculars and arrest those who slipped through. Prehaps that is just in National parks. I have severely curtailed any outdoor activities with my hippie friends because they keep getting arrested for this shit. I don’t need a drug conviction on my record, misdemeanor or otherwise.

  5. I love that it’s called the “American River”. A harbinger of things to come?

  6. Puritanism: the haunting fear that someone, somewhere is having a good time.

    1. You misspelled “leftism.”

  7. I led the fight against horseplay and roughhousing.

  8. Canoeing without a life vest, like jaywalking, is a problem that’s ultimately self-correcting.

    1. Unless you are one of the millions of people who manage to operate canoes for their whole lives without capsizing in a situation where they cannot swim to shore. On white water, you are probably quite correct.

    2. You wear a life preserver when canoeing? You pussy. Can’t you swim?

      1. Of course. I can also jaywalk. Some folks cannot.

        1. If the SPD catches you they’ll punch you in the face for that. If you’re a chick, which I think you are.

          1. And they wonder why people want to shoot them.

          2. they’ll punch you in the face for that.

            For swimming? Geez those guys are brutal.

        2. You’re right about that. The walk from my train to my office is a mile straight through downtown Chicago. I jaywalk all the time but I also bust my ass when I know I don’t have the right-of-way. I’ve seen others, on the other hand, slowly drag their sorry ass across the street against the light and then give a cabbie an indignant look when they almost get hit. If you’re not in the crosswalk crossing with the light, you deserve it if you’re dumb enough to get hit.

    3. In Texas anyone over a certain age (not sure if its 16 or 18) has to have a life vest in the boat but doesn’t have to wear it. Pretty much the most pointless regulation I can think of.

      1. I’m fairly sure Florida is the same way. You have to have as many life preservers as there are people in the boat, but nobody is actually required to wear one.

        1. This is actually a US Coast Guard regulation. You have to have PFDs for everybody on a boat if you’re outside a bathing area but only minors actually have to wear them. Without them, you risk a fine.

          I presume for rivers and lakes in landlocked states PFD rules are up to the states/counties/towns.

          1. Doh!

      2. Pretty much the most pointless regulation I can think of.

        Well, at least if they HAVE the preservers on the boat, they can flail around and grab one once they’re in the water. So it’s not entirely pointless…

  9. Well this issue is easily resolved: mandatory airbags in all canoes!

    “Hey, watch out for that rock.”



    1. Sounds like the OSHA cowboy:…..cowboy.jpg

    2. I’ve argued for seat belts in boats. Many people drown every year from being thrown out of the boat. If one life is saved….

  10. Unless you are one of the millions of people who manage to operate canoes for their whole lives without capsizing in a situation where they cannot swim to shore.

    One time when I suddenly rolled, I severely broke a finger/knuckle/etc by getting it twisted up in a life vest strap.

    Then it was hard to swim to shore, so it was good I had a life vest on.

    Gummint saved my life, yo.

  11. Iused to canoe on the ocean without a lifejacket. I’m lucky to be alive.

    1. OK. I was thinking lakes and slow rivers. On the ocean or any kind of rapids, it is pretty foolish not to wear a vest.

  12. Once again we see how the “Broken Finger Fallacy” plays into the hands of the statists.

    *shakes fist…then cries out from pain from broken finger…#$^$^$!!!1!!*

  13. Ned Flanders: Hi-diddly-ho, petal-to-the-metal-ophiles.
    Homer Simpson: Flanders? Since when do you like anything cool?
    Ned Flanders: Oh, I don’t care for the speed, but I can’t get enough of that safety gear – helmets, roll bars, caution flags…
    Maude Flanders: I like the fresh air, and looking at the poor people in the infield.

    1. And we all know how that turned out, don’t we Maude?

  14. I won’t mind seeing busibodism re-defined legally as a form of assault (or battery or however your state defines attacking someone.)

  15. What the hell? No mention of the cussing canoeist?

  16. Ah hell, lemme try that link again –…..ntID=15992

  17. Only you can prevent forest sobriety!

  18. Get used to it, everyone. The State has decreed that your body belongs to all the people, and that if they are to pay for your health care, they have a right to tell you what to eat and how to enjoy yourself.

    1. We lost a continent to you??!??

      1. Yeah, pretty funny huh? And if y’all weren’t so busy being alcoholics and running casinos, you could take the whole damn country back with a few horses and bows. Hilarious.

  19. Mostly, the advocates for higher fees want more “boots on the ground” to catch average folks who might have a bonfire and drink some wine.

    Wine with a bonfire? You should get fined… A nice smoked beer (maybe a rich German Rauchbier or a smoked porter) is much more appropriate than a glass of wine.

  20. With the advent of cheap, energy efficent LEDs all of our government mandated safety equipment will soon require the addition of lights.

  21. Once upon a time we lived in a free country where one was free to do anything they damn well please as long as it was not prohibited by law.

    Now we live in an authoritarian country where one is free to do only that which has been authorized by law.

    “I can do that because there’s no rule that says I can’t” has become “You can’t do that because there’s no rule that says you can”.

    1. Little did George Washington suspect when he cut down that cherry tree that one day the country he fathered would require a zoning permit and an environmental impact study to do the same thing.

      1. “I see your axe is missing its warning label, too. We’re gonna have to confiscate that…”

        1. And don’t forget to put the little hoodlum on the axe offender list…






            DO NOT THROW.


            1. FOR OUTDOOR USE ONLY.


              I beg to differ.

        3. Just the axe?
          A federal environmental crime occurred on the property.
          That’s grounds for civil forfeiture of the entire property!

    2. Reminds me of the unionized workplace. “The contract doesn’t say you can do that.” “Doesn’t say I can’t – therefore, I can.” I don’t even argue with them anymore – just crush them in arbitration – they never learn.

      See Also: videotaping police encounters…

  22. What if the government parks were sold off the the Sierra Club or the Canoeing Enthusiast Society, or whatever (at competitive prices, of course – use the threat of selling to a timber company to make the enviros pay decent money the the land) – then I’m sure the new private owners would have rules about the proper use and enjoyment of the parkland.

    There would be posted warnings to the effect that this is private property, and the owner allows the general public to enter on condition they don’t booze it up, light fires carelessly, risk their lives in ways the owners don’t like, and so forth.

    Violators to be treated like trespassers.

    Government’s role reduced to that of an impartial enforcer of property rights.

    Plus the profits from selling land at competitive prices to wealthy enviros could even start to make a dent in that federal deficit.

    Or am I dreaming?

    1. Oh, and another condition of coming on to the land would, presumably, be the purchase of a ticket.


      1. Entry fees to get into national parks? That’s un-American!

      The Bears think they own these woods

      1. Better than the Yankees.

    3. Plus the profits from selling land at competitive prices to wealthy enviros could even start to make a dent in that federal deficit.

      So, I lose the parks, and I lose the money of mine that the feds wasted in the first place, and I lose the profits on the sale to a debt that will never be re-payed in full….yeah, I really don’t feel like a winner in that situation.

      1. That would mean the original govt land-takeover can never be rectified – because even though they shouldn’t have gotten the land in the first place, now we’re stuck with it!

        May as well at least send out for bids, and see if the enviros offer enough to make it worth selling. And you could always drop hints about how the Land-Raper Timber Company and Bambi-Hunting Society has expressed considerable interest in buying up the land. The enviros as a group have a decent amount of disposable income, and the feds could insist on an easement for ticket-buying members of the general public, so the owner doesn’t make the park into a purely private preserve.

        Why not *make* the enviros cough up some dough to pay for their pleasures, giving the responsibility of land-ownership, which they can use to promote whatever vision they have of responsible camping, etc? And it gets the government out of the business of making minute, detailed rules on how to use the land.

  23. I remember years ago at a popular state park in Ohio, my buddy and I were just putting up our campsite and a couple rangers walked up unnoticed by us. We each had a beer on our cooler which was full of beer. They told us that alchohol was not allowed and made us pour out the two beers. They didn’t ask to check the cooler. I think that if those beers weren’t so obviously out in the open they would have ignored them. The majority of park rangers I’ve run into tend to be pretty cool. I don’t think I’ve ever been asked for my fishing license. There’s exceptions of course.

    1. A coworker of mine and his buddies bagged a moose at dusk, and between the distance and twilight they didn’t see that it had small horns that were the tiniest bit longer than the ears. Their permit was for a female. The regulations would forgive the mistake if the horns were smaller than the ears, but these were an inch or two longer.
      They decided to call a ranger over to admit their mistake rather than abandon the carcass.
      Luckily for them the younger guy was accompanied by an older gent, because the younger guy wanted to confiscate their rifles, truck, camper, everything.
      Cooler heads prevailed, but the fact that that could have happened says a lot about freedom in this country.

      1. Dude, your handle stinks.

        1. thank you for the insight

  24. A quick question. The police can’t search your car for beer without probable cause. Why can a park ranger search a boat ? If I don’t consent search to of my property, how do they get by this ? If they require safety gear I can pull it out and show it to them.

    Somehow I don’t think “State or National park” invalidates my rights against involuntary search and seizure any more than “public road” does. Then again, in the modern “progressive age”, I could easily be wrong. I am sure there is a nifty exception to my rights in there somewhere.

    1. “Somehow I don’t think “State or National park” invalidates my rights against involuntary search and seizure any more than “public road” does.”

      You’d be surprised by what courts tolerate when the search victim just happens to be in a car. Further, cops certainly know what boilerplate to reproduce at hearing to survive a suppression motion.

      Who knows (I don’t practice this kind of law), but what are the chances that the state has not declared this some sort of “administrative search” that is not subject to probable cause?

      There are so many ways to get around the Fourth Amendment that it often seems to amount to nothing more than a fine expression of noble sentiment that has no practical application to facts in the world.

    2. I can pull it out and show it to them.

      Thanks for the visual.

      1. Yeah, the whole “exigent circumstances” claptrap. If the framers had intended to provide for exigent circumstances, they would have so said.

        The genuis of the framers is that they thought through all of the bull shit pretextual arguments favoring a more powerful state and rejected them for the statist non-sense which they have always been.

        1. If the framers had instead just enumerated the several thousand things the government should prevent us from doing, then and now would be in far greater alignment.

  25. starfish collecting

    Isn’t that like clubbing baby seals with no prospect of a beautiful coat?

  26. “drink beer while they walk the dog”

    Felonious fuckers. And I’m not talking about the dogs.

  27. All public property is theft.

  28. Rafting without a life preserver is not the threat that these fiery trucks post to rafters. We need a national dialog.

  29. Wait until you encounter the anti-campfire enviro-hikers.

    Campfires are bad! Campfires start forest fires! Campfires are unnecessary! For the sake of you soul, you must suffer in the dark in your long underwear, huddled around a Coleman stove, sinner!
    Plus they make my gear smell like smoke. Do you know how much money I laid down for this designer fleece and microfiber long underwear?

    1. I kind you not. In 20 years, it will be considered verboten amoung the bien-pensants to have a campfire, and they WILL work hard to have campfires banned in more and more parks, to impose their donctrinaire orthodoxy on the vulgar commoners who think that sitting around a campfire is fun.

      All decent people know that the backpacking experience is all about mortifying oneself in the presence of Nature.

    2. Chad is probably on his third spunking after reading this post, Hazel.

      1. Chad hates campfires?

        Hah, I knew he was a Calvinist at heart.

  30. “Somehow, in the spirit of freedom, I prefer to deal with these piddling matters on my own (mainly by ignoring them)…”

    This is post 9/11 America. Freedom is the tower they are trying to build at ground zero.

  31. I bet Bobby Trippe wished there were more park rangers around.

  32. You know who the biggest polluter in the United States is?

    Nope, it’s not some corporation. Nor is it an energy plant.

    It’s our OWN GOVERNMENT. And alot of times they don’t want to even clean up their own messes.

    From the LP’s website…

    “In 1988, for example, the EPA demanded that the Departments of Energy and Defense clean up 17 of their weapons plants which were leaking radioactive and toxic chemicals — enough contamination to cost $100 billion in clean-up costs over 50 years! The EPA was simply ignored. No bureaucrats went to jail or were sued for damages. Government departments have sovereign immunity.”

    And THESE are the people we want in charge of our national parks? For God’s sake, there’s sewage seeping out of the ground in Yellowstone AS WE SPEAK.

    Private foundations and charities would do FAR better than our government has when it comes to environmental and ecological issues.

    1. Dept. of Defense. Yup. I’ve been on a couple of their Superfund sites. In fact, I’ve been on many DOD and DOE installations, and to my recollection, every one of them had a Superfund site on them somewhere. I also worked on a couple Superfund sites that were on private property, but which had been caused by government activity, or activity performed under contract to the DOD or DOE.

      Congress passed legislation back in the 1990s stating that federal agencies were subject to federal and state environmental laws and had to comply with them. They had to do this because several federal agencies were taking the position that they were not subject to the state environmental laws where their facilities were located, and in some cases, they were even saying EPA could not enforce federal environmental law against hem, because they were a federal agency also. It’s been made pretty clear now that they do have to comply with federal and state and local laws.

      But there is a hell of a lot of historical contamination, from activities going back 100 years or more, in some cases.

      1. The military was the first enity that dumped noxious stuff at the Love Canal.

  33. Last time I went rafting on the American River, we all had to wait while a surly park ranger searched our stuff to make sure no one was bringing along any beer

    Maybe they should change it to, “Arbitrary Authority Waterway”, Formerly Known as American River”

    This reminds me of the time I was threatened with arrest in Atlanta airport because of “blasphemy”.

    I think I said, ‘this place is a goddamn disaster in slow motion’.

  34. What gets me is that people describe driving 5 mph over the speed limit in a residential neighborhood — an act that could actually have consequences of killing or injuring someone else — as “piddly,” but are outraged at the temerity and blatant criminal nature of someone who merely crosses a borderline without permission, in search of a better life for himself or herself and family. It is precisely because of these mystifying inconsistencies, I think, that we are so “highly taxed, carefully monitored, and absurdly regulated.” That, and the fact that most people don’t have time or inclination to fight city hall until it comes crashing down on them.

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