Put Up a Sign Warning of Drowning Danger, Get Fined $5,000: Government is Just the Way We Make Sure We Can't Help Each Other [UPDATED! Charges Dropped!]


[UPDATE: The Washington County sheriff's office now claims that, even though Medill's citation said he owed $5,000, that was just a mistake, and anyway the charges have been dropped. Forgive my cynicism for imagining that press coverage may have played a role more than the department's good sense.]

Sometimes the point that government stepping in to do supposedly helpful things can crowd out or destroy the spirit of self- and community help by which a human civilization best functions is subtle and hard to see.

Police in Washington County, Oregon, made it very obvious this week by slamming 66-year-old Michael Medill with a $5,000 fine for putting up six (or maybe eight, press accounts varied) homemade warning signs that Henry Hagg Lake, which has seen four members of one family drown last month, is dangerous for swimmers.

As reported by Portland TV station KGW:

After bolting eight signs to posts and trees Sunday at the lake, he received a citation from Washington County deputies for criminal mischief. The signs were removed.

Washington County deputies told KGW Madill was installing his signs with lag bolts into live trees and into the support beams for shelters along the shore. They said when the parks department worked to remove them, the bolts broke off in the tree trunks.

Bolts broke off in tree trunks! Well, this can't go on. The designated authorities, rather than warning signs, have just tried to cordon off the lake as of this morning to prevent swimming entirely in that part of the lake. had earlier reported:

Sgt. Vance Stimler, a public information officer for the Washington County Sheriff's Office, [said] bolting signs to posts and trees could bring about a criminal mischief charge possibly resulting in a fine.

However, "If someone is really concerned about safety out there," he said, "we're not interested in throwing the book at them." Stimler said the sheriff's office would initially take the signs down, but try to help an individual like Medill bring about change "the right way."

They did, however, fine Medill the five grand.


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  1. According to the sign, you are supposed to “Laugh Out Loud” when someone is drowning.

    1. Well, we are a bunch of heartless bastards here.

      1. LOL!

        *somewhere, a child is drowning*

    2. LOL-bacon

      1. Yes. “Laugh out loud and then eat bacon.”

        You is a cold-hearted mofo, Oregon.

    3. If you keep doing their job for them, how will they ever learn to alt-text?

      1. I’m still in the “teaching them to fish” stage.

  2. So the Sheriff thinks harm to trees is worse than more drownings?

    1. He just keep screaming “Arbor Day, motherfucker!” as he hit the kindly old man again and again with his baton.

      1. You WILL respect mah authoritah!!

    2. I see you’ve never visited the Portland metro area. Think of them as our public sector unions.

    3. Failing to ask for permission is worse than more drownings. People like that would watch their own mother drown if she didn’t check off the right box on the right form and get it witnessed and notarized.

  3. They did, however, fine Medill the five grand.

    Of course they did. This is Progtopia. I’m surprised he’s not in jail. I mean, those were trees he molested.

  4. Bolts broke off in tree trunks! Well, this can’t go on.

    In fairness if anyone hits those bolts with a chain saw it could kill them.

    Pretty sure Park employees use chainsaws to remove trees or chop up fallen trees.

    1. So? Burn the trees down.
      It’s the only way to be sure.

    2. I should point out environmentalist in the North West (yup includes Oregon) would spike trees to protect them from logging.

      I don’t know about chain saw deaths but some spikes have killed people working in saw mills.

    3. So drill them out now, for fuck’s sake. Was that so hard? No.

      1. Just pointing out it probably is not about protecting the trees but more then likely enforcing laws which were made to counter Eco-terrorists who had successfully killed people in the past.

        Brian might not have caught that nuance as he does not live in the Northwest or know the history about how bolts in trees are viewed here.

        1. True True, ( in wassssssssaup fashion) . BuT Eco-Terrorations do not Lable their bolts with LOL nanny nanny boo boo signs. mmmk.

    4. They should put up a sign to mark the trees that have broken bolts.

      1. But how to attach the sign to the trees?

        1. Hand knitted doghair yarn tree sweaters.

    5. In fairness if anyone hits those bolts with a chain saw it could kill them.

      Pretty sure Park employees use chainsaws to remove trees or chop up fallen trees.

      In fairness, you’ve haven’t stated a downside.

      1. More then likely the workers will be contractors just doing a job.

    6. In fairness if anyone hits those bolts with a chain saw it could kill them.

      IDK about the saw at the mill, but more than likely you couldn’t get the whole or even a significant fraction of the bolt out of the tree at an effective velocity anyway.

      A .22LR (lets say the ‘low standard’ for lethal) is 2-3g at 8-900fps. The saw would be lucky to carve off a gram or two and if you suped it up to run the blade at double-speed, it’s still only moving at 150-160 fps (and tumbling).

      Fuck up the blade? Yes. The bar or the saw? Maybe. A person standing around the saw? Only if it hit them in the eye or other sensitive/soft spot. But they should be wearing eye protection and heavy clothing when felling a tree anyway.

      If I had a spare chain, I’d probably go saw a flattened aluminum or tin can in half as proof. I know I can do it with my circular saw and the RPM are a lot higher (and linear speed).

    7. I’m fairly certain the signs would alert them that the bolts are there.

      The fucks that broke them off in the trees are the ones to blame.

  5. “That sign? You didn’t build that. Oh wait, you did? Off to jail with you then!”

  6. Soooo much stupid in that article:

    Officials also said Spanish-speaking families at the lake Saturday were confused by the signs because they were not translated into Spanish correctly.

    Therefore, this man should be arrested.

    Monday morning deputies cordoned off the area where the family members drowned. Swimming without a life jacket is prohibited there for the remainder of the year.

    Wait a month to do anything, then punish the individual who makes you look bad by doing something first. Reactionary, vindictive morons.

    1. Blockquote fail.

  7. How about the idiot who levied the fine gets chained naked to a tree for 48 hours?

  8. The right way to bring about change is to go for the head shot when these “law enforcement” criminal gang members approach you.

  9. I strongly agree that Mr. Medill should not have been fined or punished in any way. The trees will recover, and his heart was in the right place.

    I do think that the signs were unnecessary, however. Are people not sufficiently aware that you can drown in a lake? I am sick of excessive safety warnings based on a few morons who lawyered up after misusing a product or overestimating their abilities.

  10. well, for once there’s actually good reasons behind this ass behavior.

    With the insane liability we have from the courts nowadays, anybody doing work, even EXPRESSLY AGAINST instructions from a municipality, could probably sue and WIN if somehow they got injured, even if the injury was THEIR FAULT.

    That, and the DPW people probably don’t want to have to deal with weird structures that pop up at random, where they might not know how said things are installed (it’s not always obvious from the outside). Indeed, there’s the mention of the bolts breaking off. Not that those will kill the trees, but it ain’t the best thing in the world either

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