An increasing number of drivers on the Blue Ridge Parkway in and around Floyd County say a new Park Ranger is overly-aggressive, rude and condescending.
Even worse, some say, he abuses his power and confronts those who legally cross the Parkway to get from one section of the their farmland to another in times of bad weather when the road is closed to tourists but not to those who have a legitimate reason to use the road.
Parkway officials acknowledge they are receiving complaints about the actions of a new ranger in the area and say a “review” of his actions and behavior is underway.
Farmers who have land on both sides of the Parkway say they have been harassed by the ranger when they drive farm vehicles along the road on dog-leg intersections that require them to use short sections of the road. Virginia’s long-standing agreement with the National Park Service allows such use of the road by landowners whose property lie along the road.
Others say they have been verbally abused and threatened with additional punishment when stopped by the ranger.
The ranger’s actions bring back unpleasant memories of of excessive abuse of power by the Parkway’s now-defunct Criminal Interdiction Team (CIT) that terrorized those traveling to and from FloydFest in 2008 and even harassed Floyd County Sheriff Shannon Zeman.
Parkway officials tried to deny the that Zeman was stopped by an officer who used abusive language even though the incident was witnessed by chief Deputy Jeff Dalton, a passenger in the sheriff’s vehicle.
In 2008, when I tried to photograph a CIT member hassling a FloydFest patron, the ranger threatened me with arrest and claimed the USA Patriot Act prohibited me from taking photos of his actions. Then-Parkway Chief Ranger John Garrison denied the incident occurred and rejected my offer to pick the ranger in question out of a lineup of CIT operatives.
The CIT unit, created with funds from the Department of Homeland Security, was later disbanded.
Some who have complained to both the Blue Ridge Parkway and the National Park Service compare the new ranger’s actions to long-time ranger Pete Schula, who is retiring next month and who was often polite and understanding when dealing with users of the road.
This story is developing. More to come.