You can work with the ParkWatch program. "Park Watch is enlisting the eyes and ears of park visitors to report illegal or suspicious activity, vandalism, hazardous conditions, illegal dumping, maintenance needs, or violations of park rules and regulations. ParkWatch encourages law enforcement agencies to work together, participate in ParkWatch events, share information, and support volunteer's efforts." So it's clear that your volunteer help will have official support.
In working with ParkWatch, we have three tools:
- Digital camera: If you get a photo of someone abusing the park, I’ll post it on this blog. See the Gallery of Abusers in the right sidebar.And, if there's a visible license plate, ParkWatch may send them a letter.
- A cell phone can be used to alert Park Watch (866-PK-WATCH or 911 if emergency), and to help the "ranger" feel safe.
- GPS and Google Maps: If there's a hazard, dump site, erosion, or a rare plant--something that needs an exact location, you can place it precisely on a Google Map and forward that to Park Watch or another concerned state agency. I'll have more on this later.
I don’t have any illusions that police are going to rush out and arrest anyone at the Round Cove parking lot for cussing. But people who party at Hawksnest leave intoxicated, and they can and will be arrested on the highway if we alert the police. Maybe it won’t happen right away, but it is a point of leverage for improving the park.
I’ve heard that off-road vehicle abuse has dropped, due to involvement of citizens. Again, get their photo, and try to find out where they are coming from. Look for a transport vehicle with a license plate. Call Park Watch. With your involvement, we CAN stop this abuse. Vehicles cause serious erosion and are a real danger to hikers and equestrians.
The next step, beyond participating in ParkWatch, is to be a "volunteer ranger." Right now, there's no official program--just go to it! And use common sense.
In the old days, small towns were largely free from crime because everyone knew each other, and because people noticed what you did. At Hawksnest, the simple presence of “rangers” will go a long way toward stopping abuse.
It may sound corny, but rangers should wear a uniform. Just a khaki or green shirt, and a baseball hat (maybe one of the Harwich Conservation Trust ones). Coordinate with neighbors so there’s someone there almost every afternoon.
Know the rules of the park (see below on this blog), and always be polite. Most people simply don’t know they are harming the park, or that anyone cares. “Did you know parking isn’t allowed close to the beach? That’s because it cause erosion, and that pollutes the water. I’m with the volunteer group that looks after the park.”
My tactful friend Liz says it's important not to back people into a corner--for example, accusing them of doing something, or asking that they stop doing something. When you do, they get defensive--they try to defend what they are doing, and that leads to an argument. Instead, just inform them of the issues or rules, and trust them to choose the right thing. If they don't, you can always take their photo a bit later from a discrete distance.
The ranger's role is more to inform and educate than to command or to embarrass anyone. The fact that you are there and being helpful will do 95% of the job.
Want to stop the alcohol parties?
Alcohol is illegal at Hawksnest, and the park closes at 8 pm. With some enforcement, these two rules would go a long ways toward stopping parties. If parties haven't stopped, neighbors simply haven't complained often enough or loudly enough!
No one cares about someone quietly drinking a beer after work, then carrying out the can. But parties cause much litter and damage in the park, not to mention endangering other drivers outside the park. Controlling parties should be our top priority, along with erosion control. We'll consult with ParkWatch about the best way to control them. In the meantime, quietly call ParkWatch 866-PK-WATCH when you see one.
It's urgent that we find someone living nearby who can serve as a lead volunteer ranger. This person can receive additional training from the ParkWatch program. If you want to volunteer, or know someone who might, please let me know!!