Red Rock hikers get tickets and hefty fines for taking a walk
Las Vegas, NV (KTNV) -- Day nine of the government shutdown leaves more people shut out of national parks.
Two sisters from Southern California learned the hard way that a short hike in Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area would cost them some big money.
"The first thing I want to do is hike Red Rock Canyon. I mean it's absolutely gorgeous. It's like the Grand Canyon right there in Las Vegas," said Gina Borchers.
The 55-year-old who works for the City of San Clemente was visiting Las Vegas from Southern California with her 53-year-old sister, Donna.
Donna had never seen Red Rock Canyon, which is one of Gina's favorite places on Earth.
"We completely didn't think about the government closure at all during this time," Gina said. "And there's people hiking all over the place in the desert."
They parked their car outside the gate closing off the Red Rock loop and they walked around to go hiking, never imagining the government shutdown could shut down the desert.
What's even more ridiculous to Gina and Donna is what's happening there.
They wonder why instead of paying rangers to keep people out, they don't just pay the same rangers to let people in?
"It is confusing to not be able to hike in the desert here, but here you can, but here you can't, and here you can. And the rangers are not able to work as rangers but they're able to work as citation writers."
And though signs at the loop entrance said the area is closed, the sisters took that to mean just the road and visitors center were off limits.
So the two hit the trail, hiking for about 20 minutes before they were stopped by a park ranger.
Gina and Donna expected friendly advice. Instead?
"This ranger immediately started in on us. 'What do you think you're doing here?' And we said, 'Hiking? And he said, 'Did you see the signs?' Well, yes, but we thought, 'Well what's the sign mean to you?' And 'Where's your I.D.?' That sort of a thing. He was very aggressive."
The two were escorted out, with the ranger driving behind them at about one mile an hour as they walked the 20 minutes back to their car.
According to Gina, he took their I.D.'s, went to his truck, "And came back and gave us these tickets. $275 each. But this is the part that really hurts. Creating a nuisance in a closed area."
Because of the shutdown, we were unable to reach anyone from the BLM to find out if more citations were given out at Red Rock.
But we did confirm that two formal citations were issued last Sunday at Lake Mead National Recreational Area.
They were given to two boaters who put in at Cottonwood Cove and were found out on Lake Mohave.
Their citations were a little cheaper than Gina's and Donna's coming in at $125 each.
In the Lake Mead area, rangers have issued 312 verbal warnings and 45 in writing.
But they're not official citations and don't involved fines.
Gina and Donna plan to return to Las Vegas to fight their tickets, saying they have no intention of paying $550 for taking a walk.
We'll let you know if a judge agrees.