You can run, but you can't hide

SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA John Nguyen learned an important lesson on Presidents Day: You can run, but you can't hide, from San Jose's park rangers. The 33-year-old IT specialist was ticketed yes, ticketed by a ranger who spotted him running trails inside Alum Rock Park.

It's one of four city parks that since late November have been closed Mondays due to budget cuts. Signs outside clearly inform visitors about the new rule, and barricades block people from entering.

Nguyen says the ticket made him feel "like a criminal," but park officials say it was a matter of safety. Ranger patrols at the four parks aren't as frequent on Mondays, and if he'd gotten into any trouble, there's no cell phone reception.

"Alum Rock Park is a huge park," said Mark Marney, deputy director of the city's parks division. "When you're training on trails in the back area, you could be a long way from any help."

Nguyen, who's been using the park to train for a 50-mile race in April, said he'd forgotten about the closing until he arrived; he entered anyway. It was a nice day, after all, and he was sure that if he got caught, he'd just be asked to leave.

But after running 10 miles, he saw the ranger's truck and altered course, hoping he hadn't been noticed. Too late. Siren wailing, the ranger wrote him a trespassing ticket that will require a court appearance and at least a $100 fine.

Nguyen wasn't the first to get caught; the ranger told him he's issued tickets to 15 people on a recent Monday. That got Nguyen and some of his fellow runners wondering if the tickets are a way for the cash-strapped city to generate some cash. But Marney said tickets are the exception, not the rule, and mostly are issued for safety violations such as vandalism, driving too fast or, yes, being in the parks after hours when patrols are reduced. "We're not looking at this as a revenue stream," he said.

Thirteen full-time rangers patrol the city's nine regional parks. On Mondays, in addition to sporadic patrolling, they do administrative work or check park trails for fallen trees or limbs, Marney said.

The one-day-a-week park closings save the city money because it doesn't have to pay for trash pickup, lawn mowing or other maintenance.

"It's an unfortunate circumstance," Marney said of Nguyen's experience. "But he obviously knew what he was doing when he went into the park."

Credits - This true article, "Scofflaw jogger meets the long arm of the law" by Tracy Seipel, was published on "Mercury News".

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