MONTROSE — Montrose County resident Rocky Bentley, who physically removed portions of a concrete barricade at the South Entrance to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park during the 2013 government shutdown was found guilty on counts of vandalism and trespass in a closed area, and driving on an expired license on federal property.
He has been sentenced to 30 days in jail (suspended if he performs 80 hours community service), and ordered to pay $1,070 in fines total, plus restitution in the amount of $152.15.
Colona resident Bentley contends that the government had no authority to close the entrance, and that while the National Park Service does have jurisdiction over the park’s lands, it lacks the authority to close the park’s roads and rights-of-way.
On Oct. 4, 2013, Bentley said he removed metal linkage connecting sections of the concrete barricade, returning the next day to remove one of the concrete sections and gain access to the park. “I said, well, I’m going to take part in a little civil disobedience, and so I did,” he told The Watch Monday. “Taking down an illegal barricade was not illegal.”
Bentley said he and others took advantage of sunny weather that Saturday, Oct. 5, and drove to several overlooks to view the canyon’s painted walls before leaving the park. After leaving the park, the group pulled their vehicles to the side of Hwy. 347, where Bentley said a park ranger pulled up, issued a citation and performed an illegal search of his vehicle without a warrant. Bentley maintains that the park service has no jurisdiction to issue citations outside the park, and the rangers themselves were furloughed government workers operating without authority.
A spokesperson of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Denver said the Park Service did have authority to close the road during the park’s shutdown.