Chadds Ford marathoner runs up $100 fine

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Judge convicts him of illegal parking in Valley Forge park during shutdown

By Kathleen Brady SheaManaging Editor, The Times

sealA local marathoner had a run-in with federal authorities at Valley Forge National Park in October that continued in court on Wednesday, May 7.

John M. Bell, 54, of Chadds Ford, received a $100 ticket on Oct. 6 after park rangers say he ignored barricades and closure signs and left his vehicle in one of the park’s shuttered lots. In response, Bell expressed anger to multiple media outlets for being prohibited from practicing for marathons that raise money for charitable causes, and a week later, supporters reportedly gathered at the park to hold a “Patriot Run” in protest on public roads that traverse the park.

A federal case eventually ensued. On Wednesday, Bell appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Jacob Hart, who ruled that Bell needs to pay up. According to testimony from National Park Ranger Michael Valora, the park rangers were ticketing Bell’s gray Porsche on Oct. 6 in the Varnum’s lot when Bell approached them and admitted that he knew the park was closed.

Rangers also testified that numerous other joggers in the park were asked to leave because the park was closed for safety reasons due to the government shutdown. Those runners did not receive tickets, which were issued only for illegal parking, according to testimony. Bell did not testify, court officials said.

Federal officials said Bell has 30 days to pay the ticket unless he decides to appeal the conviction. He could not immediately be reached for comment.

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