While hobbyist drones grow in popularity, most parks won’t allow them, regulations are many and fliers can risk public censure. But there are a few public places to fly if you received one for a gift.
Like them or not, hobbyist-style drones have landed in our consciousness:
• “Drones for Dad,” trumpeted a headline in a pre-Father’s Day ad circular in The Seattle Times.
• “Why was a drone flying in my favorite wildlife park?” a Times reader in Kirkland griped in a recent Rant & Rave column.
• When another Times reader’s aerial photo of a lovely mountain scene was a top contender in a May photo contest, judges disqualified it after realizing it was taken from a drone in Olympic National Park — where use of drones is prohibited.
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So if every dad got a drone on Sunday, where can they legally fly them? That’s a bit of a quandary. A check with a few public agencies revealed that they are not allowed in:
• Most Washington State Parks locations.
• Most King County parks.
And except in very limited circumstances all national parks bar drones, at least for the time being, under a 2014 ruling by then-National Park Service director Jonathan Jarvis. His edict cited “unacceptable impacts such as harming visitors, interfering with rescue operations, causing excessive noise, impacting [views] and disturbing wildlife.”
“If you’re miles from nowhere and all of a sudden there’s a drone it really takes away from your wilderness experience,” Olympic National Park spokeswoman Penny Wagner adds to that.
What about Juanita Bay Park, where Kirkland resident Kurt Stierle recently encountered a drone flying near park boardwalks that thread a lily pad-laced shore rich with wildlife?
“I’m kind of a nature person and it’s a great little park, a gorgeous place for birds — there’s usually a heron and a bunch of turtles…