A case of problematic gate-keeping in Falmouth?

by | Jun 3, 2024 | ALLFFP, Fredericksburg, Outdoors, Stafford

A pleasant day at Stafford’s Historic Port of Falmouth on the Rappahannock ended unpleasantly for Daniel Rego and his family. 

“Although I live in Arlington, I love visiting Fredericksburg. It’s such a charming place,” Rego wrote in an email. “I appreciate that downtown is free from chain stores and has preserved local businesses… As for Stafford, it’s more of a pass-through on my way to Fredericksburg.” 

Rego, an entrepreneur who owns several businesses, said he and his family had been visiting the Fredericksburg area Sunday and had stopped at the beachfront park as part of their itinerary.  

“We paid the parking fee of $25,” Rego wrote of the fee, which is charged to all non-Stafford County residents on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays. 

The park closes at 8 p.m. but Rego said as his family prepared to leave, his vehicle and several others were blocked by a county truck. 

“A few minutes before 8 p.m., we returned to our car and prepared to leave the parking lot,” he wrote. “At exactly 8 p.m., we were lined up at the gate when a group of men in a white truck blocked the gate and closed it with a chain and padlock. Despite a line of over 15 cars, including mine, attempting to exit, these men ignored our polite requests not to lock us in.” 

Rego claimed that the employees were “laughing and jovially proceeding with locking the gate. Their behavior was not only unprofessional and extremely discourteous to the visitors but also potentially liable for a false imprisonment charge given their intentional restriction of my family’s freedom of movement without legal right.” 

Ultimately, one of the stranded motorists called the Stafford Sheriff’s Office to have the gate unlocked. 

According to Stafford Maj. Shawn Kimmitz, it’s not an uncommon occurrence.

“It does happen at some of the parks,” Kimmitz said. “Visitors are told what time the parks close but choose to stay beyond that time and the gate is locked. We respond and open the gate.” 

Rego emailed officials at the Stafford County Parks and Recreation Department, the county administrator’s office, plus members of the Stafford Board of Supervisors alerting them to the incident. He also stated that he has been “blessed with vast financial resources” and that he hoped to not have to take the matter to court.  

By Monday afternoon, Rego wrote that he had heard from both Board Chairperson Meg Bohmke and Interim County Administrator Craig Meadows, who assured him that the county would investigate the incident. Rego wrote that he is satisfied that the issue will be dealt with and does not anticipate escalating it. 

The Free Press reached out to county parks director Brion Southall and instead received a message from Andrew Spence, Chief Director of Information Services for the county.  

“At Stafford County Government, we hold ourselves to the highest standards of professionalism and integrity,” Spence wrote. “We take any concerns regarding staff behavior very seriously and are committed to maintaining a respectful customer service-first environment. We plan to look into this matter.”

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