Roger Marolt
Columnist
Snowmass Village, CO, Colorado

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December 11, 2012
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Roger Marolt: Cameras gone wild

I don't like surveillance cameras in general. I hate them in nature. This is not because they might immortalize my image poaching a closed Droste or Rim trail someday, either.

It's just not right. Surveillance cameras belong in warehouses, parking garages, and along prison fences; not in the places we head to get away from the part of the world that is already overpopulated with them.

How stealthily have these eyes in the Skyline sprung up? Until a couple of weeks ago I didn't know there were motion-sensor cameras installed on the Rim and Droste trails. I learned about Big Brother's right eye on Droste through an article in The Aspen Times. I learned about the left one when a couple friends got caught by a click on the north Rim Trail. The article explaining the purpose of the cameras in the paper was disturbing. Two ladies getting busted with them turned my trepidation real.

I am not defending anyone who is using our trails illegally. We proceed with civil disobedience knowingly and fully cognizant of the risks of being caught and punished for our premeditated disregard for the rules. Neither is it that I think the use of cameras gives people charged with enforcing the laws an unfair advantage against scofflaws. For those who believe breaking the rules is a game, I believe the odds for winning should be stacked in favor of law enforcers.

What gals me about cameras in the wild is simply that they are there. I understand that they are not put there to hassle people, but they can be used for that anyway. I know they were installed to monitor elk and bird mating and migration without the physical intrusion of human beings. But, a camera is a camera is a camera and, no matter what its intended purpose, it can snap an image of a human being as easily as it can a black bear. If you are on the Rim or Droste trails and make one move, false or otherwise, you will be captured in pixels. Someone has the ability to know exactly where you were and when.

It is an impersonal intrusion into what should be a very personal experience. It is an impersonal intrusion into a few of the places left where we don't want them, don't expect them, and, until recently, didn't know were happening. That's quite a violation! I can talk to a trail ranger. We can exchange pleasantries and information. Or, we can ignore each other. Whatever, it is an encounter with a person who is standing in front of me, and I'm wired for that. But, how am I to contemplate the beauty before me knowing there might be a wireless lens focused on me, beaming my whereabouts to a computer screen in a cubicle in a government office somewhere?

I do not think this is part of a conspiracy theory. I don't believe the installation of motion-sensitive cameras in our recreation areas is part of some grand plan to subjugate us to tyranny in the future. I have not even considered it a possibility that incriminating cycling-in-Lycra photos will one day be used to blackmail an otherwise respected local. I just think it's a bunch of crap.

I get the part about protecting animals. What I don't get is that we have to get close-up shots of elk when they happen to wander in front of a camera concealed in a tree. To monitor the migration of an elk herd, I think old technology works better. From safe distances, high-powered binoculars are much better for tracking an entire herd or a lone wolf. You can see all the animals. You can see their tracks. You can tell where they have been and which direction they are heading ... in real time, color, and HD! How does a grainy black and white image on a computer screen every now and then when an animal happens to walk in front of a stationary camera beat that?

I have two proposals to deal with this intrusion. First, and most simple, take the damn cameras down immediately! If that doesn't happen, I think this is a big enough deal that the people of this community, who have provided the millions of tax dollars needed to purchase these precious lands, should vote on whether or not it is appropriate to have cameras in our backcountries. Of course, I'm assuming that nobody has installed cameras in the voting booths, yet.

Roger Marolt thinks it's OK to get worked up over an intrusion like this. Contact him at roger@maroltllp.com.


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The Aspen Times Updated Dec 11, 2012 06:14PM Published Dec 11, 2012 06:11PM Copyright 2012 The Aspen Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.