“Back off! We’ve got a pit bull!” says a voice from the bushes. I don’t think the homeless couple realize it’s an armed park ranger approaching.

I never had an interest in doing a law enforcement ride along. But when Ranger Jody Maberry invited me to come along on his bike patrol of the Centennial Trail, I was there. For a couple hours on a nice Friday night in June we rode up and down what Ranger Maberry says is the most active stretch of trail-between Avista and G.U. After three years, it’s his last day on the trail before transferring to the west side. I just got to witness his last illegal camping citation.

And his last arrest. We take a water break to chat, and an inebriated gentleman with a moustache and baseball hat approaches us with a malt liquor tall-boy. Perhaps the gun on Ranger Maberry’s hip is not big enough, because this guy did not realize Mayberry was a park cop. Ranger Maberry, of course, has to cite him for alcohol possession, a big no-no on the trail. (Alcohol is the second most issued citation on the trail, according to Maberry, the first being dog off-leash.)

I watch the man being put on the ground, hand cuffed, and taken to a patrol car with what seems to me the right mix of stern direction and sincere regard for the condition of the drunken individual, who has been taken into custody not because of his poor choice in drinking locations, but because they ran his ID and he has an outstanding warrant.

Maberry, despite being exposed to more nastiness on the trail than most users will ever see, is genuinely in love with the Centennial Trail and it’s recreational possibilities.
He is excited about the addition of the Nine Mile Resort to Riverside State Park and how a future two-mile extension will link the resort to the current trail. He and his co-workers have pushed the creation of a new hike-in, bike-in primitive camp area on the south bank of the Spokane River overlooking the Bowl and Pitcher. And he gushes about current State Parks head Rex Dur’s vision of completing a statewide east-west trail link by 2015.

I find out that almost everyone says “hi’ to a Park Ranger on the Centennial Trail. The big difference from other places he’s patrolled? “You get a lot more ‘Thank yous,'” says Ranger Mayberry.