BERTHOUD — Every Thursday in the summer, Dorian Ryan takes her two young boys to the beach at Carter Lake.
Two weeks ago, when it was time to breast-feed the youngest, 1-year-old Jimmie, she did so, not expecting the act to trigger a charge often associated with men who drop their pants.
But that is exactly what happened.
On July 7, a park ranger had warned Ryan she faced a ticket if she continued to breast-feed in public at the county park.
So the next week, Ryan shielded herself with two large umbrellas and a towel.
“I created a little cave I could crawl into,” Ryan said.
She received no objections or complaints except from the female park ranger, Cecilia Castro, who issued Ryan a ticket for knowingly exposing one’s genitals in a public place. The fine: $50.
“It was really disturbing, embarrassing, humiliating and degrading,” Ryan said.
She and her husband, attorney Mitchell Tacy, decided to fight the ticket on principle. Colorado has a law allowing mothers to breast-feed in public.
Two days after the incident, park manager Dan Rieves called Ryan and assured her the ticket would be voided.
“The officer that wrote the ticket used some poor judgment, and I voided the ticket,” Rieves said. “I apologized for the incident. ... It was a misunderstanding on a topic that can be politically sensitive.”
He said he has spoken with the ranger involved and spread information among his rangers to make sure there is no repeat.
“I wanted to clarify to everybody, ‘This is what Colorado law says about breast-feeding in public, and this is what public indecency means,’” Rieves said. “The two are not related whatsoever.”
Ryan wants a written acknowledgement of the voided ticket, an apology and assurance she does not have to show up in court Sept. 22 as the ticket instructs. Rieves assured her a document is in the works.
Ryan said she contested the ticket not only for herself but to bring an important issue to light. Breast-feeding can be difficult but is full of benefits for the child, including preventing childhood disease and obesity, she said.
“The community should support women in breast-feeding, not harass them to stop,” Ryan said.
In 2004, a woman was asked to leave Wal-Mart in Fort Collins for breast-feeding her baby in the checkout line.
A few months later, Colorado legislators passed a bill allowing a mother to breast-feed “any place she has the right to be,” which the governor signed into law.
Even with the law in place, incidents such as the one at Carter Lake can discourage women, said Margaret Bickmore of the Longmont La Leche League, a group that provides information about breast-feeding.
“It’s intimidating,” Bickmore said. “I think it probably deters some women from choosing to breast-feed at all.”
The ticket did not deter Ryan. She returned to the beach the past two Thursdays, supported by friends, and continued to breast-feed her son.
“I want this resolved,” she said. “I want to be able to move on and enjoy my time at the beach. And I want women to know it’s OK. It’s good.”