By Marshall Connolly, Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
10/8/2013 (1 year ago)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
The National Park Service has tried to close Mount Vernon, the home of George and Martha Washington, as part of the government showdown. The problem -the site is privately owned. The list of outrages against the NPS is growing.
LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Until very recently, the National Park Service was one of the least-loathed government agencies in the country. Now, with orders from on high to keep the public from visiting beloved parks and monuments the agency is developing a poor reputation.
Park rangers have very diverse jobs, providing everything from policing to the janitorial duties required to keep public parks and memorials open, safe and enjoyable. However, they have recently been compared to the Gestapo (hyperbole) as they actively work to keep people from enjoying public spaces.
According to a report in the Newburyport Daily News, tourists at Yellowstone National Park were actually detained under armed guard and locked in their hotels when the government shutdown started on October 1st. The paper explained that foreign tourists with poor English skills actually thought they were under arrest because of their harsh treatment.
When the tourists were allowed to leave by bus, they were forbidden to stop anywhere during the 2.5 hour drive out of the park, not even at public restrooms along the way.
In other places, park rangers have issued tickets to people who have ignored signs and barricades and threatened others with arrest.
At Mount Vernon, the privately-owned and managed historic home of George and Martha Washington, NPS authorities erected barricades to keep people from parking at the site. The site is privately owned and funded, but the NPS technically co-owns part of the parking lot and a bus turnaround. Of course, since it is a parking lot, it requires no maintenance. Nonetheless, the NPS is spending more money and resources keeping people out of such places than it would spend by simply allowing the public to use them.
Republicans contend that the NPS, which is part of the executive branch, is under orders to make life difficult for would-be parkgoers as part of a broader political plan by the Obama administration to turn public opinion against Republicans. Both parties blame the other for the shutdown and so far appear unwilling to negotiate.
Meanwhile, the American people are disgusted with the antics. These sites belong to the American people and nobody should be barred from entry. Notably, the citizens of this nation have paid for the maintenance of these sites by their taxes, and there is no rebate or reduction forthcoming. Since the American people are being charged full price for these locations in spite of the shutdown, they should also enjoy access.
Senior Republicans have said they may open a formal investigation into the mass closures and the barring of people from places where no significant maintenance or security is required. Small children's parks, hiking trails, and outdoor monuments remain closed despite the minimal investment needed to maintain them, if any.
It what looks like a spiteful move, the NPS even removed handles from water spigots along the Chesapeake and Ohio canal where bikers and joggers exercise as well as along the Great Allegheny Passage, just to ensure people don't get any water from them.
Instead of saving money, the NPS is expending additional resources to go out of its way to close such locations and to make people miserable.
There's really no scenario where this ends well for the NPS. First, several of their workers have lost their wages, workers are working without pay, and when the dust settles, heads will roll in subsequent investigations. The NPS is making itself unpopular with the American public, which is stewing for vengeance as the weather turns cold and bitter.
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