Wednesday, October 16, 2013

My Apologies To The Park Service

Sort of.

All this time I had been reporting the decisions made as to how the Park and Memorial closures have come down during the partial government shutdown, I had placed blame squarely on the shoulders of Parks Management leaving the Administration as somewhat distant supervisors who issued only general instructions and did not know details. I have been critical of other decisions Parks has made in the past on several other matters, and was very vocal about the spitefulness of closing the WW2 Monument and Parks features such as scenic overlooks, privately funded museums, and picnic areas here in this post and elsewhere on the web.

This afternoon, I came across this video of the Congressional testimony given today of Parks Service Director Jarvis before the Committee that is investigating how these decisions were made.
National Park Service director Jarvis said he discussed closing the open-air monuments and memorials with the White House, as well as the secretary of the Interior Department:

"Yes, I did," says the director when asked whether he discussed the closures with the secretary of the Interior Department.

"You didn't discuss it with anyone in the White House, did you?" asks a congressman.

"Um, in -- several times, on the phone, with the White House, I presented with the secretary my decision," says the director. "But it was never the reverse--"

"So you discussed with officials in the White House your action?"

"That's right," he says.

While it is not said who in the White House he discussed his plans with, since he was on a conference call with the Secretary of the Interior, it is safe to say that the individual in the White House was fairly high up in the President's Staff.

What this means is he said words to the effect of "I plan to put barricades around the WW2 Monument and will arrest anybody who tries to get in." and nobody at the White House, and certainly not the Secretary of the Interior, thought that was a bad idea.

Monday, October 7, 2013

To The Barrycades!

Its been a busy week on the Barrycades.

In addition to the massive Civil Disobedience by Veterans at the WW2 Memorial, crossing Barrycades placed in front of it by an ungrateful government on an almost daily basis for the past week , Marine Corps Veterans knocked over Barrycades at Marine Corps War Memorial, commonly known as the Iwo Jima Monument.
In case you don't believe it, here's a picture of them doing it, from a story in their Hometown Newspaper.

Citizens visiting DC area Gravelly Park created their own parking spaces when they arrived this weekend to find the Parking lot Barrycaded, creating an unsafe condition that perhaps the Park Service should have considered before spending the money to barricade something that costs nothing to leave open.

The park, closed by the government shutdown along with the rest of the public spaces administered by the National Park Service, was teeming with families Sunday night. Cyclists, fishermen and folks just looking to wind down the weekend filled the park even though it isn't technically open to the public.

"I think this is the best kind of salute back to the guys on Capitol Hill," said Andrew Holt, who came to the park Sunday evening to fish. "Telling them how everybody feels about it."

Gravelly Point's popularity has created some safety hazards as park-goers improvise parking spots instead of leaving their cars in the parking lot, which has been barricaded by park police during the shutdown. Park-goers have parked their cars on the shoulder of the road near the park and even on the grass.
In the meantime, soccer moms have been routinely tearing down Barrycades at "Turtle Park." 
According to sources, angry moms near the Eastern Market are of Washington, D.C. have been diligently tearing down barriers erected by the National Park Service around Marion Park, or the turtle park as it is commonly referred to because of the fake turtles that children like to play on.

Sources said that the park was blocked off by park officials, but the source suspected that neighborhood moms have been taking down barriers to the park so their children could play there. In response, park officials keep erecting new ones, which the moms promptly tear down.

That story also notes that another park with the same Park Service funding that is "close to the homes of “quite a few” Democratic senators" who are regularly seen there that has not been shut down.

There's no word yet on the fate of the Barrycades at Mount Vernon.  In addition to closing down the bus turn around, they've closed the Parking Lots.  They can't shut down Mount Vernon itself, its a privately owned and funded museum, so they spent money to erect Barrycades at the parking lots to keep people from going there.

And while things are quite this bad at Mount Rushmore (yet)

It does look like this.
As with the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Park Service has attempted to outlaw sight seeing, blocking off access to the scenic overlooks that tourists use to take pictures of Mount Rushmore.  The State of South Dakota, has some problems with that, though.

The Buffalo News reported that a tour group of dozens of people from western New York was unable to take pictures of the monument because highway viewing areas were coned off.

“It’s all closed up,” the newspaper quoted North Collins, N.Y., resident Hilde Werneth as saying. “They won’t even let you stop and take a picture. You can only drive by.”

Jim Hagen, secretary of the South Dakota Department of Tourism, said the situation is hurting people from out-of-state and international visitors who are in South Dakota to visit the monument.
Bicyclists on the Crescent Bike Trail are routinely ignoring Barrycades there

US News & World Report has a story about acts of Civil Disobedience on the Barrycades.

At one padlocked restroom on the Mount Vernon bike path that snakes along the Potomac River in suburban Virginia, two bicyclists expressed their disgust at Washington gridlock by letting it fly on the outside wall of the building. "This is a urination protest," one of the bikers said. "Maybe it'll catch on." On the nearby door to the shuttered bathroom was a sign stating, "Because of the federal government shutdown, this National Park Service facility is CLOSED." For extra emphasis, the word "closed" was bolded and underlined. 

One of ticketed parkers was outraged. "I'm just here to go jogging, and I end up with a hundred-dollar fine," he said. "I thought Michelle Obama wanted us to all stay in shape, but the cops just threatened to tow my car. It's ridiculous – regular people are not the problem." Another park visitor said, "I just saw somebody flash a badge and drive right on out of here; do they have plain-clothes undercover cops patrolling parks to make sure nobody is picnicking illegally?"

At nearby Jones Point Park, two National Park Service patrol cars blocked the vehicular entrance. On normal days, these lots are unstaffed, and in most cases entrances are ungated. During the shutdown, barricades have been trucked in and erected to block off lots and armed police stationed there to bust offenders. According to the Office of Personnel Management records, U.S. Park Police officers make between $52,020 and $155,500 a year. Congress ought to hold hearing investigating how much is being spent to barricade and police empty parks and parking lots and who gave the orders to lock down so many sites.

 Meanwhile, in Badlands National Park, one family had their own method of expressing their displeasure with the Barrycades put up at scenic overlooks there.

Word is that this picture has inspired a movement to remove the cones and send them to or put them up at the Government Agency you'd most like to see shutdown instead.

Friday, October 4, 2013

"We’ve been told to make life as difficult for people as we can."

In a political commentary on the shutdown of National Memorials, Monuments, Parks and Forests Wesley Pruden brings us this important piece of information:

“It’s a cheap way to deal with the situation,” an angry Park Service ranger in Washington says of the harassment. “We’ve been told to make life as difficult for people as we can. It’s disgusting.”

In the meantime, Veterans from my generation had a way of handling the closure of their monument.
Like the hundreds of World War II veterans who came to National Mall to pay their respects this week, a group of Vietnam veterans found a barricade blocking the way to their memorial Friday. News4's Mark Segraves said two U.S. Park Service Rangers manning the gate asked that the group respect the government's shutdown but moved aside.

Segraves described the exchange as pleasant and respectful.

The veterans then moved the barricade and walked down to the wall to pay their respects. But a flood of tourists followed even though the memorial is closed to the general public.

Civil Disobedience seems to be the order of the day for Veterans.  Should we not emulate their example and take our Parks and Forests back?

Thursday, October 3, 2013

This Is The Real Reason The Government Is "Shut Down."

And its the reason why they are closing down so many things they don't have to in order to cause as much pain as they can in an effort to manipulate you.

On Monday, Congress unanimously agreed to pass a standalone measure to pay the troops during the partial government shutdown, and President Obama signed the bill into law. But on Thursday morning, Senate majority leader Harry Reid blocked votes on House-passed bills to fund veterans, the military reserves and National Guard, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and national memorials.

As Politico reported Thursday, during the 1995 government shutdown congressional Republicans and President Bill Clinton were able to agree to a "stopgap bill to assure funding for veterans, welfare recipients and the District of Columbia."

Why won't Senate Democrats and President Obama agree now to any more stopgap funding bills?

Senator Chuck Schumer of New York told THE WEEKLY STANDARD following a noon press conference Thursday that in 1995 "it was a different world." Why is that? "Because we have a Tea Party," Schumer said without elaborating as he walked away.

(emphasis mine)

Through hikers are having to cancel their attempts on the Appalachian Trail.  Section hikers are having to go home.  Weekend campers and backpackers are having to go to State Parks.  Picnickers are being threatened with fines.  Armed men are standing in front of our national Monuments. 

Because, Tea Party.

Its an improvement.

It used to be Bush's fault.

The House has backed off their demand to have the Senate vote on a repeal of Obamacare.  They have backed off their demands to defund it.  They now propose that it be delayed for everyday citizens the way that Obama has delayed it for Big Business and Political Contributors, and they demand that members of Congress and their Staff give up the exemptions and subsidies granted to them and they be subject to the same conditions of Obamacare that you and I are.  The House has twice introduced a Bill to fund the VA.  The Democrats defeated it once in the House, and the Senate refuses to vote on the second one.  The House has passed a Bill to fund the National Institute For Health in  order to keep funding flowing to treat children with cancer.  Harry Reid refuses to vote on it.  The House has passed a measure that would re-open the National Parks and Forests so we can go out and do what we love to do---and thru hikers don't have to give up a lifelong dream and a life changing experience.

Because, Tea Party.

Edit to add:

"You're making me do something I really don't want to do, this is your fault." are the words a wife beater says as he's slamming his fist into his wife's face.

"The other guy made me do it because of what he did." is the excuse of a child.


"We’ve been told to make life as difficult for people as we can."

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

There Is Something Terribly Wrong With The US Parks Service (Updated below)

Hidden a few paragraphs down in this story about the "government shutdown" at Great Smoky Mountains National Park is this paragraph:

While U.S. Highway 441, which runs through the park, will remain open, Scott says people are not allowed to stop along the road at the scenic overlooks, or break for lunch at one of the many picnic areas. She says the majority of the employees who will continue to work are law enforcement officers for the parks; they will be making sure tourists don’t try to circumvent the law.
(emphasis mine)

US Highway 441 runs through the middle of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  Its also known as Newfound Gap Road.

Its a public road. Alongside it in strategic locations are a number of scenic overlooks. 

If all you have is time to drive through the park on your way between points A & B, you can stop and have a picnic, just enjoy the breathtaking beauty of God's Creation, or do something like this:

These are, apparently, not normal times.  The U.S. Government, as embodied by the Executive Branch (that would be the President and his Cabinet)  will send armed men in uniform to make sure that you do not "circumvent the law" by pushing the shutter button or swallow your Dr. Pibb.

Great Smokies is the most visited National Park in the country.  Millions of people travel US 441 every year.  The Park Service couldn't shut down the highway, so they've told people not to get out of their cars or they are "circumventing the law."

I'm wondering.  Which law would that be?

It goes deeper than that.  Mount Vernon, the home of George Washington, is and always has been a privately funded museum and park.  Just down the road is a turn around that tour busses use.  Its on land owned by the Park Service.  This is what that turn around looks like today:

That's right.  Claiming that a road shorter in length than a football field is required to be shutdown if the government is, the park service has erected what are becoming know as "Barrycades" (after Barack "Barry" Obama as he was known to his chums in the elite private High School and Ivy League colleges he attended) to prevent tour busses going to Mount Vernon from turning around safely.  You see, they couldn't close down one of the most popular tourist attractions in the country, but they could poke their finger in the eye of anybody who would try to go there, so they did.

Here's another example of Park Service overreach.

The Park Service has effectively closed the Claude Moore Colonial Farm.  But it is a privately operated, funded, and maintained Living History Farm.  No government money goes to its operation.  The problem is it sits on Park Service land.  The entrance is right on the road.

The George Washington Parkway to be exact, another public thoroughfare that the government can't close, just down the road from Mount Vernon. None of its employees are paid by the government.  None of its expenses are provided by the taxpayer, except through direct donation.  But you have to step foot on government property to get there.  On Monday, they were told to go home, that the government is closing them down.

A Lady named Anna Eberly who is the Managing Director of the farm, proves that she's not part of the Federal government by daring to send an email to supporters, volunteers, and donors that included this:

For the first time in 40 years, the National Park Service (NPS) has finally succeeded in closing the Farm down to the public. In previous budget dramas, the Farm has always been exempted since the NPS provides no staff or resources to operate the Farm. We weren't even informed of this until mid-day Monday in spite of their managers having our email addresses and cell numbers.

The first casualty of this arbitrary action was the McLean Chamber of Commerce who were having a large annual event at the Pavilions on Tuesday evening. The NPS sent the Park Police over to remove the Pavilions staff and Chamber volunteers from the property while they were trying to set up for their event. Fortunately, the Chamber has friends and they were able to move to another location and salvage what was left of their party. You do have to wonder about the wisdom of an organization that would use staff they don't have the money to pay to evict visitors from a park site that operates without costing them any money.

(emphasis is mine).

You probably already know about the attempt to close down the WW2 Monument to visiting Veterans of the greatest conflict this Nation has engaged in, one that defeated the most evil government in the history of mankind.  Here's an aerial view of the WW2 Monument:

Its open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.  How could it not be?  Its wide open on all sides.  There are no buildings to enter, no museum displays, just statues and obelisks.  People are, or were until Monday, free to walk through it whenever they please.  They can walk on the grounds on either end of it as well.  These grounds are the National Mall, also part of the National Park Service, and it is not closed down.  There are no gates, and no guards (again, until Monday) at the WW2 Memorial, and only minimal staff at an information booth.  The Park Service doesn't even provide security nor is it responsible for law enforcement at the site, the City of Washington, D.C. is.  Yet, the Park Service took it upon themselves to spend money to close down a site that costs them nothing--during a government shutdown based on funding---to erect barricades and station guards in an attempt to close it down.  It actually cost them more money to close it down than it would have to keep it open.

The Monument was erected, 50 years late, using private money, and like Mount Vernon and the Claude Moore Farm, money for maintenance is provided via another private fund.  The veterans who became famous for storming the beaches of Normandy and Iwo Jima have once again, in their late 80's and 90's, have now become famous for storming the barricades erected in front of their own Memorial.

Some of them did come home with souvenirs, though.

There was another government shutdown in 1995.  The WW2 Monument wasn't open then, but Claude Moore Farm and the bus turn around at Mount Vernon remained open.  Back then, the Lincoln Memorial was technically closed, but you could walk up to Old Abe and gaze upon his countenance if you wanted to:

This is what you will see if you go there today:

The same was true of the Jefferson Memorial.  Here's what it looks like today:

Here are armed men erecting barricades at the Martin Luther King Memorial:

These are statues beside public roads.  The Park Service is erecting barricades in around them and stationing armed in front of them.  Why? Why tell mothers and their children that they are going to have to drive another half hour and have their lunch in a Walmart parking lot instead of at a scenic overlook on US441?  Why tell WW2 veterans they can't walk on the sidewalks around the monument erected to commemorate their service and sacrifice?

There is something terrible wrong with the US Parks Service if they view shutting these things down, things that don't need any funds whatsoever, as being required to be shut down at any time---any time at all. Roads, statues, bus turn arounds, and privately funded historical activities, places the public normally walks across as a shortcut to and from work.  What reason, other than spite, overreach of authority, ignorance, or a desire to inflict pain on the electorate in order to manipulate them politically, could there be?