Executive branch should not shut down parks


Our government has been at a standstill since Oct. 1. I don’t want to get into a debate over who caused the shutdown, but one branch of government seems to be enjoying it. That branch is the executive branch, in charge of enforcing the nation’s laws: in this case, the shutdown.

According to an Oct. 11, 2013 CNN article by Bryan Koenig and Leslie Bentz, an estimate of over 20,000 National Park Sites workers have been furloughed. With no appropriations, the parks can’t be paid for. Yet the parks are still being manned: they’re being manned to keep people out of them.

Take Mount Vernon, the home of America’s first president, George Washington. It’s privately owned. However, since the group that owns it has a group of park rangers on staff who are federal workers, the federal government – which cannot shut down the park – has instead opted to close off the parking lot.

A Washington D.C. park ranger spoke anonymously about such closures to the Washington Times in an Oct. 3, 2013 article by Wesley Pruden.

“We’ve been told to make life as difficult for people as we can,” the ranger said. “It’s disgusting.”

The abuses of power do not stop there. An Oct. 10 CNN article by Michael Pearson reported that residents of Lake Mead federal land in Nevada were evicted from their homes. In North Carolina, the government has barricaded a privately run hotel because it is on land rented from the government. Bruce O’Connell, the owner, has been strongly defiant about the order to shut down his business. O’Connell expressed his views in an Oct. 6, 2013 Washington Times article by Stephen Dinan.

“I’m questioning their authority to shut me,” O’Connell said.

Another business in Arizona that has a similar job running the state parks, Recreation Resource Management, is being forced to shut down even though they receive no federal money and are funded by gate receipts.

One of the most well-known examples of this phenomenon is the barricading of the World War II monument in Washington, D.C. Veterans thought very little of those barricades and tore them down.

None of this would be a problem if Congress had passed a continuing resolution to fund the parks. Disagreements are one thing, but the executive branch wanted the parks closed so much that White House spokeswoman Amy Brundage said the president would veto the measure if it were to somehow be passed by Congress, according to an Oct. 2, 2013 NBC article by Carrie Dann and Michael O’Brien.

Apparently its silly to think that people willing to work should be allowed to when the government, which is not working, is getting paid.

Since Congress is not getting its act together, states have been stepping up to run their own in-state federal parks. California, New York, Utah, Montana, North Dakota and Arizona have worked out agreements to fund the parks with state money. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has said no to closing the federally funded parks in his state.

With the closing and policing of all of these parking lots, roads and businesses that could be open, the motto of this shutdown may as well be “The beatings will continue until morale improves.”

Patrick White is a senior in journalism and electronic media. Please send all comments to opinion@kstatecollegian.com