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.