As the shutdown has dragged on I have refrained from writing too much about how the stalemate has affected the National Parks. Thankfully, others have been covering the story. Kevin Levin has done an especially good job on his important Civil War Memory blog. Suffice it to say that I am distressed over how some people have been gaming the NPS these past ten days or so. It is even worse when those doing the gaming, and blaming, are the very ones responsible for the closings. I can understand why a general citizen might be confused about why he/she cannot walk the grounds of a national park or monument; a public official should know better. Now, a growing number of people are taking it upon themselves to play hide and seek with park personnel. For anyone contemplating this, I would encourage them to refrain from doing so. First of all, there is no capriciousness involved; the closings are required by federal law. Next, you yourself might mean no harm when crashing the gates of Gettysburg, the Grand Canyon, or wherever. Others who visit are less conscientious. Vandalism and relic hunting are a serious problems at NPS sites even when parks are fully staffed. Your presence, however seemingly innocent, only subtracts from the already stretched skeleton crews keeping an eye on things during the shutdown. You are only making their job more difficult. Mount Rushmore is not going anywhere. For the time being, stay home.
In related news, over the past few days some states have begun negotiating with the Department of the Interior to open sites under the proviso that the states will fund the operating costs and be reimbursed later. Some parks in Utah are opening this weekend. New York is contemplating the same thing for the Statue of Liberty. As at Gettysburg and elsewhere, the New York City tourist economy has taken a big hit in the shutdown. This is news we can use. I do hope they can work it out.
(image/National Park Service)