Two small parks and an inn win victories over National Park Service closings

posted at 8:01 pm on October 11, 2013 by Mary Katharine Ham

Call it the shutdown of shutdown theater. A couple of small parks have taken to the courts to dispute their bullying at the hands of the National Park Service during the government shutdown. One could argue civil disobedience has been shutting down shutdown theater since it began— in D.C., in the Badlands, in Yellowstone—but at least one of these victories might be able to set a useful legal precedent to prevent at least some of Washington Monument Strategy in the future. It’s a political strategy that should die an ignominious death. It’s the opposite of public service.

In Northern Virginia, McLean Youth Lacrosse won its fields back from the feds after the National Park Service shut down a park that sits on federal land but its administered by county government. That’s the entity the lacrosse league paid $5,000 to use the park, not the National Park Service. (Parenthetically, I’m not surprised it was the lacrosse parents of McLean that went to court on this. They have the right attitude and means to make it happen, and I hope their victory can help other youth hurt by the federal government who might not have the means to sue.)

A federal judge on Wednesday ordered the National Park Service to immediately reopen Langley Fork Park in McLean — which was closed Oct. 1 — and allow the boys and girls of the McLean Youth Lacrosse organization back onto the fields.

The judge’s order was not final. Attorneys are scheduled to return to federal court in Alexandria on Oct. 18 — provided the courthouse is still open and judges are still hearing civil cases — to hash out a more permanent resolution. But until then, Langley Fork Park will be open for the hundreds of kids in the youth lacrosse group, which sued the Park Service, and for anyone else who might want to use it.

“It’s a major relief,” said David “Bucky” Morris, McLean Youth Lacrosse’s executive director. “I’m not sure how long it goes for, but, hopefully, it’s long enough that it goes through the government shutdown.”

A spokeswoman for the Fairfax County Park Authority, which manages the park, said officials removed the temporary barriers at the park Thursday morning after receiving the Park Service’s permission.

“I can tell you this much: We’re glad it’s open for business. That’s the good news,” said Judy Pedersen, a spokeswoman for the Park Authority. She declined to comment on the lawsuit.

The Claude Moore Colonial Farm may have won its battle with just a legal threat, it seems. The NPS reversed course today on its order the small farm close during shutdown, even though it takes no federal funding and requires no federal employees. The feds sent law enforcement to close it down last week, but today:

“We have good news for you at last!” Eberly says. “The NPS has reversed their decision to close the Farm and we will be open [Wednesday] as usual. You can now visit the 18th century Farm, come to the Book Shop tomorrow afternoon, participate in Farm Skills on Thursday and have picnics at The Pavilions again. And all of our volunteers are welcome to come back ‘home’.”

The Claude Moore Colonial Farm exists on federal land but has not received any federal funding for more than 30 years. It funds itself on its own activities. Octobers is its busiest month of the year, but the shutdown has rendered it closed for more than a week. The farm was open during all previous shutdowns, and needs no federal employees for staffing or any other service. It even depends on local police for security.

“Just this morning we received the final absolute NO from the Dept. of Interior and were told the Farm would not open until the shutdown ended. An hour later the Park Police showed up and closed and barricaded the office gates with us inside. This has been a very rough week and we are profoundly grateful that this is ending.”

In intervening time, Eberly had openly pursued her legal options, believing her lease with the Dept. of Interior allowed her to stay open. The Washington Post notes the McLean Lacrosse victory might inspire other legal battles. Good, I hope both these stories do.

In North Carolina, the owner of a private inn on the Blue Ridge Parkway seems to have won his stand-off with the park police. First he remained open in an act of civil disobedience, which was quickly ended. After that, he gathered local support and was also vocal about pursuing legal action. Now, look what’s open again, though it lost five days of revenue at peak leaf-viewing season:

The owner of a privately run inn along the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina is back in business five days after the federal government forced him to close as a byproduct of the D.C. slimdown.

Bruce O’Connell, owner of the Pisgah Inn, told on Tuesday he was “hopeful” that his business would reopen — and by Wednesday, it had.

A posting on the company’s Facebook page said the inn was reopening at 5 p.m. Suggesting an agreement was reached with the feds, the post thanked the National Park Service “for working with us through all of this mess.” An employee also confirmed to that the inn was re-opening.

O’Connell was among a growing group of business owners who argued that the federal government was needlessly choking off their ability to earn a living, and were fighting back. O’Connell had been vocal about looking into his legal options following the forced closing.

In Utah and Colorado, the state is taking over federal park administration. In Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker openly defied the feds’ calls to shutter state parks with federal funding.

Good for all of them. One wonders if it might occur to them that they should retain control after shutdown theater is over, thus ensuring that the political whims of an executive atop a dysfunctional central government sing the National Park Service to inflict pain on the public cannot do this to them again.

That’s Paul Kengor’s thought. Privatize the National Park Service, but not the parks:

This is Obama’s shutdown campaign, pure and simple — akin to the kind of crass political campaigns the American far left has engaged in for decades. This time, sadly, federal employees have been conscripted in the cause; the National Park Service is serving as an army of agents in the campaign. Not unlike the IRS, NPS agents are abusing their powers. They are being tasked as a political/ideological arm of the state. This is precisely not what civil servants are to be.

I’m not talking about privatizing the parks themselves, a suggestion others have raised. In the 1990s, I specialized in privatization, writing reports for state and local think-tanks, particularly the excellent Allegheny Institute for Public Policy. I quickly learned one of the most crucial things about privatization that most people don’t understand: privatization frequently involves not ownership but operation. It’s often wiser to privatize not ownership but operation. (Roads are an example. Let the government own the roads, but their maintenance should be contracted.) That’s particularly true when government employees operating a service became unionized, entrenched, bloated, and over-extended. And that’s precisely what we should now consider with the National Park Service. We should privatize not the parks but the service that operates, manages, administers them…

This recommendation will anger NPS employees. Well, for that, they can thank White House schemers for overplaying their heavy hand and unwittingly shedding ominous light on the abusive possibilities of this agency. That’s not a sentiment that the president and allies intended to foster when they began agitating and orchestrating their shutdown campaign. Rather than convincing us of the alleged evils of congressional Republicans, they’ve unveiled the roguish tendencies of some federal employees who blindly follow orders. Let’s respond by taking power away from those employees, so this cannot happen again. Easily maneuvered into providing propaganda for a president or party, these NPS workers have proven themselves unworthy of the mission entrusted to them. They are the embodiment of the dangers of unaccountable, big government.

There should be hell to pay for what the National Park Service has done to citizens, on purpose, to make them hurt. Unfortunately, I have a feeling it will only come in the form of fewer kids with dreams to be park rangers. “Yes, Mommy, I would like to set up barricades in front of our nation’s most prized natural and civic treasures to serve the political needs of whoever happens to be my boss. I want to be on the front lines when someone needs someone to screw over our own citizenry. Sign me up!”

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O/T, but Gutfeld is hosting “The Factor” tonight. It might actually be worth watching for a change.

And HOORAY! for the parks and the inn.

predator on October 11, 2013 at 8:05 PM

BISMARCK, N.D. – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has agreed to reopen more than 288,000 acres of wildlife lands in North Dakota that have been closed to public access since the federal government shutdown began on October 1.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Director Dan Ashe announced the reopening of Wildlife Service lands nationwide late today after he was informed of North Dakota’s intent to file a complaint in U.S. District Court. The complaint, already completed and within minutes of being filed, requested a federal judge require the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to reopen more than 288,000 acres of wildlife lands closed to hunters and other public uses.

Gov. Jack Dalrymple and Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, in talks with U.S. Fish and Wildlife officials, said they were prepared to file the complaint at 3pm today. Just minutes before 3pm, U.S. Fish and Wildlife officials said they would reopen the wildlife lands nationwide.

Socratease on October 11, 2013 at 8:08 PM

If not privatized, turn over to the states.


Lady Logician on October 11, 2013 at 8:11 PM

This one is a good one also.

Cindy Munford on October 11, 2013 at 8:14 PM

It ain’t over for them. The IRS still exists. You think it’s over?


wolly4321 on October 11, 2013 at 8:20 PM

Sad to say, but there will be those who firmly believe that the NPS debacle is a dry run for the real thing. I find it hard to believe that so many rangers simply followed orders.

HiJack on October 11, 2013 at 8:26 PM

Hip Hip.

CWchangedhisNicagain on October 11, 2013 at 8:27 PM

OT…John Kasich is dead to me..See Ace of Spades

derft on October 11, 2013 at 8:33 PM

O/T, but Gutfeld is hosting “The Factor” tonight. It might actually be worth watching for a change.

And HOORAY! for the parks and the inn.

predator on October 11, 2013 at 8:05 PM

The only time it’s worth watching is when Ted Baxter isn’t there, usually on Fridays. And, Gutfeld is always good.

TXUS on October 11, 2013 at 8:42 PM

Privatize? No. Turn them over to the states for the Feds have no right owning any land other than which it needs to fulfill its constitutional mandates.

TQM38a on October 11, 2013 at 8:43 PM

Let the States take them back via Eminent Domain and put it to some good use for once.

For parks going across State lines the States can put an agreement together and put that to the federal government for an OK or just put up markers along the border and split the duties and revenue, following standard interstate procedures for things like pursuit of criminals.

The US federal government was given Public Lands in trust to keep them open to the public. They haven’t been able to do so. Even worse is that monuments that get no regular oversight have been closed, thus closing what doesn’t need to be closed.

That is pitiful and dereliction of duty to the States and the People.

ajacksonian on October 11, 2013 at 8:46 PM

NPS agents are abusing their powers

….No Public Service…is normal!

KOOLAID2 on October 11, 2013 at 8:55 PM

Simply defederalize the parks. Let each state decide how to deal with operating them on their own.

astonerii on October 11, 2013 at 8:57 PM

Turn them over to the states for the Feds have no right owning any land other than which it needs to fulfill its constitutional mandates.

TQM38a on October 11, 2013 at 8:43 PM

No, sell all federal lands to Americans/American companies, use the proceeds to immediately pay off the 17 trillion in national debt, and hold the other 20-30 trillion in proceeds for future emergencies and wars, while lowering the tax rates to 5% across the board, and constitutionally require a super-majority of both chambers of congress to ever raise that rate.

Of course, that’s what a business would do, given the circumstances, not a clusterfvck or narcissists and egotists and whores (no offense to whores).

TXUS on October 11, 2013 at 9:05 PM

There should be hell to pay for what the National Park Service has done to citizens, on purpose, to make them hurt.

Let’s get real. There should be hell to pay for what Obama ordered the National Park Service to do to hurt the people

Basilsbest on October 11, 2013 at 9:20 PM

Screw going to court. What we need is NATIONAL CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE!


And then deal with the lawsuits for false arrest.

GarandFan on October 11, 2013 at 9:29 PM

It’s sad that people and uniforms we used to respect as kids have become Stormtrooper thugs under Zero. Never again will I look at NPS rangers the same way, and most police officers aren’t that pure either. They’ve become militarized, and would fire on American citizens given the right circumstances. Like that lady in D.C.

SailorMark on October 11, 2013 at 9:31 PM

SailorMark on October 11, 2013 at 9:31 PM

Who is to blame for unearned respect? The person giving it without evidence it was earned, or the person getting it without earning it?

astonerii on October 11, 2013 at 9:33 PM

Who is to blame for unearned respect? The person giving it without evidence it was earned, or the person getting it without earning it?

astonerii on October 11, 2013 at 9:33 PM

The parents who taught us to respect authority? Yeah,that’s my final answer.

SailorMark on October 11, 2013 at 9:49 PM

The parents who taught us to respect authority? Yeah,that’s my final answer.

SailorMark on October 11, 2013 at 9:49 PM

its a good answer.

astonerii on October 11, 2013 at 9:52 PM

I live near the Pisgah Inn in NC. I went up there last weekend for a hike and then went to the inn. The inn was basically barricaded by an armed fleet of park rangers. They would not let anyone onto the grounds, but there was the free speech zone along the side of the road if you wanted to protest. Unlike the illegal immigrants who were permitted on the mall, American citizens had to stand along the road to protest.

The manager of the Inn hired attorneys and filed for a temporary injunction to allow himself to reopen. He leases the land but otherwise operates a private business and brings money into the government. He employees 90 people, 50 of whom live onsite. The park service decided not to fight him and allowed him to reopen.

Here’s the interesting part. The Folk Arts Center, also on the parkway in Asheville, had been closed. But once they heard the Inn was open they decided they would open also,as they are privately operated. So, they let the park service know they were opening because they felt their situation was the same as the Inn’s and the Park service said they would not oppose them. I cannot put any links up because the really stupid local newspaper makes you pay to read the paper on line.

The whole situation is entirely political and as far as I am concerned it is entirely Obama’ s Chicago thug fault.

Puma for Life on October 11, 2013 at 9:59 PM

The parents who taught us to respect authority? Yeah,that’s my final answer.

SailorMark on October 11, 2013 at 9:49 PM

You are 100% right on this. I have lost all respect for the park rangers…they are dupes and are acting like the gestapo…following orders is no excuse..that’s a war crime.

Puma for Life on October 11, 2013 at 10:01 PM

I definitely think the states should get control over the parks, at least. Privatizing them seems too risky. An owner or company could do all sorts of things with the land, including selling it to foreign groups. Can’t say I like that idea, unless there are strict conditions in the contract.

Dongemaharu on October 11, 2013 at 10:38 PM

Who would have thought the Green Shirts would be to the twenty-first century what the Brown Shirts were to the twentieth?

No Truce With Kings on October 11, 2013 at 10:47 PM

My son runs XC at Gettysburg College. They have run through the battlefields as part of their daily practice runs for years. Now they have to reroute their runs because they are not allowed on Battlefield property which is adjacent to the college campus. And that poor little town depends so much on the tourism – heartless.

ctmom on October 12, 2013 at 8:46 AM

These situations absolutely provide proof that “We the People” can decide what is an essential service that will help determine what is necessary to be under government control.

MSGTAS on October 12, 2013 at 10:04 AM

Good luck with that. We can’t even get our congress critters to let us keep our light bulbs. We have asked for defunding the EPA and did win somewhat on this issue with the partial shut down. I’ll bet those still sitting behind their desks have been busily scribbling down new regs, tho. If we do get a privatization of the nps, they really should pick a new uniform color.
It’s really not fair that some states get to pay for and reopen their NPs and other states like WY, MT and ID can’t afford to open Yellowstone. Not much at all in the paper here in Missoula about this.

Kissmygrits on October 12, 2013 at 10:22 AM

The owners of private businesses on NPS property that were closed should sue the government for breach of contract and ask for damages for lost business. The business owners have a valid lease and the NPS is illegally preventing them from exercising their rights under the lease. Surely there are lawyers our there who can smell there is money to be made here.

bartbeast on October 12, 2013 at 10:42 AM

The Feds have created a morass with their self serving “The Party is Great”, The Party is Good”, “The Party can do no wrong”, “The Party must survive”.

Those that will lead us out of this will be the Governors of the States. Not the troglodytes of Congress.

The reasoning stays simple.
1.The Feds pick and choose to inflict maximum punitive pain on it’s charges.
2.The States pick and choose to resolve the most pain for it’s charges.

jpcpt03 on October 12, 2013 at 12:56 PM

I’m not sure “privatizing” is a panacea, but definitely the various states should look into making these wonderful American monuments and parks into non-Federal operations.

But…I wonder…how much longer are the Communists going to allow even the states to be run by Republicans or even non-Communist Democrats (assuming there are any like that anymore)?

Dr. ZhivBlago on October 12, 2013 at 1:56 PM