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The Park Police, Part Deux: Hot Cops

In the name of the Government, stop recreating!

12:23 PM, Oct 10, 2013 • By JONATHAN V. LAST
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Since first writing about the conduct of the National Park Service yesterday, events have accelerated somewhat.

The Eagle-Tribune in New Hampshire reported on a local resident who went through something of an ordeal while visiting Yellowstone National park. I’ll let them tell it, just so you don’t think I’m making it up:

Vaillancourt was one of thousands of people who found themselves in a national park as the federal government shutdown went into effect on Oct. 1. For many hours her tour group, which included senior citizen visitors from Japan, Australia, Canada and the United States, were locked in a Yellowstone National Park hotel under armed guard.

The tourists were treated harshly by armed park employees, she said, so much so that some of the foreign tourists with limited English skills thought they were under arrest.

When finally allowed to leave, the bus was not allowed to halt at all along the 2.5-hour trip out of the park, not even to stop at private bathrooms that were open along the route. . . .

Rangers systematically sent visitors out of the park, though some groups that had hotel reservations — such as Vaillancourt’s — were allowed to stay for two days. Those two days started out on a sour note, she said.

The bus stopped along a road when a large herd of bison passed nearby, and seniors filed out to take photos. Almost immediately, an armed ranger came by and ordered them to get back in, saying they couldn’t “recreate.” The tour guide, who had paid a $300 fee the day before to bring the group into the park, argued that the seniors weren’t “recreating,” just taking photos.

“She responded and said, ‘Sir, you are recreating,’ and her tone became very aggressive,” Vaillancourt said.

The seniors quickly filed back onboard and the bus went to the Old Faithful Inn, the park’s premier lodge located adjacent to the park’s most famous site, Old Faithful geyser. That was as close as they could get to the famous site — barricades were erected around Old Faithful, and the seniors were locked inside the hotel, where armed rangers stayed at the door.

“They looked like Hulk Hogans, armed. They told us you can’t go outside,” she said. “Some of the Asians who were on the tour said, ‘Oh my God, are we under arrest?’ They felt like they were criminals.”

In San Francisco, there’s a restaurant called the Cliff House, which sits by the water on Ocean Beach. The restaurant itself is privately owned, but it’s located within the “Golden Gate Recreation Area.” The Park Service shut the Cliff House down and then, when the restaurant decided to try opening anyway—after all, the Park Service doesn’t do anything to affect their ability to function, and they have customers and employees who depend on them—the NPS came and shut them down again.

To the extent that there’s any argument for the Park Service denying the public access to public lands, it’s generally predicated on the notion that citizens are savages who loot, vandalize, and litter and that without the Park Service protecting them from the public, the lands will be desecrated.

But there hasn’t been any evidence of bad behavior on the part of the public yet. In fact, just the opposite. On Wednesday, a gentleman from South Carolina came to the National Mall with his own lawnmower and started cutting the grass near the Lincoln Memorial in an effort to help care for the grounds. The Park Service instructed him to cease and desist.

I’ve gotten some other anecdotal reports from readers. Leo Kucewicz, in Thornhurst, Pennsylvania, writes in:

[On Tuesday] I visited Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area just off Interstate 80 in New Jersey where the Kittattiny Point Visitor Center is located. As expected, the center is closed and the entrances/exits to the parking areas are blocked with sawhorses.

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