The National Parks are closed. This is not news. The reports have been everywhere, from conservative and liberal new pundits to crazy people on the street screaming about the end of the world. We all know the government has been shut down. While we could argue about which side is responsible, some of us have stopped yelling and gone outside. The parks may be closed, but the trails are still being used.
On October 1st, visitors to our national parks were told they had two days to conclude their vacations in the parks before the gates closed for good. Things were relatively smooth through the first and second days of the shutdown. People generally stayed away, posing for pictures next to the signs that stated the parks were closed due to budget issues. Those first 48 hours we were all naïve. That would change quickly as the sun rose on October 3rd.
In Yellowstone, a tour bus of prepaid visitors was leaving the park when it was stopped by a herd of bison. The bus, full of elderly and foreign visitors quickly stopped to take pictures of the animals from the road. This is common practice in Yellowstone, even though the risk of being gored is hardly worth a picture of a bison. The bus stopped and the occupants left, snapping pictures and having a good time in the first ever National Park. Within a minute, a ranger drove up, hopped out of his car and ordered everyone back onto the bus. This armed ranger forced tourists back on the bus, many of whom reportedly did not speak English and thought they were being arrested. Those who did understand were told that they were in violation of a rule that said they could not “recreate.” While the majority of us do not consider standing in one place snapping a few fast pictures as a recreational activity, they were apparently breaking the law. If this was the only thing that happened to them, I would tell them to deal with it and move on.
Before they left, the tour group was allowed to stay at a National Park Inn in Yellowstone. It sounds nice, but for the 2-days they were in the park, the visitors from all over the world “were locked in a Yellowstone National Park hotel under armed guard.” Combining the two incidents, it is easy to see that the National Parks do not want anyone enjoying them during the shutdown. For good or ill, they are doing their jobs, which the government has proven they care nothing about. Following orders at this point doesn’t take guts. Rangers are supposed to protect the Parks, not threaten the very people the parks were created for. The attack on nature and on nature lovers need to stop. It is time to take back our parks, and quite a few groups (from Yosemite to Zion, the Badlands and the Olympic National Park) have already started doing just this.
UPDATED INFORMATION: http://www.weeklystandard.com/blogs/park-police-part-deux-hot-cops_762387.html