(Photo: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque)
The National Park Service appears to be unnecessarily erecting barricades during the government shutdown. Its actions have left many tourists to wonder, if the NPS can spend money keeping people out of open-air parks, why not spend that money to let people in?
There have been many reports of barricades in places that do need them, as well as reports of people removing, or circumventing the barricades. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker (R) has said he will defy orders to close the parks in his state.
On the first day of the government shutdown, World War II veterans took down the barricades at the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. NPS now says veterans will be allowed access to the memorial because they are conducting "First Amendment activities."
In a statement, Jennifer Mummart of NPS said the parks need to be barricaded because NPS does not have the resources to "maintain these areas – collect trash, make sure road debris is swept, etc."
There have been other reports of civil disobedience that have received less attention. Parents in Washington, D.C., were removing or climbing over the barriers at neighborhood parks, Stanton Park and Marion Park, so their kids could play there. At Marion Park, the barricades continue to be rebuilt, and parents continue to knock them down. So, while NPS says it does not have the resources to maintain the park, it has the resources to replace barriers daily.
There have also been reports of tourists ignoring the barricades to other memorials on the National Mall. Many of the monuments on the National Mall are normally ungated. Tourists are simply able to walk up to them any time of the day or night.
The Lincoln Memorial has had security guards to prevent tourists from getting past the barricades. During the shutdown, NPS can spend money, apparently, to keep people out, but cannot spend money to let people in. NPS has even gone through the trouble of placing barricades in random places that people can just walk around.
The NPS has even tried to barricade property that does not belong to them. Barricades were placed in front of the Mount Vernon parking lot even though Mount Vernon is privately owned, not federal property. (They were later removed.)
NPS has also gone through the trouble of putting up barriers to Claude Moore Colonial Farm, even though the Friends of Claude Moore Colonial Farm promised to pay all of the operating costs during the shutdown.
The Republican National Committee offered to pay for security to keep the World War II Memorial open. NPS denied that request, claiming that it cannot take donations at the moment because of the government shutdown.
The actions of the NPS has led some conservatives to speculate that the Obama administration is going out of its way by spending additional resources to make sure that the shutdown causes as many difficulties as possible.
"While Republicans can be blamed for starting the shutdown," Jonah Goldberg wrote for National Review, "it's increasingly apparent that President Obama and the Democrats deserve the lion's share of blame for not only prolonging it but also making it as painful as possible."