Government can't really 'shut down' national parks

Jane BeathardA shut-down of the U.S. government "closed" all national parks on Oct. 1.

Exactly how you close most national parks – especially those in the West – baffles me. Most are criscrossed by county, state, and federal highways. The Feds would have to close the highways in order to close the parks.

I can see closing campgrounds, visitor centers, and stores. Trash collection and latrine cleaning can go by the wayside. Rangers can be laid off. But visitors can still walk or drive in to enjoy the scenery – unless barricades block the way.

I noticed national park managers erected barricades around the popular sites on Washington D.C.'s National Mall to keep visitors out. This seems pointless to me. Why not allow visitors to wander through the Lincoln and Jefferson memorials even if no rangers are around or trash cans overflow?

A friend pointed out that vandalism is a possibility if no rangers are around to keep order. Really? I hope Americans would not stoop that low.

I give the Honor Flight vets who breached the barrier at the World War II Memorial credit for initiative. Maybe we should all consider doing the same. It's not trespassing. After all, this is public property.

Past cuts in the federal budget have already rendered many of these national gems short handed and short on hours.

One example is the Perry's Victory and International Peace Memorial on South Bass Island in Lake Erie.

In a year of great interest in Commodore Perry and the historic Battle of Lake Erie, the federal monument opened late, closed early, and had only limited hours. That was even true on the Bicentennial weekend, Aug. 29-Sept. 2.

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