WASHINGTON — Aggressive actions and double standards used by the National Park Service are vindictive and designed to inflict maximum inconvenience and fear among visitors, say Republican lawmakers whose efforts to reopen the parks are gridlocked by Senate Democrats.
World War II veterans were blocked by barricades and armed guards from paying tribute at their memorial last week.
However, the national mall where the memorial is located was opened Tuesday to allow hundreds of illegal immigrants to stage a protest demanding amnesty.
It wasn’t until some 200 protestors, including numerous Democratic lawmakers, broke permit rules and staged a sit-in on city streets blocking traffic that they were arrested.
“We applaud free speech on the National Mall and the ability of all Americans to have access to it equally,” said Rep. Scott Tipton, Colorado Republican.
“Unfortunately, the administration has closed the Mall and memorials to some groups and not others, giving preferential treatment under the law. If it’s going to be open for some, it needs to be open for all,” Tipton said.
A bipartisan House majority voted last week 252 to 173 to restore funding to national parks and memorials, but the Senate has refused to consider this or a half-dozen other funding efforts by the House since the partial shutdown began last week.
“The Obama administration willfully disrespected our World War II veterans by barricading their memorial on the National Mall,” said Rep. Doug Lamborn, Colorado Republican.
“Now the administration is taking down the barricades and welcoming pro-immigration activists to the Mall,” Lamborn said. “This double standard is part of President Obama’s practice of using taxpayer dollars to pick winners and losers.”
With 17 percent of the government shut down because of a congressional stalemate over funding Obamacare, the Park Service has selectively targeted closures, whether it’s an entire park or a public road that passes through a national monument.
“We’ve been told to make life as difficult for people as we can,” a Park Service ranger told The Washington Times. “It’s disgusting.”
The Daily Sentinel reported that the Colorado National Monument in Grand Junction was cordoned off, gates closed and parking lots barricaded.
Rim Road has been barricaded to prevent visitors from stopping their cars to view scenes at Cold Shivers Point, and the west entrance at Highway 340 has been blocked to prevent tourists from viewing Monument Canyon.
The barricades are rarely used except to block the roads during blizzard conditions.
The monument brings in $23 million to the local economy, and its closure has frustrated tourists, some of whom traveled from as far as Canada to see it, the Sentinel reported.
At Yellowstone Park, tourists were ordered by armed rangers to stop recreating – taking pictures – while others were kept locked in their hotels, also guarded by armed rangers.
One tour guide described the behavior as “Gestapo tactics.”
“All these people wanted to do was take some pictures,” tour director Gordon Hodgson told the Livingston Enterprise in Montana.
The park service also closed off parts of the Ocean in Florida, including 1,100 square miles of the Florida Bay, and prevented boaters from entering Biscayne National Park.
In Nevada, private property owners along Lake Mead were forced out of their vacation homes by park rangers because the homes were built on federal land.
However, when rangers tried to shut down George Washington’s home at Mount Vernon by erecting barricades, they were forced to apologize and leave because it is privately funded and the property belongs to the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association.
“During this government shutdown, the Obama administration appears to be using the Department of Interior to inflict as much pain as possible on the public, and on our national park communities,” Sen. John Barrasso, Wyoming Republican, said Tuesday during a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee meeting.
“The actions taken by this administration since the government shutdown with respect to our national parks and memorials, I believe are deplorable,” Barrasso said.
“This Interior Department is currently demonstrating that it has no interest in building bridges. It’s only interest is in building barricades,” Barrasso said.
Rep. Rob Bishop, Utah Republican and chairman of the House Natural Resources subcommittee on public lands and environmental regulation, has launched an inquiry into the park service actions, as well as the cost of barricading parks versus leaving the properties open.
“It is unfair that the National Park Service is hurting so many visitors, businesses and communities while at the same time selectively choosing who they want to help out,” Bishop said.
“It’s clear that the actions of the Park Service are purely vindictive because they certainly aren’t necessary,” Bishop said.