Patrick McHenry, my US congressional representative (R-NC 10), came to town and I wanted to meet him. If you live in Gastonia, NC, you may be surprised to read that a good part of Asheville shares the same district as you.
McHenry didn’t make it easy to get to his public meeting. It was held at the Riceville Fire Station, way out close to Swannanoa. Riceville Road was closed at one point and traffic was diverted around toward Warren Wilson College.
Still there was a standing-room only crowd, so others were as eager to see him as me. Whether or not I voted for him, he is my representative.
His main concern, it seems, is making sure that small businesses thrive without too many regulations. He’s also against the Affordable Care Act and Common Core standards in education.
And our national parks and forests? I was eager to ask a question that probably no one was going to ask. So I got in line and asked:
In Western North Carolina, we have four national park units – Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Blue Ridge Parkway, the Appalachian Trail and Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site. Our public lands are an important economic engine for our area. In addition, we need to protect and conserve these lands.
Why is the National Park Service budget cut year after year? This is especially important in the NPS Centennial year.
McHenry’s answer was fuzzy.
Yes, parks were important to the area. But the parks have to be kept open. He then recommended the Ken Burns video.
Uhh… The parks were shut tight in 2013 because Congress shut down nonessential services. And that to a large extent means our public lands. As for the Ken Burns video, that was shown in 2009.
McHenry was prepared to hear other questions about the environment, from climate change, credits for solar power to toxic waste from the CTS site. After all, this is Asheville.
Where do the rest of my elected officials stand on supporting our public lands? I need to ask them.
Where do your elected officials and candidates stand on funding our public lands?