Category Archives: National Parks

Government Shutdown at Carl Sandburg National Historic Site

Well, it’s happened!

Our U.S. Government has shut down, as of midnight last night. So, today, on a weekend, I was curious to see what it meant for our local national parks. I drove down to Carl Sandburg National Historic Site, ready to walk all five miles of trail. I chose this site because it’s the easiest to close of the park units close to me.

Carl Sandburg home site is only open from 9 am to 5 pm normally. Unlike larger parks, there’s a gate which can be closed, but it wasn’t.  I can only assume that the rangers didn’t close it last night, in preparation for today. Most visitors use it as their local park to walk, talk and exercise their dogs.

When I got to the Flat Rock, NC site, I was amazed to see that almost all the parking spaces were taken. As soon as I left the parking site and got on the paved trail to the house, I saw this yellow sign:

Government Shutdown

The sign tells visitors that there are no NPS staff members and they’re on their own. In  my wanderings, I saw four of these signs.

The bathrooms were closed, as advertised. So was the bookstore. The house is being renovated, so was going to be closed anyway.

I walked to the top of Big Glassy Mountain on an icy trail. I guess if someone slipped and couldn’t walk out, they would have to alert the county EMTs. At the top, I only saw one group of walkers. The trail is short but steep. See the picture on top.

CARL goat barn

What about the goats?

I knew that they were being taken care of and fed. A car was parked at the goat barn, which I assumed belonged to a volunteer.

The sign on the gate said “Come on in” but the gate was locked tightly. Too bad since several children congregated at the fence.

You can’t see the goats but they’re in front of the barn, hugging the wall. Usually you can go in and pet them.

My last trail took me around the lake.

At CARL

It’s the easiest trail and therefore had the most people. Eavesdropping on conversations from groups walking the trail, I couldn’t discern any bitterness about the shut-down.

Other than the closed restrooms, the shutdown probably didn’t affect most visitors to the Carl Sandburg house. But the National Park Service doesn’t just protect and preserve; it interprets as well, so that you know why this site is important. And that’s what was missing today.

As I headed for my car, Rob Moore, a reporter at the Hendersonville Times-News, came to see  the situation. I told him about the four yellow signs, thereby saving him a walk through the park.

Elections have consequences. The government shutdown is one of them.

What’s happening at your park?

Parks and Protests

Today, one day from another government shut down and therefore national park shutdown, I read this from USA Today.

Nine of the 12 members of the National Park Service advisory board resigned in protest this week, saying Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has ignored pleas for a meeting and has “set aside” protection of the nation’s natural treasures.

Parks of the Southeast

Board chairman Tony Knowles, a Democrat and former governor of Alaska, said in a resignation letter to Zinke that the group has been waiting for a year to meet and “continue the partnership” between the board and Interior officials.

“Our requests to engage have been ignored and the matters on which we wanted to brief the new department team are clearly not part of its agenda,” the letter says. “I have a profound concern that the mission of stewardship, protection, and advancement of our National Parks has been set aside.”

Bison in THRO

The board’s tasks included advising Zinke and the National Park Service on the designation of national historic and natural landmarks. The board also provides input on a wide range of issues from climate change to the administration of the Historic Sites, Buildings, and Antiquities Act.

Who are these people? Here’s the link. It’s gratifying to see that most of them are women.

Knowles told The Washington Post that the board, despite being required to meet twice a year, has not convened since President Trump took office. Knowles said members understood that the Trump administration would name its own board members. Still, he said the resignees were not consulted on recent decisions to increase visitor fees and to reverse a ban on plastic water bottles in the park system.

Water bottles? Now there’s a sound environmental idea reversed by Sec. Zinke.

As for the government shutdown, I now read that national parks will stay open. There just won’t be any park personnel, just concessions. See the Washington Post.

Too bad that here in the Southeast, it’s so icy and cold that few visitors will venture into Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The Blue Ridge Parkway is closed because of the weather. But otherwise, I would love to see what happens without park rangers.

New Year’s Letter to my Congressional Representative

Instead of advertising my outdoor goals on my blog, I think it more appropriate to introduce myself to Mark Meadows, my new Congressional Representative.

Rep. Mark Meadows
North Carolina 11th District
2334 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Mr. Meadows:
I just moved to West Asheville from North Asheville, so I’m now in the 11th district – your district.

My parents didn’t take me to national parks when I was young. But I made up for it as an adult, going to parks on vacation, taking our son and now our grandchildren to parks. I don’t own any land. I share our parks, forests, and trails with all Americans; we’re all owners. I have more chance to pass on the battlefields, forts, and trails to my grandchildren than if I had acres of private land, tied up in deeds, trusts, taxes, and lawyers. The Smokies and the Blue Ridge Parkway are mine and I don’t even have to mow the lawn. I own the paths, creeks, waterfalls, and historic structures.

I am very concerned about funding for the National Park Service. In North Carolina, we have nine national park units. Three of them are in your district or very close: Blue Ridge Parkway, Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site, and Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Visitors flock to national parks, yet, the proposed budget for FY18 is only 2.55 billion dollars.

a. This is a 13 percent cut to the Park Service, the largest cut to the agency since World War II, if enacted. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke’s budget would decrease funding for deferred maintenance, which the Smokies needs desperately.

b. The NPS would have to cut 1,242 in staff, or 6 percent, compared to last year. I am particularly concerned about cutting the number of national park rangers. Volunteers make an important contribution to parks. However, visitors want to see green and gray uniformed rangers who understand the park – its history, legacy and hiking trails.

c. A year into the Trump administration and we don’t yet have a director for the National Park Service.

d. And Secretary wants to raise the admission fees to large national parks.

So, please, Rep. Meadows, fund our national parks properly and work on a real budget.