The National Park Service has closed privately run marinas, restaurants and inns throughout the country and in some cases even posted guards to keep people from using them during the government shutdown, arguing that it doesn’t have the money, manpower or authority to let them operate.
But the moves, which likely have thrown thousands of people out of work, are drawing scrutiny from Congress and don’t rest well with many voters who believe the administration is making the effects of the shutdown worse than necessary.
On Friday, the Pisgah Inn on the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina decided it would buck the Park Service’s order and remain open — only to find park rangers come and block the driveway to the inn to prevent anyone from entering. The parkway itself remained open, but the administration said all concessions in national parks must shut.
“I’m questioning their authority to shut me,” Pisgah Inn owner Bruce O'Connell told The Washington Times on Friday as he fought to stay open.
Several congressional committees have said they would look into the Park Service’s decisions, accusing the Obama administration of trying to make the shutdown as painful as possible for Americans.
In the meantime, Americans across the country have embraced the chance to flout the closures as a defiant act of civil disobedience.
The Internet has been flooded with photos of people going around traffic cones and vehicle barricades to get to parking lots, bicycle paths and hiking trails.
Still, campgrounds, ski areas and basic services have been closed at all parks, the monuments the Park Service runs in Washington have been barricaded, and rangers are doing their best to keep folks away.
In Philadelphia, the park closures have shuttered the City Tavern.
On Cape Cod, the Nauset Knoll Motor Lodge is closed.
But not all private companies on park land have been shut down. Two high-profile places in San Francisco, the Argonaut Hotel in San Francisco Maritime National Park and Cavallo Point, a luxury hotel in Golden Gate National Park, are open.
The Park Service says those are operating under lease agreements rather than as concessions, which means they are allowed to stay open.
“Concessions operations are required to close; leases are permitted to remain open,” Mike Litterst, a spokesman for the parks, said in an email to The Washington Times.
The discrepancies are difficult for some to understand.
One man wondered why Skyline Drive, the road running through Shenandoah National Park, was closed but the Blue Ridge Parkway remained open.