Michael Litterst, a National Park Service spokesman, said the First Amendment exception applies only to several Washington and Philadelphia parks related to the government and its history, “due to these parks’ long history of hosting First Amendment events, their expansive outdoor grounds, and their location in major metropolitan areas.”
“You could not host a First Amendment rally at Chaco Culture, Grand Canyon, Manassas or any one of the 395 other parks where such activities are prohibited during the shutdown. They can be held only at the National Mall and Memorial Parks, the areas of the White House administered by the NPS, and Independence National Historical Park,” he said.
In some states, officials argue that the federal land management agencies are violating laws that guarantee access.
Private landowners and those holding concessions to run campgrounds or inns say they have been shut down, even though they use no federal funds and provide revenue to the government.
The owner of the Pisgah Inn along the Blue Ridge Parkway, who last week announced that he was defying the park service’s shutdown order, said it was a matter of principle.
“If not now, when? If not me, who?” Bruce O’Connell told The Washington Times.
Several congressional committees have announced that they would hold hearings about the Park Service’s decisions, which for many residents have called into question the extent of federal land ownership.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski, Alaska Republican, wondered aloud during one committee meeting this week whether Americans shouldn’t be trusted to clean up after themselves on what amounts to their own property.
“If that’s really a major part of the reason that the park service is not allowing access to these very open spaces, I think as Americans we can do a little better — we can figure out how we can take care of our treasures,” she said.
Volunteer trash man
One man, Chris Cox, has started doing that. The South Carolina resident came to Washington a week ago and began picking up trash and emptying garbage cans around the Lincoln Memorial. Then he went and bought a leaf blower and spent two days blowing debris off the trails, and on Wednesday he brought a lawn mower with him and started cutting the grass.
He said most of the Park Police he encountered gave him a thumbs-up, but one sergeant hassled him and ordered him not to pick up any more trash.
“I said I’m not here to make headlines; I’m here to prevent them,” Mr. Cox said, adding that he was afraid the U.S. would embarrass itself to the world if photos of a dirty monument ran in the papers.
“He said, ‘It doesn’t matter if there’s a picture — maybe it’ll help us, maybe it’ll help the government get back open.’”