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Shut down fascism in the Smoky Mountains

See my October 2, 2013 update here.

Today, October 1, 2013, my wife Diane and I went hiking in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. We did this despite the news from Washington that the federal government had shut down due to the lack of a funding from Congress and that all the national parks were closed.

The news reports had said that the National Park Service would close all roads into the park except for New Found Gap Road, the one road that crossed over the mountains from Tennessee to North Carolina. They couldn’t close this road because it was a main thoroughfare used by the public for basic transportation. Moreover, my research into the hikes we wished to do told me that several of those hikes originated on trailheads along this road. In traveling the road the day before, we had seen that these trailheads would not only be difficult to close, it would be dangerous and stupid to close them. For one, the road was windy and narrow. If there was a car accident or someone had car problems, any one of these parking areas might be essential for the use of the driver as well as local police and ambulances. For another, there are people still backpacking in the mountains who will at some point need to either exit with their cars or be picked up at these trailheads. Closing the trailheads will strand these hikers in the park, with dangerous consequences.

So, despite the shutdown, off we went to hike the Appalachian Trail, going to a well known lookout called the Jump Off, an easy 6.5 mile hike that leaves from the parking area at New Found Gap, the highest point on New Found Gap Road that is also on the border between Tennessee and North Carolina. It is also probably one of the most popular stopping points along the road, visited by practically every tourist as they drive across.
Smokies from the Appalachian trail

The hike itself was beautiful, if a bit foggy and damp. The picture above shows one of the clearest views we had all day. Nor were we alone on this hike. We probably saw one to two dozen other hikers, heading out to either the Jump Off or Charles Bunion (another well known day hike destination along this section of trail).

Trailhead parking at New Found Gap, before and after the shutdown

When we got back to the parking lot, I took some additional pictures. It seemed to me that something had changed since the day before. If you look at the image on the left, which compares an image taken on September 30 at the top with a comparable image taken on October 1, you will notice the appearance of orange barricades close to the lot’s entrance and exit. These barricades had appeared either while we were hiking or during the night. Moreover, as we drove down the mountain we then noticed that many of the pull offs and trailhead parking lots now had orange cones blocking access, even in cases where there were many cars parked there. We also saw several trucks and workers with more cones, placing them in several additional lots.

It is obvious that the Park Service intends to block access to these trailheads, even though it literally costs them nothing to leave them open and by closing them they actually increase the possibility of serious problems for drivers on the road and hikers still in the park. In fact, it is costing them money they don’t have trying to block access.

To block access is thus a deliberate, senseless, and mean-spirited act that demonstrates quite clearly the political goals of the Obama administration during this shutdown. The administration has decided it will use its power to do as much harm as possible to the American people as it can, with the hope that this harm will cause the public to rise up and throw the Republicans out for refusing to pass the budget that Obama wanted and demanded. By limiting access to the park, the administration will also cause harm to the thriving businesses just outside the park that depend on the tourism trade.

Further proof of this vicious and fascist political strategy by the Obama administration could also be seen in Washington, DC., where the park service put up barricades to try to block access to the World War II memorial, despite the fact that it is an open-air monument that is unmanned by any park service staff. Before the shutdown the memorial cost the park service nothing. After the shutdown it is costing them a lot to try to keep people out. When a large group of veterans, many in wheelchairs, arrived today to visit the memorial, however, they decided to tell the park service what they thought of this policy, and tore the barricades down.

More Americans have to follow the lead of these veterans. The time has come for some courageous defiance by everyone. For example, we plan to go hiking one more time while we are here, on Thursday. If the shutdown is still in place, I intend to remove those cones and park my car and go hiking. Since a park ranger has already told me they will not be providing any service in the park, what will they do? They won’t be there to stop us.

Nor should I be alone in this. For example, I wonder why the governors of Tennessee and North Carolina are not defiantly announcing that they intend to use the police to remove the cones themselves, to make sure the trailheads along this major road remain open, for both safety and the economic health of their states. What will the National Park Service do, arrest the governors and the police? As I said, they won’t be there.

One last point. The New Found Gap parking lot has a epic and large stone platform at one end, built back when the park was first dedicated. It is from the top of this platform that I took the images of the parking area above. Prominently displayed on the wall of this platform is a plaque, with the following words (see image below):

For the permanent enjoyment of the people
this park was given
one half by the peoples and states
of North Carolina and Tennessee
and by the United States of America
and one half in memory of
Laura Spelman Rockefeller by the
Laura Spelman Rockefeller Memorial
founded by her husband
John D. Rockefeller. [emphasis in original]

“For the permanent enjoyment of the people.” Hollow words indeed. If the National Park Service and the Obama administration tries to deny Americans the right to enjoy these parks, even when there is absolutely no justifiable reason for doing so, they will prove to all that they don’t maintain the parks for the American people, but for the sole benefit and power of the Park Service and the federal government.

The only way to give these words their true meaning and stop this grab for power is to make sure the Park Service and the Obama administration fail in they attempt to hijack what belongs to the people. The people have to not only demand access, they have to refuse to obey the attempt to shut them out.

Dedication plaque at New Found Gap

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  • Great article. These lands belong to We the People, not the bureaucrats.

  • wodun

    Instead of just not updating, they took the site offline. They are going out of their way to block access things that would run just fine during the government shutdown.

  • Someone on NSF suggested that they were doing this for “cybersecurity reasons” .. I did a little investigating, the sites are still there.. some urls even still work.. they’ve just put in the most trivial blocks to prevent the site from being accessed. To call it an application firewall would be giving it too much credit.

  • Al

    The Federal Government is under the mistaken impression that they own the Country and that they can grant us the right to use it at their convenience. It’s time the taxpayers let these thugs know who’s really in charge.

    Another thing I found interesting is they shut down the Panda Cam at the National Zoo because they didn’t have the staff to operate it. Really? There are thousands of web cams running all over the world and the only ‘operating’ they require is to be turned on and occasionally rebooted if one glitches. Why do they need a staff to operate the cam? I’d be curious as to how many people it takes to operate this and would suggest this as the first place to start cutting.

  • Jwing

    I’ve hiked this section of the AT and it is absolutely gorgeous, especially in the Fall. Enjoy, in spite of Obama. What hubris…he thinks he can shut sown nature. What an a$$!

    Almost finished reading your book, Genesis…The Story of Apollo 8.


  • Dean

    Parks are being closed, sort of. Untill the funding is straight there will be no: Trash pickup, Rest room/toilet, etc. While You and I might be “nice folks” and not crap in the parking lot or leave trash, there are a lot of people who would.
    Nasa web sites are being shut down because, among other reasons Nasa gets more cyber attacker per day than any other dot gov site. Yes its trivial blocking at best at a surface glance, but much of the systems with data are down (2/3??). People could only do so much in 4 hours.

  • Pzatchok

    If it gets bad enough at the parks with garbage the locals will band together and clean it up.

    Scouts and other civic groups are just begging for a reason to take a nice hike for the day.

    What a way for the local Republican party and Tea Party groups to make a nice impression.

  • Pzatchok

    Hey thats a good idea.

    Contact your local Tea Party and Republican Party and give them the idea.

    They can make a press statement that any public park that starts to get garbage filled up and they will try their best to clean it up.

    Make the local Gov workers and Dem partys all ticked off and up in a dither.

  • wodun

    Interesting. So it is all theatre. Thanks for the info Trent.

  • RS

    I’d be interested to know what they’re doing on U.S. 191 which runs along the west side of Yellowstone. The parking areas are outside the park, i.e. Fan Creek, but the trails start on the east side of the highway. I’ve heard of no attempt to shut down National Forest land or campgrounds.

  • Robert

    • Go anyway.
    • Ignore/remove their stupid cones.
    • Enjoy the trails.
    • Leave only footprints.

    In short, act like any sensible American citizen. None of us needs the feds’ permission to use parks.

  • Protecting their own little fiefdom acting for the benefit of Party over the benefit of public. Party of public. This is why they are corrupted, this is why they are not trusted.

  • Party over public, that is why they are not trusted.

  • mbecker908

    The Republican Party should be at every park entrance with people to register new voters.

  • AnnaD

    Storm the barricades and show these bums that we own the land; the do not! Obama and his minions are small, mean, despicable people who would be ashamed of their behavior if they had any scruples at all.

  • Fustigator

    Hey maybe National Park Service rather than blocking access should put up temporary signs that people need to pack out all trash and waste….just like when you camp in the rest of the national forest all across this country. Are there going to be some dumbasses who dont?….sure same as now. But, I know every time I camp, I bring back more trash than what I generated.

    I’m all for the NPS spending the money and effort to promote personal responsibility but not waste effort/money on blocking access. With all this happy talk about community service, now would be the time for people to step up and handle it ourselves rather than paying for a big, bloated bureaucracy to handle it.

  • There are always totalitarian apologists anxious to lick the boot that kicks them. I suggest you visit an orthopedist and see what is wrong with your spine.

  • Ken

    Oh come on, Al – if it involves the federal gov’t, it probably has a panda director, panda producer, panda makeup artist, panda stunt double, panda stand in, animatronic panda for when the real panda needs a break, panda food service, etc. You get the picture! :)

  • phreshone

    The proles must not be allowed to believe they can survive without their government

  • Bandb

    Our local middle school has a trip to Tremont in the Smokies coming up on Monday. About 100 fifth and sixth graders are going to get their first taste of big government.

  • FastTalker

    Was in The Great Smoky Mountain National Park last Wednesday with my child’s third grade class. We picnicked and learned about nature at Metcalf Bottoms, taking a hike, and enjoying our beautiful park. The last question asked by a Park Ranger (who did a great job with the students, by the way) was “Who does this park, and all National Parks, belong to?” After a few tries answering the question, the class settled on US, you and me. We own the park. We need to care for the park. It belongs to all of us.

    Someone needs to tell Harry Reid and Obama. It is not theirs to close.

    Keep the faith.

  • Emil Blatz

    I was heading to Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield for some hiking at the time of the 1995 shutdown (when Bill met Monica) and park rangers were blocking access to the parking areas. So, we just parked about half a mile away and hoofed it. All over Kenensaw Mountain. That park/battlefield/monument has an extremely long perimeter, it would probably take 10,000 rangers to effectively seal it off. That was stupid, what Obama is doing now is stupid.

  • Tom

    Come on NPS- you are one of the few non-political government agencies left. People actually want you and do not mind paying fees for the services you offer. Don’t go down this road!

  • ThomasD

    The National Parks are non-political, most everyone appreciates them. Ditto for the concessionaires that run most of the major amenities. The National Park Service? No, they are as politicized as any other Federal agency.

  • ThomasD

    This type of behavior by the Feds makes me start to think that the people might be better served if the individual States simply reclaimed their land. The Smokies could easily become a joint NC/TN venture much like The Breaks is between KY and VA.

  • Sarahartburn

    How about closing golf courses during the shutdown? Bet that would put a hitch in someone’s giddy-up!

  • Such B.S. — the trails and trailheads at Stone Church trails in Wayne National Forest are largely maintained by volunteers anyway.

    I think what people ought to take away from this shutdown is “Hey, guess what, federal government? You shutdown and all of a sudden we realized we don’t need you.”

  • Lois Johnson

    Good idea!

  • Lois Johnson

    Another good idea!

  • No RNC

    Time to thin the herd of NPS hack employees. Fire 90% and replace the other 10%. Tyranny must not be obeyed!

  • Diane Becton

    Absolutely will not comply with this shut down. My taxes pay for a portion of the park and I will do my October hiking just as I planned in a few weeks, shut down or not. There are may back roads that give access to the park via Townsend or Cosby, or even Gatlinburg. Good luck stopping me Obama. Ain’t happening! I love MY Smoky’s and stupid government temper tantrums from either side will not keep me way. ;0)

  • Jay Walker

    There were tons of people at Newfound Gap last Sunday. There was an orange barrel at the trailhead with a sign indicating the park was closed beyond that point. The sign also said emergency response could be delayed. I took that to mean “hike at your own risk” and that’s what we did. We enjoyed our hike to Charlie’s Bunion. But it was disgusting to see the other trailheads and parking lots barricaded. In 1940 FDR dedicated the park to the “Free people of America.” It belongs to us.

  • Jay,

    If you took any pictures of the New Found Gap trailhead parking, I would love to see it and even post it here. Your comment suggests that the barricades I saw last week are now gone, which means the park service has retreated, probably due to the number of people who kept removing the barricades that were there.

  • Jay Walker

    I didn’t take any pictures of the parking lot, but I don’t recall seeing any barricades there. If they were, they were not blocking access to the parking lot. There weren’t many hikers on the AT, but dozens of tourists were going around the orange barrel and walking down the trail just to say they’ve been on it.

  • Former Republican

    No, of course it’s not theirs. However, administration and care of national parks fall under the federal government. This prevents idiots from trashing our national treasures. Geez, do you guys line your ridiculous little tri corner hats with tinfoil?

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