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Shut down fascism wins in the Smoky Mountains

See my October 3, 2013 update here.

The veterans in DC might be keeping the World War II memorial open by defying the Obama administration, but here in the Smoky Mountains the National Park Service has apparently succeeded in shutting down most access to Great Smoky National Park.

In my post yesterday I described how the park service appeared to be setting up barricades at the various lookouts, parking pull-outs, and trailheads along New Found Gap Road — a public highway through the park which they cannot close — in order to prevent access to the park. Such barricades are inappropriate, unnecessary, and are certainly being done for political reasons. The Obama administration is trying to pressure the Republicans to fold in the budget battle by hurting the American public. By blocking access to these pull-outs the administration is increasing the risks to hikers still in the park and to drivers on the road while damaging the local economy.

Today we drove back up to New Found Gap to see how things were developing and found that my suspicions were correct. While yesterday many of the major trailhead pull-outs were not yet blocked, this evening they all were. As we drove past the New Found Gap parking lot the barricades had been moved into place, preventing our entrance. I also noticed some cars trapped in the lot, as well as some people by the barricades. When I had turned around and returned, I found that a wide enough section of the barricade had been shifted, allowing me to pull into the lot. I immediately drove up to two guys standing by their car to ask them what had happened.

It appears they had come up in the morning and parked at the lot. At the time it was filled with cars and the barricades were not yet in place. They then went on a hike on the Appalachian trail on the section that parallels the closed road that leads to the Clingman Dome viewpoint. During their hike they spotted a park ranger who appeared to be patrolling that closed road to stop tourists from hiking up the road to Clingman’s Dome. Out of fear they hid from him.

When they got back to the parking lot the barricades were in place, blocking them in. There was a note on their car, providing them instructions for calling for aid. One the hikers instead went out to the road and was able to flag down some help. He and several others were able to physically manhandle part of the barricade out of the way (which is what I had seen when I had first driven by). He and his friend were now packing up, getting ready to leave.

They were also both pissed off. “This park is supposed to belong to us all,” said one. However, when I suggested we go over to the barricades now and pull them even further open, both demurred. “It’s been a long day and we are tired.”

I expect that by tomorrow these trails will all be deserted, and the park service will have successfully sealed access. Unfortunately, it does not appear that anyone here is willing to push back against the Obama administration. In news reports and talking to people in nearby Gatlinburg, my impression is that everyone has accepted the closure. Moreover, why haven’t the local state governments stepped in and forced these pull-outs open? The road is public. They have jurisdiction as well as the resources to overwhelm the park service and keep access to these trailheads and the park open.

This is exactly what Republican Governor Scott Walker in Wisconsin has done.

The state Department of Natural Resources on Wednesday refused a directive from the National Park Service to close a host of popular state properties because of the federal government shutdown. The park service ordered state officials to close the northern unit of the Kettle Moraine, Devils Lake, and Interstate state parks and the state-owned portion of the Horicon Marsh, but state authorities rebuffed the request because the lion’s share of the funding came from state, not federal coffers. State officials opted to keep public lands open…. The agency also reopened a boat launch Wednesday at Wyalusing State Park on the Mississippi River. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service closed the launch on Tuesday because it was on federal land. But in a sign of defiance, the DNR removed the barricades at the landing, saying it had the legal authority to operate the launch under a 1961 agreement with the federal government. [emphasis mine]

The closure in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is doing great harm to the tourist business in Tennessee and North Carolina. It seems the governors of those states should be moving forward to help their citizens, rather than cooperating with the Obama administration’s efforts to punish them.

Meanwhile, I have been forced to make a personal strategic decision, mostly for my family. We had planned on Thursday to push the cones out of the way and go hiking on one of these trails. However, there are barricades, not cones, now at these trailheads. My wife is understandably worried that our car might get towed, or blocked in, because of this.

So, we still plan to hike in Great Smoky National Park, but we have chosen a trail where we can park outside the park on private land and then hike into the park. We intend to defy any ranger we meet who tries to stop us, but by not putting a vehicle in a vulnerable position under their control, we give them less power over us in such circumstances.

Finally, I want to make one more point. This is the United States of America, supposedly “the land of the free and the home of the brave.” Yet, in my essay above I describe how American citizens are either hiding from or protecting themselves from agents of our government, even though they have done nothing wrong. When I was growing up such behavior was unthinkable. Not only was no one afraid of the federal government, if a federal agent or federal elected official tried to impose such restrictions on Americans they knew they would be in big trouble, almost instantly. Thus, they were very careful to respect the rights of the citizens, and such oppressive behavior was rare.

Today, however, such behavior is becoming common. And it carries no bad consequences for the government and officials who do it. One would think this was the Soviet Union, not America.

We should all be ashamed. And we should all be enraged at President Obama for encouraging this to happen.

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  • wodun

    Under Obama’s new civility policies, only OWS is allowed to occupy public lands.

  • Matt Ponas

    This BULLSH*T need to STOP and WE THE PEOPLE need to fight this!!! I’m READY are you???


    Matt Ponas

  • D. K. Williams

    Let me know if you make it down to Spartanburg, Bob.

  • The NPS has ordered private concessions to shut down including the Blue Ridge Lodge. Who owns the parks?

  • Jack

    Welcome to the Fascist States of America. Heil Obama.

  • David Hollick

    Your blog, and this article specifically, was quoted in an American Thinker article today. See:

  • Destroy the barricades and throw them into the abyss. Respond to violence with violence.

  • Dave

    Maybe we need to start “Occupy Our Streets”

  • ThomasD

    Petty, vindictive, arrogant and entirely un-American. An insult and affront to the people.

    IOW par for the course with Obama.

    I am torn between anger and pity towards the apparatchiks and government drones who are participating in this fascist farce. I will never look at NPS personnel the same, this is a stain that cannot be erased.

    Anyone else did this sort of stuff and the Knee Pad Media would be running it 24/7.

  • hadEnough

    ‘I was just following orders.’ The Federal employees that are implementing these thuggish policies are now all suspect. If there were a Patriot left among them, he would refuse to carry out these acts of aggresion. It’s clear: there isn’t.
    Quietly go about identifying these people that live in your neighborhoods. They’ve already identified you (and your associations, travel patterns, firearm ownership, and soon to be medical records), turnabout is fair play. If they complacently agree to turn the screws on us, we should have the ability to return the favor.

  • FYI: The NPS (National Park Service) is the federal department that gave final approval to the construction of a giant Mihrab that covers the entire area in Shanksville, PA where Flight 93 crashed.

  • askeptic

    Crap such as this is why Nye County NV arrested and jailed Fed agents (BLM, IIR) for closing local roads preventing people from traversing Federal land to get from one part of the county to another.

    I would be very surprised if these Barrycades survive the week intact.

  • wodun

    I will never forgove the parks department for willingly participating in these partisan political theatrics.

  • Hi Dave,

    Diane saw your facebook post, while we were hiking “illegally” in the Smokies today, and I read it. (We both thought it was quite cool that we were able to do this, while hiking.) The author gave me a nice plug, even as she used my images (which I absolutely don’t mind).

    See you tomorrow!

  • RebeccaH

    Americans! Stop being afraid of this tinpot dictatorial regime. If you want to go to a national park (which belongs to you, by the way), pull the damn barricades down. This fascist regime can stop a few people if only a few people try, but we are millions. They cannot stop us all, and wouldn’t even dare try in our numbers.

  • Brent C

    Mr. Zimmerman, could you please provide some clues as to the trails that are accessible from parking lots not on the national park land. My family and I are traveling to the area next week to see OUR park and would like to exercise our right to take back our park.

    Best regards.

  • Go to my website and click on what is presently the first post, Freeing the Smoky Mountains. It describes where we specifically went today, and why you almost certainly can hike there next week. There are at least two good hikes from this trailhead, which is called the Maddron Bald trailhead.

    There are probably other trailheads as well that can be accessed from outside the park. I am not familiar enough with the park to describe them. I would much rather large numbers of people started arriving at the barricaded trailheads and moved the barricades instead. We shouldn’t be making this easy for the park service.


    Ben Franklin said: “Opposition to Tyranny is Obedience to God”

  • JJ

    Thank you for your reporting from in the field. It’s hard to be everywhere documenting all these violations of the Antideficiency Act. Hope you had a great hike!

  • richard40

    The really insane part of this it that in most instances it cost way more to put up the barricades, than it would have to just put up signs saying that due to sequester cutbacks, the park maintenance and personell may not be up to usual standards, and visitors shuld be prepared accordingly. That would have been honest, but instead obama spent more money, in effect wasted money, to purposely make things look worse. A completely cynical and dishonest publicity stunt by obama, and he should be punished accordingly.

  • joe

    You are correct, they went way out of their way to put pain upon U.S. citizens!

  • Amanda

    People have the right to gather peacefully so lets all go protest .. Get as many people as possible and stand up for our”public land “

  • This is truly a crime against the American public. I personally had plans to go to the Smoky Mountains next week but I guess I’ll settle for a Kentucky State Park instead. As far as the money to shut the parks down go Obama can come up with money for whatever he decides to do. I feel like I live in Nazi Germany not the United States of America.

  • Thank you all for your info.

  • John

    I agree with the post in that civil disobedience is required here. You are wrong, however, to blame Obama. Last time I checked it was the republicans who shut down the government because they didn’t get their way over something. That is what folks need to direct their outrage. Obama didn’t shut it down. House republicans did because the house, senate and Supreme court Ok’d something they didn’t like. Democracy worked but not to their advantage this time. So they are taking their ball and going home. As a result, the Smokies is closed.

  • You are being partisan. Both parties in Congress participated in the creating the shutdown. However, the decision to close open-air memorials and trailheads in national parks (that are normally unstaffed) was completely Obama’s. The decision to force people out of their own homes, just because they lease the land from the federal government, was completely Obama’s. The decision to try to close the ocean to fisherman was completely Obama’s. The decision to shut down private restaurants that get no federal funds was completely Obama’s. The decision to try to blockade Mt. Vernon, which isn’t even owned by the federal government and gets no federal funds, was completely Obama’s

    I could go on. The point is that all of these obscene closures were unnecessary, had never occurred during previous government shutdowns, and are entirely the decision of the executive branch of government. Obama had a choice. He could have tried to minimize the consequences of the shutdown for the benefit of his employers, the American people, or he could make things hell for as many citizens as possible, in a vindictive attempt punish those who disagreed with him. He chose the latter.

  • Cathy

    Sounds like someone needs to start a park n ride service to trails.

  • Tim

    Dude, they are not going to keep me out. I visit the park in the best way … by boat. They certainly don’t have the personnel to patrol every nook and cranny of the 30 mile north shore of Fontana. And who is going to stop through hikers from going in at night?


    I’m a federal tax payer. I own this park.

  • Former Republican

    Well said. I haven’t agreed with the President on everything, but I cannot objectively put the blame for this mess on him. The supposedly “clean” CR isn’t completely clean. It contains the same sequester level spending cuts from the prior budget. Republicans should take that as a victory, because it is. They need to reopen the government and raise the debt limit, both routine actions that should have no attachments. I’ll probably get flamed from the tinfoil hat crowd, but that’s expected. They love to rant about their Obama conspiracies.

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