Closing America’s treasures

The National Park Service announced last week that more than 273.6 million visits were made to America’ national parks in 2013, a drop of 3 percent from the previous year.

We’re more than a little irritated that of the 9.1 million reduction in visits, as many as 7.88 million visitors were turned away during the two week-long government shutdown in October. What concerns us the most is that there is no reason the national parks had to be closed during the government shutdown, which turned into nothing more than an opportunity for political grandstanding and partisan obstinence. Remember the images of security guards trying unsuccessfully to keep a group of military veterans out of a national site? A sad sight to be sure, and it was just one of many incidents that didn’t have to happen.

Knowing full well the fallout would be swift and loud, the Obama administration nonetheless unnecessarily shuttered many national parks, historic sites and recreation areas that make up the National park System. Not only did the closures keep the public from visiting sites, the 16-day shutdown also had an enormous negative impact on local businesses and communities near national parks that rely on income from visitors.

And despite claims from the administration, the closures did not have to happen. In the end, the ill-conceived government shutdown ended, and everyone went back to their business. But those who were turned away from national sites should remember who made the decision to close some of America’s treasures.