Heads-up, folks, the national parks are still closed. “America’s Best Idea”, as coined in a documentary of that name by Ken Burns, has been closed with a padlock and the key tossed away. Foreigners coming to experience these natural wonders get turned away without the slightest idea of the meaning of that phrase. It is quite an embarrassment for those who know what “America’s Best Idea” refers to.
The parks have been closed since Tuesday, October 1, 2013. It seems like people are beginning to get used to the idea. Nature-lovers find their escape outside of park boundaries, European tourists cancel their trips, and furloughed employees leave for a long-awaited vacation. Yet the parks are still closed and thousands of people are out of a job. Yellowstone alone has over a thousand employees who had been told to drop everything and wait for further instructions. Hotel and restaurant staff inside of and at the gateway to parks have been waiting for over seven days! Not to mention the financial losses these establishments must accrue.
There are those employees who are considered “essential” to the current situation and are therefore kept on duty during this time. They are the employees directly related to law enforcement and are instructed to keep any visitors out of their public lands. Anyone trespassing on these public properties is subject to a fine and even a warrant for arrest. Those stopping on highways crossing park boundaries, such as Hwy 190 going through Death Valley and Interstate 9 going through Zion National Park, are subject to traffic violations. These park rangers whose job it was to welcome visitors into these magical places are now being forced to kick visitors out. This is an unacceptable change!
It is impossible to convey the meaning of Ken Burns’ phrase in any piece of work, be it a newspaper article, a painting, or a documentary in high definition. An understanding of the reason that national parks are “America’s Best Idea” can only be achieved by an individual’s experience within the national parks. How can this be achieved if the parks are closed?