EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Opinion

October 2, 2013

Editorial: Monument, refuge closings insult public's intelligence

Whether or not one agrees with the political motives behind the federal budget stand-off, some aspects of the government “shutdown” are plainly ludicrous.

How else would one describe the shutdown mandated closure of the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge on nearby Plum Island? Do people really require federal supervision to observe birds among the dunes and stroll along the beach?

Apparently so. Visitors to the refuge yesterday found the gates closed and locked. Clearly, the closure was not necessary to prevent people from creating havoc within the refuge -- law enforcement patrols were still on duty.

Among those turned away from the refuge yesterday were students from the Newburyport-based River Valley Charter School. Some 15 middle school students were on a field trip to study erosion at Sandy Point, located at the southernmost tip of Plum Island.

To access Sandy Point, visitors must travel down a 6-mile road through the federal refuge. The refuge closure meant that access to the state park, which has about 50 parking spaces, was also closed.

Instead, the students headed north to the city-owned Plum Island Point and the lesson plan was adjusted, teacher Heather Reusse told the Daily News of Newburyport.

“It also turned into a bit of a civics lesson,” she said, as teachers tried to explain why the refuge was closed.

“There were a lot of questions about what a shutdown means,” she said.

Similar foolishness was on display throughout the nation as national parks and monuments were all closed. Americans, apparently, cannot be trusted to look at turning leaves, mountain vistas or war memorials without the protective hand of Uncle Sam firmly on their shoulders. To whom, after all, do these natural and man-made wonders belong -- the government or the people?

In Washington, some would have none of this nonsense. A group of veterans of the generation that stormed the beaches of Normandy was reduced to storming the gates of the monument erected in their honor.

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