94 House members charge Park Service is 'making up' rules to shut memorials

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Congress,Paul Bedard,Washington Secrets,House of Representatives,Government Shutdown,Veterans,National Park Service,National World War II Memorial,National Parks

The National Park Service’s closure of the World War II and other memorials violates rules requiring them to stay open, 94 House members charge in a letter to the agency.

Led by Michigan Republican Rep. Bill Huizenga, they claim that Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis is simply making up closure rules to punish the public during the government shutdown and they question the costs of the random closures in Washington where not all memorials are being closed.

"The National Park Service continues to act in an arbitrary and punitive manner to exclude veterans from memorials built in their honor and the American people from many of our country's national treasures. I have serious questions about the tactics and decisions being implemented by the National Park Service and clearly many of my colleagues do as well," said Huizenga.

"Director Jarvis cannot simply make up the rules as he goes along, which is one of the major reasons my colleagues and I sent this letter requesting concrete and definitive answers,” added Huizenga.

According to the National Parks Conservation Association, there are 401 U.S. parks closed as of Thursday, including the Mall in downtown Washington and nearby Shenandoah National Park.

The letter from nearly a quarter of the members of the House of Representatives cites the “contingency plan” used by the Park Service to determine memorial closings that they say clearly requires big memorials in urban areas to remain open.

“The National Park Service section of that plan clearly states that: ‘All concession operated services and facilities would be closed unless they are deemed essential for health and safety reasons, are needed to support on-going excepted NPS activities or are located in urban areas where ... full NPS law enforcement coverage is continued due to the inability to control visitor access,’” said the letter provided to Secrets.

“These urban, open-air memorials seem to be precisely the type of exception outlined in the department’s plan and, as such, should remain open to the public,” the 93 added.

Their letter, below, asks the Park Service to explain the policy and nudges the agency to keep them open, as many were during the last government shutdown.

October 9, 2013

Jonathan B. Jarvis

Director - National Park Service

U.S. Department of the Interior

1849 C St. NW

Washington D.C. 20240

Dear Director Jarvis:

As you are no doubt aware, the closure of select open-air monuments and park service units during the ongoing partial government shutdown has been a cause of great concern for the public.

In particular, the barricades erected around open-air sites like the World War II, Korean War, and Vietnam War memorials served to inconvenience countless veterans travelling to Washington, D.C. as part of honor flights from around the country.

It is our understanding that specific park closures were determined according to the Contingency Plan for Operations in the Absence of FY 2014 Appropriations dated September 26, 2013. The National Park Service section of that plan clearly states that:

All concession operated services and facilities would be closed unless they are deemed essential for health and safety reasons, are needed to support on-going excepted NPS activities or are located in urban areas where...full NPS law enforcement coverage is continued due to the inability to control visitor access.

These urban, open-air memorials seem to be precisely the type of exception outlined in the Department’s plan and, as such, should remain open to the public.

Due to the continued lack of consistent implementation of this plan, we would like a better understanding of the process that led to these decisions. Please respond to the following questions:

Multiple lower profile open-air memorials and areas remain open on the National Mall and around the National Capital Region. What factors were considered when the determination was made to close some areas, while leaving others open?

During the partial government shutdown of 1995 and 1996 the currently closed memorials on the National Mall remained open. What were the contributing factors to this change in NPS policy?

What is the cost to operate an open-air site such as the World War II Memorial on a typical day? How much is the National Park Service saving per day at that memorial by operating in its current “shutdown” posture?

What is the estimated total cost to install barricades and patrol the perimeter of each open-air memorial and area during the shutdown. What is the total cost to breakdown and remove all barricades once normal operations resume?

On multiple occasions since the shutdown began, members and staff have counted as many as seven NPS employees on-site at the World War II Memorial. How many NPS staff members are assigned to these memorials during a normal shift?

Initially, NPS logo signs were posted at each of the closed memorials indicating that the area was closed due to the government shutdown. On the second day of the shutdown the signs were removed and replaced with new, non-logo signs simply stating that “This site is closed”. Why were the original signs replaced and who requested the change? How much did it cost to remove and replace these signs?

We look forward to your response and stand ready to work with the National Park Service to ensure that the American people aren’t unnecessarily burdened during the ongoing federal government shutdown.

Thank you for your prompt attention to this urgent matter.

Sincerely,

Representative Bill Huizenga (MI-02)

Signatories

1. Rep. Lynn Jenkins (KS-02)

2. Rep. Jim Bridenstine (OK-01)

3. Rep. Stephen Fincher (TN-08)

4. Rep. Bob Gibbs (OH-07)

5. Rep. Jeff Duncan (SC-03)

6. Rep. Billy Long (MO-07)

7. Rep. Richard Nugent (FL-11)

8. Rep. Dan Benishek (MI-01)

9. Rep. Lee Terry (NE-02)

10. Rep. Kevin Cramer (ND)

11. Rep. Matt Salmon (AZ-05)

12. Rep. Doug LaMalfa (CA-01)

13. Rep. Jason Smith (MO-08)

14. Rep. Phil Gingrey (GA-11)

15. Rep. John Campbell (CA-45)

16. Rep. Tim Walberg (MI-07)

17. Rep. Michelle Bachmann (MN-06)

18. Rep. Steve Stivers (OH-15)

19. Rep. Keith Rothfus (PA-12)

20. Rep. Tim Griffin (AR-02)

21. Rep. Phil Roe (TN-01)

22. Rep. Bill Cassidy (LA-06)

23. Rep. Mark Sanford (SC-01)

24. Rep. Steve King (IA-04)

25. Rep. Doug Lamborn (CO-05)

26. Rep. Steve Stockman (TX-36)

27. Rep. David Valadao (CA-21)

28. Rep. Aaron Schock (IL-18)

29. Rep. Tom Petri (WI-06)

30. Rep. Alan Nunnelee (MS-01)

31. Rep. Bill Posey (FL-08)

32. Rep. Renee Ellmers (NC-02)

33. Rep. Justin Amash (MI-03)

34. Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (GA-03)

35. Rep. Spencer Bachus (AL-06)

36. Rep. Mike Kelly (PA-03)

37. Rep. Larry Bucshon (IN-8)

38. Rep. Joe Wilson (SC-02)

39. Rep. Robert Pittenger (NC-09)

40. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (FL-27)

41. Rep. Louie Gohmert (TX-01)

42. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann (TN-03)

43. Rep. Scott Garrett (NJ-05)

44. Rep. Bill Flores (TX-17)

45. Rep. Robert Latta (OH-05)

46. Rep. Vicky Hartzler (MO-4)

47. Rep. Jackie Walorski (IN-02)

48. Rep. Brad Wenstrup (OH-02)

49. Rep. Trent Franks (AZ-08)

50. Rep. Ted Poe (TX-02)

51. Rep. David McKinley (WV-01)

52. Rep. Mick Mulvaney (SC-05)

53. Rep. David Reichert (WA-08)

54. Rep. Tom McClintock (CA-04)

55. Rep. Paul Broun (GA-10)

56. Rep. Richard Hudson (NC-08)

57. Rep. Scott DesJarlais (TN-04)

58. Rep. Stevan Pearce (NM-02)

59. Rep. Jack Kingston (GA-01)

60. Rep. Jeff Miller (FL-01)

61. Rep. Kevin Yoder (KS-03)

62. Rep. Tom Cotton (AR-04)

63. Rep. Mac Thornberry (TX-13)

64. Rep. Steve Chabot (OH-01)

65. Rep. Joseph Pitts (PA-16)

66. Rep. Chris Stewart (UT-02)

67. Rep. Robert Aderholt (Al-04)

68. Rep. Randy Hultgren (IL-14)

69. Rep. Bob Goodlatte (VA-06)

70. Rep. David Joyce (OH-14)

71. Rep. Cynthia Lummis (WY)

72. Rep. Pete Olson (TX-22)

73. Rep. Tom Price (GA-06)

74. Rep. Randy Neugebauer (TX-19)

75. Rep. Andy Harris (MD-01)

76. Rep. Mike Conaway (TX-11)

77. Rep. Bill Johnson (OH-06)

78. Rep. Gregg Harper (MS-03)

79. Rep. Reid Ribble (WI-8)

80. Rep. Steve Daines (MT)

81. Rep. John Fleming (LA-04)

82. Rep. Scott Perry (PA-04)

83. Rep. Marlin Stutzman (IN-03)

84. Rep. Joe Barton (TX-06)

85. Rep. Cory Gardner (CO-04)

86. Rep. Todd Rokita (IN-04)

87. Rep. Randy Weber (TX-14)

88. Rep. Rodney Davis (IL-13)

89. Rep. Jon Runyan (NJ-03)

90. Rep. Mark Meadows (NC-11)

91. Rep. Andy Barr (KY-06)

92. Rep. Robert Hurt (VA-05)

93. Rep. Kerry Bentivolio (MI-11)

Paul Bedard, The Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at pbedard@washingtonexaminer.com.