Despite states being allowed to reopen national parks if the states fund them, the federal government has banned Maine from reopening its Cobscook Bay State Park.
Cobscook is maintained and staffed by the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry’s Bureau of Parks and Lands. While the park is on federally owned lands, the money to run the park comes from Maine taxpayers.
“This is the type of punitive, arbitrary decision that defies logic and common sense,” Gov. Paul R. LePage said. “Maine people are pragmatic, hardworking problem solvers that expect leaders to work together to find solutions even when they disagree.”
After state outcries over the closing of national parks that are funded by state taxpayers, the Interior Department said it would reopen the parks if the states funded the National Park Service personnel who had been furloughed during the partial government shutdown.
But on Friday, the regional director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service told Maine it could not reopen Cobscook. The only reason for the park’s closure seems to be that it is on federal land, which has angered Maine politicians.
“There is no reason for this park to be closed, particularly this time of year,” Republican State Sen. David Burns said. “Visitors from all over the country come here in the fall to see the foliage and sample life in this beautiful part of the state, and they’re being deprived of that because of what’s happening thousands of miles away in Washington, D.C. It costs the federal government nothing to keep this park open.”
In addition to the park, a boat ramp with access to Cobscook Bay located in the park has also been shut down, meaning fishermen in the area have been unable to use the ramp and do their jobs.
“Our local communities are being punished due to chaos at the federal level,” Republican State Rep. Larry Lockman said. “Closing a state-run boat ramp in rural Maine to block commercial fishermen who depend on its access for their livelihood is petty and vindictive.”
The boat ramp is used by area fisherman to harvest shellfish before winter, and not being able to access this ramp is hurting families and the local economy.
After the fishermen pushed back, the Maine Department of Marine Resources agreed last week to keep the ramp open. On Monday, however, wooden sawhorses were set up in front of the dock blocking access, according to The Maine Wire, the blog of the conservative Maine Heritage Policy Center.
Fishermen in the area removed the barricades and returned to work, but later in the day found the barricades had been restored with a note warning them that if the barricades were removed again, the federal government would put up cement blockades.
Other national parks, including the Grand Canyon, were allowed to reopen at state expense, yet Maine was told it could not reopen Cobscook.
The Grand Canyon is also federal land, so it appears the federal government is again picking winners and losers in the shutdown battle. Why Maine’s Cobscook park was designated a loser is anyone’s guess.
The story is similar to that of the Lake Mead, Nev., residents who were kicked out of their homes due to the shutdown because their homes sat on federal land.
The House of Representatives will hold a hearing Wednesday on the National Park Service’s handling of the government shutdown.
Gov. LePage’s office did not return a request for further information regarding the federal government’s reason for keeping Cobscook closed.