In an update on the plight of Claude Moore Colonial Farm, which has been closed by the partial government shutdown, Managing Director Anna Eberly says that the National Park Service barrycaded her and her staff inside the farm today. But then, suddenly, the rangers relented.
“We have good news for you at last!” Eberly says. “The NPS has reversed their decision to close the Farm and we will be open [Wednesday] as usual. You can now visit the 18th century Farm, come to the Book Shop tomorrow afternoon, participate in Farm Skills on Thursday and have picnics at The Pavilions again. And all of our volunteers are welcome to come back ‘home’.”
The Claude Moore Colonial Farm exists on federal land but has not received any federal funding for more than 30 years. It funds itself on its own activities. Octobers is its busiest month of the year, but the shutdown has rendered it closed for more than a week. The farm was open during all previous shutdowns, and needs no federal employees for staffing or any other service. It even depends on local police for security.
“Just this morning we received the final absolute NO from the Dept. of Interior and were told the Farm would not open until the shutdown ended. An hour later the Park Police showed up and closed and barricaded the office gates with us inside. This has been a very rough week and we are profoundly grateful that this is ending.”
But in a dramatic reversal, the National Park Service now says the farm can open.
“We have no idea why the NPS changed its mind but we are very pleased that they did and hope that every group trying to operate on Federal lands has the same happy outcome,” Eberly says. Eberly credits press coverage and an outpouring of support from private individuals for the NPS’ reversal. The threat of lawsuits challenging the NPS’ unprecedented, arbitrary and capricious behavior may have been a factor as well.
The Obama administration’s shutdown theater has largely backfired on the president and forever tarnished the image of the National Park Service. President Obama controls the executive branch agencies like the Department of the Interior, which controls the National Park Service. Obama’s approval rating has freefallen to 43% as his administration deployed the National Park Service to close not only the Claude Moore Colonial Farm, which has been self-sufficient since 1980, but also the Florida Bay, Mount Rushmore, unmanned scenic routes along thoroughfares, hundreds of privately managed parks and restaurants that pay into the Treasury, war memorials, briefly shut off the FBI’s Amber Alert website, and even cut off funding for death benefits for military families. The Obama administration also cut off sports broadcasts to military serving overseas, which are mostly handled by active duty military whose funding continued, and threatened to arrest contract priests who serve military chapels. All of these closures are unprecedented, and none of them were necessary to keep the partially shut down government going.
The week of closure has cost the Claude Moore Colonial Farm vital revenue, as it has cost all of the privately managed parks. Eberly writes that farm staff need help setting up for the Fall Market Fair, held on Oct. 19 & 20, to start making up for that lost revenue. If you are in the McLean, VA area and would like to help, you can email [email protected]