Claude Moore Colonial Farm is a living history, family-friendly site that, according to 1771.org, “authentically portrays the life of an 18th Century American family building a life on the nearer edges of civilized society.” It is also the only National Park in the country run by a non-profit organization. Yet, even this privately funded space, which has not received a penny from the Federal government since 1980, was not safe from Monday's shutdown.
Anna Eberly, the Managing Director of Claude Moore Colonial Farm, told supporters via email today what she thought about the closure,
For the first time in 40 years, the National Park Service (NPS) has finally succeeded in closing the Farm down to the public. In previous budget dramas, the Farm has always been exempted since the NPS provides no staff or resources to operate the Farm. We weren't even informed of this until mid-day Monday in spite of their managers having our email addresses and cell numbers.
The first casualty of this arbitrary action was the McLean Chamber of Commerce who were having a large annual event at the Pavilions on Tuesday evening. The NPS sent the Park Police over to remove the Pavilions staff and Chamber volunteers from the property while they were trying to set up for their event. Fortunately, the Chamber has friends and they were able to move to another location and salvage what was left of their party. You do have to wonder about the wisdom of an organization that would use staff they don't have the money to pay to evict visitors from a park site that operates without costing them any money.
In The Washington Post, NPS spokeswoman Carol Bradley Johnson claimed the agency is concerned about the security of the memorials and the safety of visitors at unstaffed sites. "It is not something we enjoy doing," Johnson said. "But it's important that we protect and preserve our monuments for future generations."
What utter crap. We have operated the Farm successfully for 32 years after the NPS cut the Farm from its budget in 1980 and are fully staffed and prepared to open today. But there are barricades at the Pavilions and entrance to the Farm. And if you were to park on the grass and visit on your own, you run the risk of being arrested. Of course, that will cost the NPS staff salaries to police the Farm against intruders while leaving it open will cost them nothing.
… In all the years I have worked with the National Park Service, first as a volunteer for 6 years in Richmond where I grew up, then as an NPS employee at the for 8 very long years and now enjoyably as managing director for the last 32 years - I have never worked with a more arrogant, arbitrary and vindictive group representing the NPS.
Eberly goes on to say that the NPS has denied each appeal they’ve made to reopen the farm, making her wonder if it’s really all about control.
I can’t help but wonder the same thing. Does the government really feel threatened by a farm that allows parents and children to experience the “struggle that balances the hopes, harrows and hard work of a colonial family with the dynamic character and rich diversity of the surrounding community?”
Perhaps the NPS is uncomfortable with the farm’s independence, which has allowed the latter to excel despite the federal government halting its funding over 30 years ago. The recent closure perhaps just confirms how much of a nuisance the park is to the NPS -- and that’s not a bad thing.
Families may have to find “dynamic character” and “rich diversity” elsewhere for a few weeks, but the Claude Moore Colonial Farm’s bold, independent spirit suggests they won’t be grounded for long.