Weir Farm Joins National Parks In Closing As Part Of Government Shutdown

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Kevin Monthie, facility manager at Weir Farm National Historic Site, puts up the closed sign across the driveway in front of the visitor center. Photo Credit: Karen Tensa
A closed sign is attached to the Adirondack-style picket fence near the J. Alden Weir house. Photo Credit: Karen Tensa
The driveway is closed off and the visitor center closed Tuesday. No flag is flying outside as usual. Photo Credit: Karen Tensa
A group of National Park Service workers close off a walkway near the main Weir house Tuesday. Photo Credit: Karen Tensa
A National Park Service employee pounds a sign post into the ground in preparation for closing Weir Farm on Tuesday. Photo Credit: Karen Tensa
A closed sign flaps in the breeze Tuesday. Photo Credit: Karen Tensa

WILTON/RIDGEFIELD, Conn. -- A photographer looking for some fall foliage to shoot and a painter using the landscape as an inspiration were among the disappointed visitors Tuesday at Weir Farm National Historic Site on the Wilton and Ridgefield border.

Weir Farm along with the 400 other National Parks officially closed as Congress continued to spar over spending and health care reforms.

A painter unloaded her canvas and all of her supplies only to put them all back into her trunk Tuesday morning. "It's just so sad," she said. "I just wanted a safe place to paint."

"I hadn't put one and one together," said Andy Romer, a professional photographer who lives just up the street from the park in Wilton. "I saw that Yellowstone was shutting down. I didn't think that Weir Farm was."

But the 60-acre property was shuttered to visitors as the rangers and other staffers arrived for a four-hour shift to close down the park Tuesday morning as the government powered down.

They put up closed signs -- laminated sheets of paper reading, "Because of the federal government shutdown, this National Park Facility is closed." Those notices now flap in the breeze on the ropes blocking the parking lot, the visitor center entrance and a number of trails. 

"We made eight closed signs," said Superintendent Linda Cook. "We put them up on the natural points of entry to the park -- the visitor center, the parking lot, the restroom."

One staffer changed the message on the phone to advise visitors that the park is closed and that all programs and tours are canceled.  

The park's staff, including the rangers, curator and gardener, is on furlough along with the workers doing rehabilitation work on the home of Julian Alden Weir and the two artists studios.  

The property may not be behind a barbed wire fence, but the grounds are off-limits to the public and parking is not allowed, Cook said.

As is the case for all parks, one staffer has been designated to keep the facility safe and is on hand in case of any problems.

Kevin Monthie, the supervisory facility operations specialist at Weir Farm, has that duty. As noon approached, he carried his lunch into the closed visitor center and put up the last of the closed signs.

"These things happen," Romer said good-naturedly as he headed for another spot for his picture-taking. "But I'm definitely disappointed." 

Hoping for a virtual visit to Weir Farm or one of the other National Parks? You're out of luck.  

Weir Farm's Twitter, ‏@WeirFarmNPS, carried the message: "Because of the federal gov't shutdown this National Park Service Twitter feed is inactive. We'll start tweeting again when we get back." Its Facebook page carried a similar message: "Because of the federal government shutdown this National Park Service Facebook page is inactive. We'll start the conversation again when we get back." 

The National Park Service's website is basically shut down, carrying the message: "Because of the federal government shutdown, all national parks are closed and National Park Service webpages are not operating. For more information, go to www.doi.gov."

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Comments (7)

evelyn h:

quote: the one place where a full-scale shutdown is being enforced is in America’s alleged “National Park Service,” a term of art that covers everything from canyons and glaciers to war memorials and historic taverns. The NPS has spent the last two weeks behaving as the paramilitary wing of the DNC, expending more resources in trying to close down open-air, unfenced areas than it would normally do in keeping them open. It began with the war memorials on the National Mall — that’s to say, stone monuments on pieces of grass under blue sky.

But it gets worse.

Not content with that, the NPS shock troops then moved on to insisting that privately run sites such as the Claude Moore Colonial Farm and privately owned sites such as Mount Vernon were also required to shut. When the Pisgah Inn on the Blue Ridge Parkway declined to comply with the government’s order to close (an entirely illegal order, by the way), the “shut down” Park Service sent armed agents and vehicles to blockade the hotel’s driveway.

Think that's bad? Read on.

..in South Dakota, having closed Mount Rushmore the NPS storm troopers additionally attempted to close the view of Mount Rushmore — that’s to say a stretch of the highway, where the shoulder widens and you can pull over and admire the stony visages of America’s presidents.

What happened in Yellowstone, though, is surreal. Like something from Cambodia during the Pol Pot years.

But perhaps the most extraordinary story to emerge from the NPS is that of the tour group of foreign seniors whose bus was trapped in Yellowstone Park on the day the shutdown began. They were pulled over photographing a herd of bison when an armed ranger informed them, with the insouciant ad-hoc unilateral lawmaking to which the armed bureaucrat is distressingly prone, that taking photographs counts as illegal “recreation.” “Sir, you are recreating,” the ranger informed the tour guide. And we can’t have that, can we? They were ordered back to the Old Faithful Inn, next to the geyser of the same name, but forbidden to leave said inn to look at said geyser. Armed rangers were posted at the doors, and, just in case one of the wily Japanese or Aussies managed to outwit his captors by escaping through one of the inn’s air ducts and down to the geyser, a fleet of NPS SUVs showed up every hour and a half throughout the day, ten minutes before Old Faithful was due to blow, to surround the geyser and additionally ensure that any of America’s foreign visitors trying to photograph the impressive natural phenomenon from a second-floor hotel window would still wind up with a picture full of government officials. The following morning the bus made the two-and-a-half-hour journey to the park boundary but was prevented from using any of the bathrooms en route, including at a private dude ranch whose owner was threatened with the loss of his license if he allowed any tourist to use the facilities.

evelyn h:

You forget, Obamacare was rammed thru Congress without any Rep votes. Reps were shut out of the discussion. It passed with the slimmest of margins...what, 5 votes?!

Now, the Dems are getting what they sowed. Maybe its time for all of us to realize the polarization is the result of Government being too big, trying to do something it simply can't do. Social Security is broke as is Medicare...ACA will be next!

evelyn h:

I wish it were a permanent 'slimdown!"

The.Truth:

"One faction of one party in one house of Congress in one branch of government doesn't get to shut down the entire government just to refight the results of an election," the president said of House Republicans. "You don't get to extract a ransom for doing your job, for doing what you're supposed to be doing anyway, or just because there's a law there that you don't like."

OR IN OTHER WORDS
THE REPUBLICANS ARE NO DIFFERENT THAN TERRORIST

The Collective:

I can see closing facilities and things but why on Earth cant the lots be left open for people to go there? This is the Republican party intentionally hitting us instead of taking its failure seriously

john.real.965:

Shutdown? What shutdown? I don't feel anything different. Maybe because I'm not one of those losers who work for government. Get a job you losers, a real job, a private sector job.

Ken P Jr:

I can see closing facilities ans things but why on Earth cant the lots be left open for people to go there? This is the administration intentionally hitting us instead of taking its failure seriously.

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