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Absurd? You bet... but American Camp closure deserves respect | Guest Column
By Walt Cooter
Tuesday I was out for a walk near my home and noticed that American Camp had been shut down as a result of the government shutdown.
As I was walking along Cattle Point Road, I came up to Jakel's Lagoon and I noticed about 20 people who had parked in front of the "Do Not Enter" signs and were entering the park. I asked a person there what was happening and he said there was a study being conducted by the Washington State Department of Ecology on the mean water-level.
I asked if they had special permission to cross the Do Not Enter signs. This fellow didn't know.
Later, I was passing the area again and I asked another fellow I saw near the parked cars what he knew about the group and he told me he was a part of the group, until as they were at a small lagoon, the Ecology department employee, Paul Anderson, told the group that they were not supposed to be on the park property but that he would take full responsibility for them being there.
I saw that the group was coming back to their cars, so I decided to ask the responsible person why they crossed the Do Not Enter signs. He said the trip to the park was planned before the shutdown and they didn't want to reschedule. I noted that I felt it was illegal to cross the lines and he should be responsible for the trespass.
He gave me his card and said they were crossing over to the South Beach side of the park to continue their study.
I continued on my walk and a county police officer came by, so I flagged her down to let her know that I felt there were people illegally crossing the barriers into the National Park and that they were still at their cars, if she would like to talk to them and sort out the situation. I gave her the card of the Ecology department person, and continued my walk.
Later in town, I ran across a park ranger and asked him if these people could cross the barriers and he said, "No", that it was a $150 fine to cross the barriers, and said he would check in to it.
Now, I know its inconvenient to be denied entrance to our parks and our favorite walking trails, but I also feel that we must respect those others affected by this shut down. The 800,000 federal workers who can't feed their families or pay their bills; those children unable to go to Head Start; those mothers unable to get help feeding their children on the WIC program; those people in cancer studies being sent home afraid they could die if the studies aren't continued.
I believe the actions of the Ecology employee was at the very least insensitive to those others affected by the shutdown. I also believe that since he said he would be responsible, he should be held responsible, and be liable for the fines for his group entering the park while it was closed in response to the inaction of the U. S. House of Representatives to pass the budget.
I would also like to remind citizens that the budget was negotiated down from over $1.4 trillion to $980 billion, and that the Democrats agreed to the reduction even though it would make it harder for the economy to recover. They did so in an effort to come to an agreement. They compromised.
The reason the government is shut down is not because there is a disagreement over the budget, it is because the Republicans added another demand; to defund the Affordable Care Act.
I would like to say, call your congressman and tell them to do their job or be replaced. The problem as I see it is what country you want to live in? One where we are governed by those who would intimidate and hurt people, or by those who want to allow more people to have the security of health care.
It's a simple choice for me.
But it is also so sad to see those who are being hurt and those who feel they can be insensitive to that hurt.
— Editor's note: Walt Cooter of San Juan Island, who lives near San Juan Island National Historical Park, frequently walks the American Camp trails.