Post Register July 25, 2013
We were hardly through the gate at Grand Teton Park at the start of a week of vacation, when my wife cried out, “Oh no!” Then she looked up from the Park newspaper, Grand Teton Guide, and moaned, “The roads to Two Ocean Lake, Spaulding Bay, and Schwabacher Landing are all closed!”
Now it was my turn to groan. We were heading into the Park at the peak of the busy season and I had counted on trips to all three of these less frequented locales to balance out the more popular sites sure to be teeming with humanity. The abstraction of sequestration had just become a reality.
The newspaper explained that the federally mandated, “sequestration,” required a permanent five percent reduction in the Park budget. This five percent would come off of a budget already down nine percent since 2009. Something had to give: doing more with less just doesn’t work.
Along with the road closures, the Park targeted three other specific actions that would achieve the five percent reduction: close the Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve Center, the Jenny Lake Visitor Center, and the Jenny Lake Ranger Station. However, private funding was generously offered to sustain these facilities for at least this season.
The explanation in the Teton Park Guide for closing these particular roads seemed reasonable enough. A small fraction of park visitors see these areas, yet each contains a bathroom facility and trash collection that need routine attention. Close the roads and the technicians to service them won’t be needed. How about just closing the restrooms and removing the dumpsters, you ask? The Park considered that, and in their experience, people will still leave waste behind, creating an even bigger mess.
But I still didn’t like it. I had been planning this vacation for several weeks and it never dawned on me to check for closed areas. Until now, access to these places had seemed like a God-given right. It was frustrating to find out that it was a privilege that could disappear.
I certainly am not learned enough to know whether or not sequestration will work, but cutting costs seems like a good idea. Who can argue with any attempt to reduce the National debt? Better yet, this is what so many Westerners have yearned for: less government.
Well, now I know what less government looks like. It isn’t as rosy as some might think. As government slowly exits, the void of reduced services will touch us all. Less government means more personal responsibility, especially when it comes to the great outdoors.
We’ll have to clean up our own messes and be responsible for our actions. So, we must pack out our own trash and someone else’s who was irresponsible; learn the noxious weeds in our area and pack a shovel; donate more cash to support the programs that are being slashed by sequestration; volunteer our time to help clean and maintain facilities and trails. The list can go on and on. In everything we do, we will need to realize that the government may no longer, “have our back.” We, The People, are responsible and will not be able to blame the government if things are not as we want them to be.
We have asked for less government, now we are going to get it. And that may not be such a bad thing. After all, this land truly is your land and my land. Sequestration is our opportunity to prove it. I hope we are up to the challenge.
The road to Two Ocean Lake in Grand Teton National Park is closed to vehicles and bicycles and may remain that way indefinitely. This is the face of the new, leaner government.