CODY, WYO. — As the government shutdown drags into its second week, the closure of national parks around the country has proven to be a uniformly unpopular move—something even a four-year-old probably could have predicted to anyone in Washington, D.C.
That’s part of why Rick Satterthwaite and Eva Linton are planning a protest for 3 p.m. Sunday at the East Gate of Yellowstone National Park.
Satterthwaite was having dinner Monday when his four-year-old son asked if they could go to Yellowstone Park.
“He loves Yellowstone, but he calls it ‘Lellowstone’ because he can’t pronounce it yet,” said Satterthwaite, 56, a former pastor now working toward a career as a counselor. “I had to tell him, ‘No, we can’t go to Yellowstone.'”
Eva Linton, 30, a doula in Powell, Wyo., said that she promised her kids that they would visit Yellowstone before it closed for the season.
“The shutdown has made me a liar,” she said in an email.
So when Linton saw a Facebook post by Satterthwaite wondering what it would take to get elected officials to notice constituents’ frustrations with the closure, she “decided to do something instead of just talking about it.”
In just two days, more than 650 people have joined their Facebook group, called Protest FOR Yellowstone National Park, and momentum is building for an Oct. 13 protest that Linton hopes will make politicians take notice.
Satterthwaite said he is hoping that similar protests will take place at every park entrance, but that most of those involved so far appear to be Cody area residents.
“This is not about Republicans or Democrats. This isn’t a political rally,” he said. “It’s just about making a point about how absolutely stupid this all is.”
Linton and Satterthwaite said they want the protest to be “peaceful but determined,” and that they don’t plan to try to enter the park or engage in other civil disobedience.
“We’re not storming the gates and we’re not going there to confront rangers,” Satterthwaite said. “We know that the men and women who work in the park probably hate this as much as we do.”
Linton stressed that her efforts are about supporting the park with a family-friendly gathering, not organizing a group of anti-government troublemakers.
“I’m not going to be part of a group of people willing to start trouble just so they can be ‘heard louder,'” she said.
Yellowstone spokesman Al Nash said Tuesday afternoon that he had only recently become aware of the planned protest.
“The park is closed to visitors due to a lapse in funding. We look forward to the time when we can safely reopen the park to the public,” he said.
Entry gates are staffed and closed to the public, and “it is a violation of federal law to enter a closed area,” Nash said.
Satterthwaite said he doesn’t expect Sunday’s planned protest to result in the park being reopened.
“It’s a cumulative effect. This week, there seems to be something building in the country,” he said. “The more stories like this that get out, the more likely the citizenry will pay more attention to what we do in the voting booth.”
Contact Ruffin Prevost at 307-213-9818 or [email protected].