Barrycades — and the tyranny of central government they represent — have come to rural Maine.
Federal agents have threatened to erect cement barricades in order to prevent fishermen in Washington County from using a state-owned boat landing located in Cobscook State Park in Edmund Township.
Cobscook State Park and the Edmund boat launch are both state-owned and -operated but located in the Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge, which has closed due to the partial federal shutdown.
Last week, The Maine Wire reported exclusively on the closure of Moosehorn and the consequences for Cobscook and fishermen who rely on the Edmund boat launch. At that time, federal officials had told the Maine Department of Marine Resources (DMR) the boat launch could remain open despite the closure of Cobscook.
On Monday, however, federal agents obstructed the entrance to the boat launch parking lot with wooden sawhorses. The fishermen removed the barricades and proceeded to their day’s work, but when they returned they were confronted with more wooden barricades and a note warning that any attempt to move the barricades would cause the federal government to erect cement blockades.
The federal attempts to close the Edmund boat launch follow the Obama administration’s decision on Thursday to allow states to reopen national parks as long as states use their own money to pay for federal park operations. But the feds quickly reneged on the deal as well as their promise to DMR.
On Friday, according to a press release from the LePage administration, the Regional Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), a division of the Department of Interior (DOI), told Maine that it could not reopen Cobscook – even though that park is run, maintained and staffed by the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry’s (DACF) Bureau of Parks and Lands.
State officials were left in disbelief.
“This is the type of punitive, arbitrary decision that defies logic and common sense. Maine people are pragmatic, hardworking problem solvers that expect leaders to work together to find solutions even when they disagree,” said Governor Paul R. LePage. “Here we have an opportunity to reopen a State Park that never should have been closed in the first place. It is run, staffed and managed by the State of Maine with the tax dollars of Maine citizens.”
“It is sad when we see Washington, D.C. bureaucrats decide to come in and shut it down a State Park for political reasons,” said DACF Commissioner Walt Whitcomb. “Families are being denied access to a beautiful State-managed, State-funded resource during the peak of fall foliage season.”
According to state officials, Cobscook is operated through an agreement between DACF and the USFWS.
Washington County Commissioner Chris Gardner said the county has reviewed the lease for the Edmund boat landing and does not believe the federal government has the authority to shut it down.
According to the lease, the county is responsible for all maintenance and operation above the high water mark and the Department of Conservation is responsible for maintaining property below the high water mark.
“The lease is quite clear in that the federal government has no responsibility – none. Nothing in that lease says we’re subject to government shutdown,” said Gardner.
Gardner said the minimal operational expense of the boat landing have always been borne by the state and county. “In the last two weeks, the feds have spent more money trying to shut this down than they’ve spent in the last ten years,” he said.
“From our stand point, if need be, we will take whatever steps necessary to keep this ramp open,” he said, adding that the county is considering placing a sheriff’s deputy at the launch. “I have told the fishermen to feel free to continue using it,” he said.
Gardner is hopeful that someone from the federal government will contact the county or the state and discuss the matter.
“I thought we had come to an amicable solution, but obviously someone has thought better of that,” he said. “[The feds] have gone back on their word. It’s an arbitrary and capricious decision. No one reached out to us, not even a phone call. This is a complete and utter disregard for all other levels of governance,” he said.
“All of this is starting to show it’s not partisan politics that are hurting this nation – it’s federalist politics,” said Gardner. “The government that governs closest to the people governs best, and the federal government is putting that on display.”
Rep. Lawrence Lockman (R-Amherst), who represents the people of Edmund Township, was appalled at the federal government’s decision to blockade the boat launch and persist with its closure of Cobscook.
“It is no longer possible to see this as a clumsy government mistakenly closing a state-run park that happens to be on leased federal land,” said Lockman. “This is now a deliberate, politically-motivated attempt by the Obama administration to harm the well-being of the people of Maine while running roughshod over our individual liberty and state sovereignty — all because Obama and Democrats in Congress refuse to live under Obamacare with the rest of us.”
This story will be updated.
Maine Wire Reporter