National Park Civil Disobedience Day 2


“I’m not talking to you anymore,” the man ranger said to David, holding his hands up as if to push David away. We’d stopped to get out and talk to the rangers when we saw two of them standing in front of orange cones and making cars turn around on the road into Bryce Canyon National Park.  I was having better luck talking to the woman ranger.

“Would I be breaking a federal law or a regulation if I drive down the road and park?” I asked her and she said she wasn’t sure, but then decided it was a federal law.  “You’ll be arrested,” she said.  “We have national park law enforcement and they’ll arrest you and take you to jail.”  By then David had joined the conversation, since the man ranger wouldn’t talk to him any more.

“I’m in a place in my life where that might be okay,” David said.  “What jail would they take us to?”  David and I told the ranger about our idea of organizing thousands of vacationing grandparents and getting them to stage a sit-in at a national park lodge and refuse to move.  I told her about my history of civil disobedience, having been arrested at the Seabrook nuclear power plant and at a Wall Street protest in the 70’s.  She told us she was working without pay, “because I love this park.”  We told her we’d created a Twitter hashtag #nationalparksprotest but since I only have about 80 Twitter followers and David just set up a Twitter account last night to tweet under that hashtag it probably wasn’t going to get a lot of traction.  She laughed.

David and I thanked both rangers for working without pay, then got in the car and drove down a dirt road we found out of the parking area across the street.  We found crowds of people on the rim of the canyon, most of them having taken a back road behind the Bryce Canyon Best Western, some in tour buses.  We crossed the fence into the park and started walking, following foot paths along the edge of the canyon.  The further we walked the more spectacular the hoodoos (the spires of rock that make Bryce so remarkable) became.  The rocks got redder and the canyon glowed with color.

IMG_1840 IMG_1834

At a mile and a half we reached the first parking area of the park and picked up the official park trails.  We kept going until we reached Sunrise Point, an elevated platform which looks out over the Bryce Amphitheater.  We were the only ones there.  The only people we met actually in the park (most people who’d come in the back road to the rim weren’t going more than a few hundred yards) were Europeans.  I welcomed them to our national park and they smiled and thanked me.

Tomorrow, Capital Reef National Park, which is vast and criss-crossed with back roads.  We’ll find a place to park and take another hike on our public land.



About Grace Mattern

Grace Mattern is a poet, writer, mother, grandmother, partner, friend, family member, gardener, triathlete, hiker and for 30 years was the Executive Director of the NH Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence. She resigned her position at the Coalition on June 15, 2011 in order to concentrate on her writing, while continuing to engage in the movement to end violence against women as a consultant and advisor. Her chapbook Fever of Unknown Origin was published in 2001 and her full-length poetry book The Truth About Death was published in 2012.
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7 Responses to National Park Civil Disobedience Day 2

  1. Sharon says:

    Very “arresting” account, Grace! FYI, if you go the twitter route, tweet me (I don’t have so many, but I know tweeters with big accounts – and once it gets out there . . . ). On the other hand, you seem to be foraging ahead no problem. Are the Europeans who also got in just unimpressed by authority, or do they simply gravitate to backroads somehow?

    • Grace Mattern says:

      Hi Sharon — I just “followed” you on twitter. You could tweet my latest blog post with #nationalparksprotest And you’ll get my next tweet. I think the Europeans just didn’t care about what US Park Service rangers were saying they could or couldn’t do. It was very fun to be able to be a welcoming US citizen. — Grace

  2. Leslie van Berkum says:

    love this, grace. only you!

  3. Sharon says:

    Hi Grace, don’t forget to hashtag your tweets so people searching will find you too (#shutdown). That seems to be the going hashtag. Oh, and as for my comment to this post, while “foraging” makes for a funny comment, I clearly meant “forging”! Although maybe you are foraging ahead as well . . . 😉

    • Grace Mattern says:

      Yes, I translated foraging to forging. Our foraging is consisting of finding vegetarian fare in southern Utah. And I’m using #shutdown too and will tell brand new tweeter David to do so as well.

  4. Pingback: Seacoast residents respond to government shutdown | WireNH

  5. Julie says:

    I tweeted a link to this post using the hashtag you suggested. The public owns public lands. The government is supposed to hold them in trust and manage them for the benefit and use of the people. Regardless if the employees have gone home, it is wrong to try to keep us off our lands. Thanks for fighting the good fight.

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