Let’s Move? Park Police: 'It's Against Law' to Use Mt. Vernon Trail

By Penny Starr | October 7, 2013 | 11:23am EDT

A cyclist bikes along the Potomac River on the Mt. Vernon trail, which is officially closed because of the partial government shutdown. (CNSNews.com/Penny Starr)

(CNSNews.com) – The partial government shutdown has closed national parks around the country, including the popular Mt. Vernon trail that runs from Rosslyn, Va., to George Washington’s Mt. Vernon estate.

United States Park Police have barricaded the parking lots that access the trail, but people are still using it.

When CNSNews.com asked whether it’s breaking the law to use the trail at this time, a United States Park Police spokesman confirmed that fact.

“Yes, it is against the law. However, we are concentrating our efforts to the restriction of vehicles in the parking areas along George Washington Parkway,” Sgt. Paul Brooks, public information officer with USPP, told CNSNews.com.

A sign on a barricade at the entrance to the Gravelly Point Park cited the government shutdown. (CNSNews.com/Penny Starr)

The National Public Radio affiliate WAMU reported that one man was ticketed for parking near Belle Haven Marina, which remains open, as do some parking spaces near the trail.

"We can't even go out and exercise?” Kevin Johnson said to a WAMU reporter about his $85 ticket. “I mean it's… I understand, I guess the federal parks are closed.

“But this is the only parking available,” Johnson said. “So I did what I had to do.

“The only other option was to park in the neighborhood and then probably get a permit violation or something,” Johnson said.

The trail is popular with exercise enthusiasts, and many people use it to commute from Virginia to their jobs in Washington, D.C.

Let’s Move is first lady Michelle Obama’s signature campaign to fight childhood obesity by eating well and getting exercise. The Obama administration has made fitness and food a priority in many federal agencies, including regulating school lunches and spearheading efforts to put calorie information on restaurant menus.

The House passed Joint Resolution 70 on Wednesday to restore funding for the National Parks, but efforts by the GOP to introduce it in the Senate were rebuffed by the majority Democrat body.

Jennifer Mummart, director of communications for the National Park Service, Nation Capital Region, provided a statement to CNSNews.com about the trail’s closure.

“Like all 401 national parks in the country, the Mt. Vernon Trail (part of George Washington Memorial Parkway), is closed because of the lack of an appropriation,” Mummart said in the statement. “This includes all areas of the park – overlooks, parking areas, adjacent park lands – except for the main through road (i.e. the parkway itself.)

“It is necessary to close the areas because without an appropriation we do not have staff to operate and maintain the areas, and the parks are closed to visitors,” Mummart said.

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