Amid shutdown, Marshall wants control of national park

Del. Robert G. Marshall, R-Prince William, is so displeased that the Shenandoah National Park is shuttered amid the shutdown, that he’s asking for it back.

In letters to members of the Virginia Congressional delegation, Marshall urges them to introduce or support legislation that would return the Shenandoah National Park and Skyline Drive to state control.

“I say, give it back,” he said in a brief interview. “Let Virginia operate it.”

The partial federal government shutdown’s impact has reverberated beyond the National Park Service employees to the concessionaires inside the park and the businesses that rely on park traffic, he writes in the letter, dated Monday.

“They have all been particularly hard hit since the fall leaf season is literally the busiest time of year for the park,” he writes.

The park was authorized in the 1920s as a New Deal-era project designed to put the jobless back to work during the depths of the Depression.

The Commonwealth of Virginia bought the property, because the federal government by law could not, and deeded it to the United States in December 1935, although President Franklin D. Roosevelt did not formally dedicate it until July 3, 1936.

In what remains a bitter chapter for many in the state’s history, mountain residents had to leave, many of them by force.

Virginia Gov. Harry F. Byrd in April 1926 created the Virginia Conservation and Development Commission to manage the funds donated to start the park and purchase properties.

Through the Civilian Conservation Corps, groups of young men around 18-25 years of age helped build the Skyline Drive. Marshall said his father once worked in the CCC though he doesn’t know if he worked on the drive.

Marshall writes that the current operation of the national parks “is not consistent with the public interest of our citizens” and he says that “given the current climate it is likely that the parks will be shut down again in the future.”

“Virginia would not damage businesses and families dependent on the parks by shutting the Shenandoah National Park to keep citizens and visitors out,” he writes.

He has also asked that legislation be drafted to allow the governor to accept the land to be run as a state park and to figure out logistics for buildings and employees.

“I’m serious,” he said Wednesday. “The incompetence in DC does not have to drag us down.”