Park Service Abuses Spark New 'Battle of Yorktown'

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YORKTOWN, Va. -- The shutdown of Washington has now become the battle of Yorktown.

In the same place where America fought its final battle of independence, one American businessman is refusing to bow to pressure to close up shop during the shutdown.

His story is just one example of what many view as the Obama administration's widespread overreach during the government gridlock.

'Battle of Yorktown'

Glenn Helseth loves serving up good food at his Carrot Tree Kitchens Restaurant in historic Yorktown -- something he's been doing for the past 11 years. But the government shutdown recently forced the eatery to close its doors.

The National Park Service owns the building he uses, so Helseth was ordered to move out within 48 hours when the government shutdown began last week.

"I was called about 9 o'clock Tuesday morning, Oct. 1," Helseth told CBN News. "I was told I had three hours to vacate my restaurant. I was shocked and called back to say I can't quite possibly do that."

He was granted a three-day stay but eventually closed the restaurant. A week later, in defiance of government orders, he reopened for business. He knows the move was risky, but he considered it well worthwhile.

"I'm willing to go to jail for this," Helseth said. "If the Parks Service wants to put me in jail because I want to honor the terms of my contract, well, I suppose they have that right."

He says he can't understand why he should have to close his business -- something he says would hurt his bottom line.

"This is October. This is our busiest month of the year. I need October to make my year," Helseth explained.

He also points out that during the shutdown he was still obligated to pay other expenses for the facility.

"I'm paying for the insurance on this building," he said. "While it's closed I'm paying for the utilities on this building. I'm paying for the security system that is protecting this building and I cannot use this building."

His employees' welfare is also a big concern.

"My staff is not getting any back pay," Helseth continued. "My people aren't getting paid for the days we missed. I need to look out for the welfare of my staff."

Supporters Lining Up

As evidenced by the lines outside the Carrot Tree, the actions of the restaurant owner have ignited a firestorm of support, with many calling it the new battle of Yorktown.

"We're the little man against the big government," said supporter Lindsay Munce. "He owns a business and supports workers and he did what was right and could cause him a personal sacrifice."

Another supporter, Williamsburg, Va., resident Heather Harmon, agreed.

"If he gets fined I'll be the first one on the front line raising the money to pay for his fines for him," she said. "I think it's remarkable what he's doing -- it takes guts."

Robert Waring of Virginia Beach, Va., says he believes the government's treatment of Helseth is illegal.

"He's got a lease with the government to run a business that doesn't require Park Service to be present," he reasoned. "They don't work here -- all he has to do is open his doors and do business."

'Gestapo' Tactics

In addition to the controversy with Helseth, the National Park Service has been involved in several other incidents that have outraged Americans. For instance, the Obama administration has closed public areas that stayed open in past shutdowns.

Rangers locked a tour group, including senior citizens and foreign visitors, in a hotel as they visited Yellowstone National Park when the shutdown began.

The tour guide told the local newspaper, the Livingston Enterprise, that the Park Service used "Gestapo tactics."

The service told Bruce O'Connell to close his inn and restaurant, the Pisgah Inn. It sits on federal land on the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina. Initially, he complied but then re-opened it. But the service closed him down -- with armed rangers.

One angry Park Service ranger in Washington told the Washington Times, "We've been told to make life as difficult for people as we can. It's disgusting."

The Weekly Standard said, "The conduct of the National Park Service over the last week might be the biggest scandal of the Obama administration."

Congressional Republicans say they're getting numerous reports on the matter and will investigate. CBN News contacted the National Park Service for an interview but the calls were not returned.

Meanwhile, Helseth has the following message for those in Washington.

"Please settle your issues so we can continue going about our business. That's all I want to do," he said. I want to do what we were meant to do -- if I can do so now while you all continue squabbling, leave me alone, to sell my carrot cake."

Helseth runs a second restaurant in Jamestown that was also forced to close.

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Charlene  Aaron

Charlene Aaron

CBN News Reporter

Charlene Aaron serves as a general assignment reporter and helps anchor for the CBN News Channel.  Follow her on Twitter @CharNews and "like" her at Facebook.com/CharleneIsraelCBNNews.