State Sen. Steve Urquhart is inviting hundreds of his friends for a walk in the park Saturday.
No big deal, except when the park is Zion National Park, closed as a result of the federal government shutdown. Then it is possible, the Republican senator from St. George acknowledges, that they could be cited for trespassing or worse.
“I sure don’t want to be arrested and I hope no one is. I hope we’re not even cited. I think it would be foolish to cite or arrest us,” he said.
It isn’t part of any effort to take control of the parks, as some have suggested doing. Instead, he characterizes it as a First Amendment-protected statement by citizens frustrated with the federal government.
Zion National Park and other parks and monuments around the state have been shuttered as part of the ongoing federal budget impasse. Park rangers have been issuing citations for trespassing to those ignoring the barriers in Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks.
Urquhart and others plan to gather at 9 a.m. at the entry to the closed-down national park — among the largest tourist attractions in the state — and walk past the barriers blocking the road and into the park.
“I’m pretty frustrated. I think a lot of my constituents are pretty frustrated, and it just feels like increasingly the American people are the enemy of government,” he said. “This is not intended to just be about the shutdown. It’s about the federal government just being increasingly hostile to citizens. … There’s plenty of blame to go around to both parties.”
The senator, who invited about 400 people through Facebook, but says he doesn’t know whether a lot or just a few will show up. “In either event,” he said, “it should be enjoyable.”