Monday, October 21, 2013

Upper Goose Pond Cabin Closes for the Season

Shutters ready for installation
We were able to re-open the cabin for a few days after the National Park Service resumed normal operations after the shutdown of the Federal government ended (more on this, below).

This past Sunday, we closed the cabin for the season as scheduled.  

What does this entail?  If you have owned or operated a vacation home of some sort, you pretty much already know.  We need to remove materials left over from the season's operations--especially things that will not survive freezing, or are attractive to mice and other small critters.  The second consideration is (regretfully) securing the building and equipment from vandalism or improper use.  For better or worse, the Cabin is pretty easily accessible by hunters, hikers and snowmobile riders over the winter.  In the "bad old days" people would break in (typically through windows), help themselves to firewood, leave a mess behind and not treat the surroundings with respect.  This has tapered off quite a bit as we've been steadily increasing the "difficulty factor" for people breaking in over the past several years.   

Pete bolts on a shutter
All buttoned up
New shutters on front of bunkroom
Pete wades in to disconnect the floating dock.
Cabin closure is pretty much routine and consists of removing or securing in mouse-proof storage all the food and freezable liquids, storing the propane tanks away from the cabin, disconnecting the battery powered fire alarm system and installing wood shutters over the windows and doors.  

Pieces get stacked above the water line.
We also put the canoes into storage and finally, pull the dock out of the water.   This is a little easier late in the fall, as the pond is lowered over the winter to reduce the growth of weeds near the surface.  Still, it requires a bit of wading around the in chilly water, and at least four of us to get the heavy pieces above the water line.

While things are packed away, and the interior of the cabin is inaccessible,  the area is always open to visitors.  Tent platforms, privies, bear boxes and cooking areas are still available and ready for use--just like other overnight sites on the A.T.

 AT Committee members make regular winter time visits to check on conditions and perform ongoing minor maintenance.

Resting up for next year
About that "shutdown".  If the A.T. is managed by volunteers, what difference does it make if the government is in business or not?  National Parks are closed because there is no staff to operate them.  But the NPS APPA (Appalachian Trail Park Office) staff operates the AT indirectly with volunteers through ATC's 31 Trail Clubs.  The answer lies in some of the legislation regarding how Congress funds Federal agencies like the Park Service.  Seeking more information, I corresponded with Bob Proudman, ATC's Director of Conservation Operations. He said that it is our US government's legal interpretation of what constitutes closure under various national laws, principally the Anti-Deficiency Act of 1870, that prohibits volunteering.  As currently interpreted, this law stipulates that the government will not expend funds absent an appropriation from Congress or a resolution by Congress continuing a past appropriation (known as a "CR" or Continuing Resolution)

‘The Antideficiency Act prohibits federal agencies from obligating or expending federal funds in advance or in excess of an appropriation, apportionment, or certain administrative subdivisions of those funds. 31 U.S.C. §§ 1341, 1517(a). The act also prohibits agencies from accepting voluntary services. 31 U.S.C. §§ 1342." [Emphasis added].
It seems this is to prevent an agency from thwarting the intent of Congressional control by enlisting volunteers to do the work when Congress wishes the work not to take place.

While the footpath itself is pretty much impossible to close (except in more formally managed National Parks like Shenandoah or Smoky Mountains), facilities such as Upper Goose Pond Cabin (which is owned by the Park Service) are closed--even if staffed by volunteers.

So, there you have it.


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