Outhouse under construction in Buffalo Bill's barn, Oct. 29.
After reading the recent editorial in the Omaha World-Herald about the effect of the government shutdown on federal park areas -- especially Homestead National Monument near Beatrice -- I couldn't help but draw a parallel between the World-Herald’s editorial board's negative view of that closure and the recent apparently arbitrary decision by Nebraska state park officials to close a number of state park areas. The shuttering of Buffalo Bill Ranch, Ft. Atkinson and Arbor Lodge State Historical Park was an especially egregious action considering the robust fall visitation these premier Nebraska historical sites receive.
The few park state staff affected by these closures have been instructed to drive to various sites throughout the state to engage in the building of wooden outhouses immediately.
According to information I received through a recent FOIA request, all of these park areas have a fully funded budget for this present fiscal year.
Two of these sites have National Landmark status.
Considering the continued importance of expanding Nebraska tourism opportunities, and the fact that Nebraska will be soon preparing to celebrate the state's sesquicentennial, I would simply ask, "Is this the proper way to administer and care for arguably several of the most important historical properties in the state, if not in the nation?"
I spent 43 years working in the state park system, including 20 at Fort Atkinson (1970-90) and 10 years at Buffalo Bill (2001-11).
I love these places -- they deserve better.
By Steve Kemper, retired director of Buffalo Bill State Historical Park, Johnson Lake
This letter was first published in the Bulletin's Oct. 30 print edition.