I’ve written before about how Judges and Administrators Cheat. Let’s do a bit on how officials cheat.
Here’s a hint on how they back up their decisions: they pull it out of their butts. And like anything pulled out of a butt, it never smells very good.
Fellow barefooter Dave D. tried it in 2003. And was stopped. After writing to them, this is the response he received.
Thank you for your letter concerning your visit to Wind Cave National Park. We are sorry we were unable to accommodate your request to enter the cave without shoes on August 8, 2003. We hope this letter will help you understand why this action would compromise your safety, the safety of fellow visitors and staff, that of the cave, and increase the liability risk to the National Park Service (NPS).
The risk to the individual:
1) Picking up a fungus that attacks skin cells. Biologists have found this fungus, Thamnidia, along the tour routes in Wind Cave.
2) Picking up a microbe through broken or cracked skin that could cause Cellulitis.
3) Contact with the feces of wood rats, mice, bats, and other biota. These are the natural inhabitants of the cave, and their feces can be found within the cave, even on paved trails.
4) Slipping on a wet stair. The Natural Entrance Tour has over 289 descending steps. Many of these steps are damp, dimly lighted, and narrow.
5) Cutting uncovered feet on grooved concrete. The concrete is grooved in certain sloping areas to provide added traction.
6) Injuring uncovered toes or feet if a visitor trips or stumbles along the cave’s narrow trail under low light conditions. The cave’s passageways are frequently narrow and bordered by angulated rocks that could easily cut or bruise an uncovered foot.
7) Electrocution. Shoes provide an increased level of protection in an environment with high electrical voltages and wet or damp conditions.
Of course, these are just pulled out of their butts, looking for any old excuse, and any old risk no matter how small, to justify their ignorance.
For one thing, there isn’t any fungus called Thamnidia. There is Thamnidium, but it’s a fungus that grows on meats. It’s usually not even dangerous if eaten.
For things like cellulitis or feces, those are not cave-specific, and the risks are extremely low (as any regular barefooter who is still alive knows!). In addition, they could just as easily (along with the fungus) be on any railing that somebody touches—without wearing gloves. Horrors.
The threat of electrocution is ridiculous. If they have stray electrical currents around they will easily travel up the metal railings! So, why aren’t rubber gloves required?
And of course numbers 4, 5, and 6 require projection of shoddie thinking. Cutting one’s feet on textured concrete? That was the surface in the Olentangy Indian Caverns. It’s a wonder I survived. Ditto stumbling with uncovered toes. And if I’m on a wet surface I want to feel my grip (again, just as I did in the Olentangy Indian Caverns).
Continuing with their supposed risks:
The risk to visitors and staff:
1) If feet were cut while in the cave, or already had cuts on them, other visitors and staff could be exposed to blood-borne pathogens. While this risk to exposure may be low for visitors and staff (unless it is a major bleeding event), it would not exist with someone wearing shoes.
2) A wet or muddy foot would increase the danger of slipping on a damp step and knocking others down the stairs.
3) Lack of proper footwear increases the risk of an injury requiring an evacuation via a stair chair. Such actions place not only the person in the chair at risk, and the personnel who are moving the occupant through the cave’s narrow and steep passages, but it increases the risk of breaking cave formations during this effort.
More idiocy. And if folks had cuts on their hands, there is also the risk of blood-borne pathogens, but they sure aren’t requiring gloves. And of course the risk here is low, low, low.
And no, wet feet don’t increase the danger of slipping. It lets you feel the surface and thereby not slip.
And the evacuation via stair chair makes no sense at all. It’s a kind of specialized wheelchair that has nothing to do with bare feet, and bare feet would not be a hindrance at all. For example,
This is nothing but the kind of stuff that gets pulled out of butts.
Continuing . . .
The risk to the cave:
Someone walking barefoot through the cave increases the input of foreign organic materials, such as skin cells that are directly scraped off the foot, into the cave. Additionally, in the event of cuts, the cave and its environment will be exposed to blood-borne pathogens or other contaminants and the safe cleanup of blood could introduce toxins or other contaminants into the cave environment.
We’ve talked about Desquamation before. People are shedding loads of dead skin cells all the time. The heavily keratinized stuff on the bottom of the foot probably comes off less easily, but regardless, it is dwarfed in comparison to all the other dead skin being left behind.
And they really are fixated on the idea that barefoot people are always getting cut, aren’t they? And they are totally unconcerned about other blood sources.
After all, I really doubt they check the soles of everybody’s shoes for slip-worthiness. And those other slips and falls also produce blood.
The risk to the NPS:
The risk to the NPS is much greater if someone is allowed to walk through the cave barefoot. A person could claim the paths are not virus free and that he or she got a disease from the trail when in the cave.
The old, “We might get sued.” Even though going barefoot is perfectly safe, and even though any lawsuit based on a barefoot injury would go nowhere, they still have to use the same old tired excuses.
From here, things got really interesting. Dave wanted to know the basis for their refusing him entrance. So let me explain the law about regulations in National Parks.
Things start with Congress, which makes the ultimate authorizations in their statutes. The appropriate statute is Title 16 of the United States Code, Section 3 (16 USC §3). As part of that, the Department of Agriculture can promulgate regulations (via the Federal Register), which are then documented in the Code of Federal Regulations. In this case, that would be Title 36 of the Code of Federal Regulations , Chapter 1, Parts 1-7 (36 CFR Chapter 1). That further allows the Superintendent of each National Park to make specific and detailed regulations for each park. Examples of these sorts of regulations include things like speed limits, the permitting process for things like backpacking permits, closures of certain areas, and rules on things like snowmobiles or ATVs. These rules all must be written out in a document called the Superintendent’s Compendium of Regulations.
I have a copy of the Superintendent’s Compendium for 2003. No such rule. (You knew that was coming, didn’t you.)
So they ended up not pulling an excuse out their butts, they blew it out.
They claimed that the tour ticket was a permit, and that they could add new regulations on the tour ticket. The tour ticket included the following:
Cave trails are dimly lighted and trail surfaces may be uneven, wet and slippery. Some of the cave ceilings are low, requiring some bending or stooping. Tours are moderately strenuous. PERSONS WITH HEART CONDITIONS OR OTHER PHYSICAL LIMITATIONS SHOULD RECONSIDER.
Wear low-heeled walking shoes with non-slip soles. Do not wear sandals or shoes with leather or hard composition soles. A light jacket or sweater is recommended as the cave is 53° F (11 ° C). For the protection of the cave, please do not touch the cave, remove cave rocks or formations, or step off the trail. Photography is permitted, but please no tripods. Please stay with the tour group.
There are no restrooms in the cave. Pets are not permitted in the cave. PLEASE NO EATING, DRINKING, SMOKING, OR CHEWING GUM OR TOBACCO WHILE ON TOUR.
Those are suggestions, not rules. You can be darn sure they were not inspecting shoes for non-slip soles, or measuring heel heights, or checking for leather soles. And if it’s not in the Compendium, it doesn’t count.
Of course, by now they’ve corrected their oversight. (Another case of a barefooter causing the government to actually properly follow procedure.) Their shoe rule is now in the Superintendent’s Compendium:
While participating in a public cave tour the following is required:
A. Hard soled footwear
The CFR also requires that the Superintendent justify their rules, that is, give the reason for it.
Determination: Hard soled shoes protect sensitive cave resources from skin cell or fiber deposits that alter the cave environment and may cause unwanted bacteria to form in the cave. Hard soled shoes also protect visitors from slips and falls that may be caused by wet and uneven surfaces.
They’ve just repeated some of their earlier justifications. (Though, fiber deposits?. Where do they come from?) And of course they have no idea what causes slips and falls. If I’m on an uneven surface, I want bare feet. The more the better.
But now it has the force of law, unless challenged (which of course is incredibly difficult and expensive).
While I was at it, I thought I’d check the Superintendent’s Compendiums for two other National Parks with caves: Mammoth Cave and Carlsbad Caverns. It’s about what you’d expect.
I could not find an online copy for Mammoth Cave (and they didn’t respond to my email request for a copy). However, their brochure on Cave Tours contains the following:
Cave and surface trails are uneven and slippery so be sure you have the proper footwear and always look before your step.
All cave tours require shirts and shoes for admittance.
Carlsbad Caverns, on the other hand, is even more restrictive.
Clothing in Public Areas
- Shirts and footwear are required in public areas including all caves and buildings.
That’s right. They have a rule for buildings, too. I wonder what their justification for that is. (No, I could not find their justification online.)
It’s not as if other National Parks need a rule in their buildings. I was just fine at Mound City, Chaco Canyon, Zion, Bryce, the Grand Canyon. It’s like they just put it there for the heck of it. You know, pulled it right out of their butts.
I should also mention that these caves are quite concerned about something called White-nose Syndrome that is killing a lot of bats. So they have rules to really limit the spread, including chemical baths for footwear, and warnings about not wearing clothing that might have been in any other cave. However, lest you be concerned about bare feet, the “chemical” recommended by the USDA is Lysol or Formula 409.
And one other thing: they are so concerned about the dangers to bare feet in the caves. However, all these parks have miles and miles of above-surface trails. Where are the rules against bare feet on those trails? Where is their crocodile-teared concern? Nowhere to be seen. It’s just out-and-out ignorance and prejudice.
So, how do officials cheat?