Yesterday, in Part 1, I looked at the National Park Regulations, as compiled in their Superintendent’s Compendiums, for Wind Cave National Park, along with Mammoth Cave and Carlsbad Caverns. They all require shoes inside their caves, but with no good reason.
Carlsbad Caverns also requires shoes in their buildings, so I decided to see if I could find other National Parks that require shoes.
Recall that I’ve been to quite a few National Parks, and none of the ones I’ve been to have required shoes. Those include Mound City, Chaco Canyon, Zion, Bryce, the Badlands, Mount Rushmore, Cumberland Gap, and the Grand Canyon.
However, there are a few that do require footwear.
Let me start with the Garfield National Historic Site. This is James Garfield’s house in Mentor, OH (up along Lake Erie east of Cleveland). In this case, their official Compendium does not specifically mention shoes. However, the Compendium does say
The Superintendent may, by the posting of appropriate signs, define the nature and extent of a recreational restriction for visitor safety or visitor use management purposes.
It’s not clear to me from this whether the Superintendent could ban bare feet in the building with a sign. A “recreational restriction”, I would think, would apply to the grounds (e.g., “no frisbee playing”). I’ve also looked at some online pictures, and it does not appear that there is any sort of shoe-required sign.
If there were, it sure would be ironic, since Garfield is one of those “barefoot boy” Presidents. Here’s what it says about him in the Centennial History of Coshocton County, Ohio, by William J. Bahmer.
[Roscoe, Ohio] stirred with shipping life and scenes. There were the fleets of freighters that moved commerce between the Ohio River and Lake Erie. There was the passenger packet, the sight of which involved uneasy speculations concerning the disposal of passengers in the fiddle-case cabin. There was the confusion of the towpath, the tangle of long ropes, the teams—and their drivers, puffy-faced with mule talk, picturesque profanity, how-de-do and whistling the balance. Here, too, the barefoot Garfield drove the towpath mule, the canal-boy stage of that historic life which ended in the White House.
But then there’s Wolf Trap, where the Compendium has the following:
Filene Center House Rules
Shirts and shoes are required and must be worn at all times.
OK, at first I thought, this is a typical indoors sort of rule. Disgusting, but not expected. But if you go to the Wolf Trap website, here’s what the Filene Center looks like from above.
So they are regulating shoes even in an outdoor arena.
Why do they even think it’s necessary?
Next up is the Monocracy National Battlefield, in Maryland. Here, the Compendium says
Persons entering park buildings are required to wear shirts and shoes.
Here there’s not even a reason given. It’s like they just bought into the NSNSNS mentality without a scintilla of thought. And one wonders just what purpose it serves.
I’ve saved the best for last, the Natchez Trace Parkway.
Their Superintendent’s Compendium says
People entering the interior of Parkway visitor centers and contact stations are required to wear appropriately modest clothing and coverings which are to include shirt and shoes.
Not only do you have to wear a shirt and shoes in their buildings, but it must be “appropriately modest“!
Even more amusing is that they actually give their justification for their rule.
In order to maintain a positive and comfortable environment for all visitors, a reasonable clothing standard must be established. Visitors are encouraged to wear clothing that is modest in nature in order to maintain a respectful visiting environment. The lack of shirt and shoes detracts from the overall environment of the visitor center and poses health risks therefore they are required.
This is downright ridiculous.
What authorizes them to require a “respectful visiting environment”? And how would a lack of shoes make a whit of difference in that regard?
These are all just a bunch of unsupported assertions. And, of course, what health risk is there?
The Code of Federal Regulations (36 CFR Chapter 1, Section 1.5) contains the authorization for regulations that the Superintendent can make. It also specifies just what purpose those regulations have to serve. Here it is.
(a) Consistent with applicable legislation and Federal administrative policies, and based upon a determination that such action is necessary for the maintenance of public health and safety, protection of environmental or scenic values, protection of natural or cultural resources, aid to scientific research, implementation of management responsibilities, equitable allocation and use of facilities, or the avoidance of conflict among visitor use activities, the superintendent may:
(1) Establish, for all or a portion of a park area, a reasonable schedule of visiting hours, impose public use limits, or close all or a portion of a park area to all public use or to a specific use or activity.
(2) Designate areas for a specific use or activity, or impose conditions or restrictions on a use or activity.
(3) Terminate a restriction, limit, closure, designation, condition, or visiting hour restriction imposed under paragraph (a)(1) or (2) of this section.
Obviously, a “respectful visiting environment” is not among the authorized reasons. Health is, but as we know that is really not a valid reason for banning bare feet.
This is just cheating. The Superintendent wanted to make a shoe rule for some reason, and made up stuff to justify it.
The sad thing is, it just reinforces in the public mind that there is something inherently bad with going barefoot. It’s also pretty much unchallengeable, legally. As long as the Superintendent gives an official determination, no matter how specious, it’ll probably pass a legal challenge.
For instance, in Spiegel v. Babbit, 855 F. Supp. 402, (D.C. Dist. 1994), a case involving docking boats overnight, the court found
The Superintendent of the C & O Canal National Historic Park, Thomas C. Hobbs, prepared a written determination explaining that such a limitation is necessary for several reasons, including “the maintenance of public health and safety, protection of environmental or scenic values, [and] protection of natural or cultural resources….” Mr. Hobbs’ justification explains that “[t]he Georgetown Waterfront Park was never intended nor was it ever designated … to be used for overnight accommodations.” The Court finds that this written determination satisfies the requirement of 36 C.F.R. § 1.5(c).
While the justification for Natchez Trace doesn’t say much, given that it’s about bare feet, it probably says enough. After all, it does quote the word “health”, and courts are quite willing to rule that preventing a toe-stubbing is sufficient grounds for governmental action. Practically anything can fall under the rubric “health”. And that’s a form of cheating, too.
I guess we should feel grateful that more National Parks haven’t made such silly rules.
(But I don’t feel grateful at all!)