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Some visitors staying at a hotel near the popular and famous Old Faithful geyser when the partial government shutdown closed Yellowstone National Park last week complained of “Gestapo tactics” and feeling confined to their lodge by armed rangers.
A Yellowstone spokesman on Wednesday denied any mistreatment by rangers, saying all visitors faced the same restrictions enforced by courteous park staff.
The shutdown closed Yellowstone on Oct. 1 and also shut down all hotels, campgrounds and other lodging inside the park, including the Old Faithful Inn.
Pat Vaillancourt of Salisbury, Mass., was part of a tour group staying at the inn when the park shut down. She said barricades were erected around the hotel, and armed rangers were posted at the door.
“They looked like Hulk Hogans, armed. They told us you can’t go outside,” she said. “Some of the Asians who were on the tour said, ‘Oh my God, are we under arrest?’ They felt like they were criminals.”
Tour guide Gordon Hodgson of Provo, Utah, described one confrontation with a ranger who stopped the tour group from taking pictures of bison along a road after the park shut down.
“She told me you need to return to your hotel and stay there,” Hodgson said. “This is just Gestapo tactics. We paid a lot to get in. All these people wanted to do was take some pictures.”
Hodgson said the ranger told him he could be convicted of trespassing if he disobeyed.
Yellowstone spokesman Al Nash said rangers didn’t confine guests to the lodge but might have been on foot patrol nearby to prevent visitors from getting close to Old Faithful geyser and other park attractions.
“We did not have people stationed at lodging facilities for any reason,” Nash said. “The immediate area at the inn, the restaurant, the adjacent stores and gift shops would have been accessible, but we did close the boardwalk and the hiking trails in the area. And they all remain closed.”
As for the armed rangers, Nash said most of the rangers who were not furloughed are the ones who normally carry firearms.
He said all visitors in the park when it closed were given the same message.
“Boardwalks through thermal areas were closed, hiking trails were closed, and that people were not permitted to drive through the park and sightsee and take photographs. That was a consistent message shared with all visitors who were in the park last week,” Nash said. “Our contacts all started with an apology.”
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