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Runners Stage Protest Against Closure Of Valley Forge National Park

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(credit: Pat Loeb)

(credit: Pat Loeb)

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By Pat Loeb, Syma Chowdhry

VALLEY FORGE, Pa. (CBS) — As frustration with the federal government shutdown grows, a group of runners hit the road Sunday around Valley Forge National Historical Park to protest its closure.

“A lot of people died here for our freedom,” says 56-year-old John Bell, “and now, all of a sudden, you have no freedom to go and use the park and walk through it.”

Bell was the accidental inspiration for the protest. His run inside the park, last week, ended with a $100 citation from Park Rangers for using the park during the federal shutdown.

Bell plans to fight the ticket, but the bigger battle is getting permission to use the trails during the shutdown.

When Bell’s story got out, he received support from others frustrated about national park closures.

“The response has been overwhelming,” he says. “I’ve heard from people all over the country and everybody has said the same thing, ‘keep fighting.'”

Fellow runner George Fenzil was outraged when he heard the story and organized the protest run.

“I understand the gift shop might be closed, the visitor center, the rest rooms,” Fenzil says, “but the outside area, it should be open, the sidewalk should be open.”

Fenzil mustered about two dozen runners, intending to state their case and ask rangers for permission to run in the park, but no one was guarding the barricades at the park entrance. Rather than break the law, they ran on public roads on the park perimeter.

“We’re not looking to cause any trouble,” Fenzil says. “We just want to get out and run.”

While the runners hope Valley Forge National Park reopens soon, other national landmarks, like Mt. Rushmore and the Statue of Liberty, are opening for visitors with the help of state funding. It is unclear if Pennsylvania will follow in those same footsteps.

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