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Politicians, citizens stand against federal shutdown at Missouri park

ST. LOUIS — State politicians joined nearly 100 people today — citizens and veterans — to take a stance against the federal shutdown at the Big Spring in Van Buren, Mo.

The park has been closed for almost two weeks since the federal government shutdown, and the group intended to remove the barricades to show their disapproval with the shutdown and hope that resolve can come soon so citizens can enjoy assets like Big Spring.

Rep. Steve Cookson, right, stands with a veteran, left, at the Blue Springs National Park in Van Buren, Mo. (Submitted photo)
Rep. Steve Cookson, right, stands with a veteran, left, at the Blue Springs National Park in Van Buren, Mo. (Submitted photo)

Among those politicians at the event were Rep. Steve Cookson, R-Poplar Bluff, who helped organize the barricade removal, along with Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, Sen. Doug Libla, R-Butler County, and Carter County Commissioner John Bailiff.

“We wanted to make a statement about federal irresponsibility and overreach and abuse of federal power to remind our would-be federal masters that the states created the federal government, that everyone in Washington works for us, we are not serfs to a federal master and we are not going to take this anymore,” Kinder tells The Missouri Times about today’s event’s purpose.

Cookson says he was motivated to help organize the event after having a conversation with a 92-year-old World War II veteran who asked him to go with him to the park. The veteran kept saying the shutdown “just wasn’t right,” Cookson says, adding that though that veteran had traveled all around the world, he told Cookson he chose to live in Van Buren to be close to Big Spring.

“He said it has a way of rejuvenating this soul and his spirit just looking at the beauty of that spring,” Cookson says. “He said he’s been all over the world and right here is where he wants to live.”

Area Congressman Jason Smith was unable to attend the event because of ongoing debate in Washington D.C. between parties to end the ongoing shutdown. “The barricades on national parks, rivers and monuments across the country illustrate the disconnect between Washington politicians and families who visit the parks,” Smith writes in a letter sent to those at the event.

“As your representative in the United States House of Representatives, I will continue to fight any attempt by Washington to regulate our lands. The national parks do not belong to President Obama or bureaucrats in Washington. The national parks and rivers belong to every American.”

When he arrived at the park earlier today, Cookson says the barricades were already taken down, and attendees were not met with law enforcement. “If the federal government can’t keep [the park] open for citizens to enjoy and utilize then they need to give it back to the state of Missouri because we can take care of it,” Cookson says.

Kinder says he was surprised by the turn out, which he says included business owners who came to express concerns about the effects on their businesses from the shutdown as Big Spring is integral to some Carter County businesses.

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Photo above: Kinder, Cookson and an area veteran gather to speak about the Federal shutdown. (Photo from Kinder’s Twitter page, used with consent from Kinder)

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This article incorrectly identified the park as “Blue Spring.” In fact, it is “Big Spring.”