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Private Party At Charlestown Navy Yard Doesn't Lack Alcohol

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Party-goers at the Charlestown Navy Yard weren't left thirsty.

So cash-starved are some units of the national park system that they're resorting to leasing out their facilities for private parties. One of the latest bashes, at the Charlestown Navy Yard in Boston earlier this week, didn't lack for alcohol, reportedly involved one arrest, and generally impeded the public in places.

Yet officials at Boston National Historical Park, of which the Navy Yard is part of, are focusing on the bottom line, which, in this case, are the fees they collect for renting out the facilities.

The affair, which BNHP spokesman Sean Hennessey told me represented "a more entrepreneurial way of managing, providing revenue streams over and above what is provided to us in our operating allocations," was hosted by McKesson Corporation, a health-care company. The guest list, Mr. Hennessey told me, numbered 3,500.

Now, in the past the Navy Yard has hosted some pretty big affairs, like the Tall Ships celebration in 2000, and the bicentennial salute to the USS Constitution in 1997. However, unlike the McKesson bash, those were public events, open to the public. Access to the McKesson party was controlled, I understand, by wristbands, there were "Private Event" signs, and the many tents they set up impeded public access to parts of the Navy Yard.

While my conversation with Mr. Hennessey led me to believe this was going to be a somewhat low-key affair lasting only two evening hours or so, I understand it took crews three days to set up all the tents and run electrical cables across the Navy Yard. Some of the cables ran in front of gang planks leading to some of the ships, including the USS Cassin Young. The party itself apparently didn't wind down until 1 a.m.

Throughout the day of the event delivery trucks were seen cruising up and down Pier 1. As you can see from the accompanying photo, some of the deliveries involved quite a bit of alcohol. I understand that one of the attendees possibly imbibed a bit too much, got into an argument with an interpretive ranger and even the park's chief of interpretation, and later was seen being escorted off the grounds in handcuffs.

While Mr. Hennessey told me none of the grounds, outside of the tents set up for McKesson, would be off-limits to other park visitors, I understand that at one point there was an effort to block non-McKesson visitors from accessing the USS Cassin Young. In the end, though, a decision was made that if the ship was going to be open for McKesson's guests, it had to be open for everyone in the park.

To help arrange these types of affairs, Boston National Historical Park officials a few years ago retained Amelia Occasions, a company that specializes in special events and wedding planning. Amelia's agreement with the park is similar to the concessionaire contracts parks like Yosemite, Yellowstone and Grand Canyon have in that they require the company to pour a certain amount of money back into the park.

According to Mr. Hennessey, who didn't know how much McKesson was charged for using the Navy Yard, Amelia spent $30,000 last year on roof repairs to the commandant's house at the Navy Yard, and some funds were also spent on plumbing repairs.

"It’s that kind of contingency uses of the funds that are being encouraged through this kind of arrangement," he told me. They "provide a revenue stream to help us with the upkeep, maintenance, education programs. That kind of thing. It augments what is provided to us.”

Is the National Park Service so broke that $30,000 is a reasonable amount to allow a private company to take over a unit of the national park system, bring in truckloads of alcohol, and close off sections to the general public?

National Park Service Director Mary Bomar has promised to operate the agency "more like a business," but I question whether this sort of affair, and the one earlier this month at Alcatraz, while helping the NPS pay its bills, is an appropriate business use for the national park system.

Is it appropriate when there's drunkenness involved, as supposedly was the case at both events, and drug use, as allegedly took place at the Alcatraz event?

I would say not.

Comments

The person who arrested the guy was a "Park law enforcment ranger" not a "Police Officer" although
they call themselves police officers..


I would just like to add that the parks were set aside for the benefit and enjoyement of the people. The parks were meant to be used!!
Mather and Albright both believed in recreation first, most times at the expense of the resource!! In the begining park service shot wolves (so visitors could see more deer and elk), they fed the bears (so visitors could take their picture), they built large spacious hotels in the most pristine areas (so visitors had a comfortable place to sleep)...
I'm sure others on this site, can think of others.
Second, Check it out most of our historical sites have come into the park service system after they failed as private businesses. Local cities and not for private organizations expected the federal government to come in and protect their site. Why do people believe if a private organization is not making money on a site that somehow sticking a park service arrowhead on the site with no operating budget is going to turn things around??
Well guess what the federal government doesn't have the money, the National Park Service does not have the money to continue bailing out these small nationally insignificant places.
Why is it the park service keeps crying it doesn't have enough money to protect its 391 sites, congress keeps getting upset with the park service cuz they don't know where the money is going, but yet congress and the park service keep adding more sites to the system??
My belief is we need to stop relying on the federal government to save all of our recreational, historical, cultural, and natural areas. Everyone from every sector needs to step up to the plate and do their part.
And on a last note a pet peeve of mine... Law Enforcement Rangers are Police Officers, they carry federal commissions and are authorized to carry firearms, conduct investigations, and make arrests!!


"On an earlier comment, the "guy in the yellow shirt" who stopped a visitor from entering the Navy Yard, that
was one of the law enforcement fellows...funny they have "POLICE" on the back of their shirt..they wish..."

From reading above it stated there was one arrest....then who arrested this guy??? I had heard it was one of Park Police Officers. I have seen them arresting drug users before.


It's all hush hush at the Navy Yard regarding the contract with Amelia Occasions - dont think the park receives anything in return. Management turns a blind eye about everything which is why there are so many problems.
Someone should really investigate into this further - there are still many events that have happened after the
McKesson incident which involve alcohol and partying.

On an earlier comment, the "guy in the yellow shirt" who stopped a visitor from entering the Navy Yard, that
was one of the law enforcement fellows...funny they have "POLICE" on the back of their shirt..they wish...


Sad day at the National Park
I live here.............and my regular route for a walk is thru the park.
When I saw the tents being set up, I thought we were about to have a great public event.
This was not the case................all security was suspened for this event except to keep the
PEOPLE who live here out of the park.

I wonder if the CNO......knows that the USS CONSTITUTION......has been converted into a booze cruise boat
There were people from the party walking around OLD IRONSIDES decks , drinks in hand.

This is the low light of this event...to convert a U.S. MAN OF WAR into a booze cruise.

Needless to say when the cannons fired On OLD IRONSIDES to notify all the ships afloat in the harbor that it was sunset and time
to lower the American flag , NO ONE STOPPED DRINKING OR LAUGHING...........AFTER ALL IT WAS A PARTY.
THEY THOUGHT THE CANNON FIRED WAS FOR THEIR AMUZEMENT.


One reason for problems at Charlestown (both management of the events and the funding return to the park) is because the park chose to use a cooperative agreement to do this deal. Congress obviously intended park superintendent's to use concessiions for this sort of thing. read the 1998 concessions law and it is clearly implied. But look at the cooperative agreement authority, or the leasing authority, and you can see the park should not be using a third party to manage public events with either coop agreements or historic lease. With the concessions, there would be a real return to the nps, real evaluation of the management of the events, and real competition for the job.

So the real question is: why would NPS management allow a superintendent to use the wrong authority, after so many years of trying to get this concessions law in place?

If the park wanted, it could use historic lease authority, but the park would have to manage the activities. If the park cannot afford the pay the park staff, even with indirect compensation from the lease, maybe the park should realize these events just don't add up. But it is interesting that NPS Regional Director lets the park get away with this.


I'll stick to H.L. Mencken's observation that "Every election is a sort of advance auction sale of stolen goods."

He also said "Democracy is a pathetic belief in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance." I couldn't agree more.

You are quite correct that I have very little respect for politicians of any kind, especially ones from a century that produced 200 million deaths by central governments. The bloodiest century in human history had no political heroes, whether elected or not, that I could possibly admire.

But hey I'd like to end on a lighter note. Mencken also said "Democracy is the art and science of running the circus from the monkey cage." Again I couldn't put it any better if I tried.

Good debate. See you at the circus.


And to think, someday that nuclear test zone will be a National Historical Park where we'll all learn from our past mistakes (how's that for finally getting back to the subject of this website?) The history of the world is replete of examples where people and governments (especially when viewed with 20/20 hindsight) did the wrong thing. It gives the rest of us a little perspective and the chance to NOT let history repeat itself.

I'm taking my son to Minuteman Missile NHS later this summer to teach him about those sorts of things so hopefully he can contribute to a wiser generation in the future. He's also visited the beaches of Normandy, numerous Civil War and Revolutionary War sites, and he'll be able to see for himself what human beings are capable of. Yes, a work in progress.

I'd be interested to hear if you can point to any elected leaders of the 20th century that you admire and respect. I fear the answer might be no.

-- Jon


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