Rushmore changes stance on Easter Service

2013-03-29T04:30:00Z 2013-03-29T07:35:04Z Rushmore changes stance on Easter ServiceMary Garrigan Journal staff Rapid City Journal
March 29, 2013 4:30 am  • 

Christians will praise the Lord — and give thanks for elevators and bathrooms — at the Easter sunrise service Sunday in the Mount Rushmore National Memorial amphitheater.

Organizers of the 68th annual service were told on Wednesday by Superintendent Cheryl Schreier that budget concerns over federal sequestration would mean that the memorial's visitor center, along with the elevator and bathrooms inside it, would not be open for the 7 a.m. service that typically draws 1,500 to 2,000 people.

In the wake of the federal budget impasse, the memorial has eliminated unnecessary overtime costs, which apparently included the two employees who would normally be required to staff the visitor center for two hours before its usual 8 a.m. opening.

"Yes, we are trying to be as conservative as we can with our finances," park public information officer Maureen McGee-Ballinger said Wednesday.

On Thursday, however, memorial officials found a compromise solution that allows limited access to the elevator and bathrooms without opening the entire visitor center. A portable gate inside the Washington entrance of the visitor center will be used to limit center access while making bathrooms and an elevator to the lower-level amphitheater available.

"They will be able to access the elevator from inside. A gate will prevent them from going anywhere except the bathrooms," McGee-Ballinger said. "We were trying to get them access without having to pay overtime."

In pre-sequestration years, park staff came in at 5 a.m. to open parts of the visitor center for a 6 a.m. choir rehearsal on Easter morning.

Pastor Chuck Landon of the Keystone United Congregational Church, a longtime organizer of the Easter event, was pleased that Schreier's decision was revisited and a compromise reached. He worried that disabled and elderly people who attend the service may not be able to climb the steps from the viewing platform to the amphitheater.

"We got half a loaf, and that's all we need," he said Thursday. "I'm very pleased."

Previously, the only restrooms open at 6 a.m. would have been those located at the front of the memorial, a long walk from the amphitheater. McGee-Ballinger noted that restrooms inside Carver's Cafe also will open at 6:30 a.m. on Sunday.

Some memorial staffers had volunteered to open the visitor center without pay at 6 a.m.

"The superintendent decided that we couldn't use volunteers from the staff who offered," Landon said. McGee-Ballinger said it was against policy to allow volunteers to do that.

Hills Parish, which consists of two UCC churches in Keystone and Hermosa, applied for and received its annual special-use permit for the sunrise service. Those that require overtime staffing must request it on their application and agree to pay for it, something Hills Parish was not willing to do, McGee-Ballinger said.

Contact Mary Garrigan at 394-8424 or

Copyright 2015 Rapid City Journal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(10) Comments

  1. Bluesky
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    Bluesky - March 29, 2013 1:15 pm
    Obama's daughters spent the first half of their spring break in the Bahamas and now have flown to Sun Valley to ski for the second half of their spring break. They travel with 12 secret service members. Perhaps those trips should have been cancelled and those 12 secret service folks could have stayed home to save money. You could have bathrooms at Mt. Rushmore for the Easter service for the next thousand years with that savings alone.
  2. theoldman
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    theoldman - March 29, 2013 12:48 pm
    Local said, "...we can thank Obama for that." is he solely responsible for the national debt? was there no debt before he came into office? has he spent those trillions all by himself? has congress no function?
  3. theoldman
    Report Abuse
    theoldman - March 29, 2013 12:46 pm
    too many angry, cynical people.
    Happy Easter, everybody.
  4. Local
    Report Abuse
    Local - March 29, 2013 10:24 am
    It is liability issues and insurance issues for employee's to be working and not being paid.
    This country is a Trillion Dollars in debt ...... we can Thank Obama for that. Glad to see Obama can still take his golf vacations and send his daughter on Spring Break on the tax payers dime!
  5. Still Homesick
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    Still Homesick - March 29, 2013 10:00 am
    If ever you needed an example of how this issue validates the phrase, "we live in complicated times," this is a classic. I'm going to guess the superintendent of Mount Rushmore doesn't have a great deal of local wiggle room for making decisions of this sort. Yes, Mount Rushmore is in the backyard of Black Hills residents, and this long-standing religious service is organized by and for local worshipers, but be mindful that Mount Rushmore is a most visible and powerful icon for the entire nation. Like it or not, it is a federal property, and that brings libraries full of laws, regulations and rules that govern its operation.

    Were this an era of "uncomplicated times," the superintendent (perhaps even a subordinate) could sensibly decide without checking through many layers of the headquarters bureaucracy that because money is tight, we'll accept the offer from staff volunteers to help the LOCAL community with this event. Easy decision, swiftly made within Mount Rushmore's management chain of command. Were it so easy; were it so easy.

    Now let us bow our heads and give thanks for all that is wonderful and good.....
  6. villahills3
    Report Abuse
    villahills3 - March 29, 2013 9:59 am
    @passionatefor mt rushmore...there is a written policy that states that volunteers cannot be used for what would normally be paid positions. Unfortunate but true.
  7. snowflake
    Report Abuse
    snowflake - March 29, 2013 9:48 am
    Yes, I'd like the Journal to push to see and publish the policy that precludes staffers from volunteering their time.

    It must be true that government agencies have been instructed to "make the sequestration hurt."

    Happy traveling on your vacations, President Obama and family!
  8. wxturd
    Report Abuse
    wxturd - March 29, 2013 9:02 am
    Why does the fed govt have to pay for extra staff when the church is unwilling to do so?

    I don't feel like paying for overtime for someone else's chrch service.
  9. passionatefor mt rushmore
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    passionatefor mt rushmore - March 29, 2013 8:29 am
    wonder why the SUPT. could not have made this decision several days ago, before it became newsworthy , thus eliminating the difficulties for the planners. And policy prohibits the generous park staff from volunteering ? i would love to see that policy in print. Somebody must be setting up these crowd control fences during their normal work shift. How do you justify such a horrendous expense?
  10. Fighter
    Report Abuse
    Fighter - March 29, 2013 8:20 am
    GOOD, This country is 16 TRILLION $$ in debt..... It's about gosh darn time they started finding ways to cut back.
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