We've already expressed amazement several times here that Bush could be bicycling in a location in the middle of the day away from the Capitol... and no one told him that there was a potential attack on Washington so as not to interrupt his bike ride.
The president bikes on Patuxent's Central Tract, which is not open to public visits, but rather serves as home to scientists who conduct experiments on soil and animals. To save money on staffing, Patuxent's 20 miles of trails on its North Tract now close four hours earlier, an especially tough blow for fishermen whose only access to a prime fishing pond had been during those later hours (it's closed during the day because it's next to a National Security Agency shooting range).
Two of the scientists' major facilities at Patuxent have been shuttered recently because the refuge lacked money to maintain the buildings, Knudsen says. One closed facility, Stickel Laboratory, became famous as the site of the studies on the pesticide DDT that inspired Rachel Carson's classic work of environmental journalism, "Silent Spring."....
To make its budget, Patuxent also has ended its long-standing Boy and Girl Scout camping programs
Bush has used Patuxent, east of the Baltimore-Washington Parkway in Prince George's and Anne Arundel counties, for bike-riding jaunts for several years, according to volunteers and staffers. Knudsen says he is not permitted to comment on the visits.
Some scientists on the site grumble that they are required by Secret Service agents to vacate their laboratories when the president is coming.
But what volunteers and staffers find most galling is the disconnect between the president's personal behavior and his administration's policies. A coalition of refuge supporters across the ideological divide -- including the National Rifle Association, the Audubon Society and 18 other environmental, hunting, fishing and birding groups -- has pressed the government to pull wildlife refuges out of a situation so dire that about 200 refuges have no staff at all, and a majority have so few workers that a backlog of more than $2 billion in maintenance projects has developed.
Now, "the system is facing cuts of 300 staff positions in the next year," Hirsche says -- a loss of one in 10 slots.
The sight of Bush pedaling through the Central Tract has struck even some of his political critics as sad -- the image of a man being taken in his security cocoon into a park swept clear of other human beings just so he can ride a bike drives home the old line about there being no lonelier job than the presidency.
"You almost feel sorry for the guy," says refuge volunteer Sue Darcey. "Except that if he understands the need for recreation, how about funding the refuges so we can all go biking in the woods?"