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Private Party At Charlestown Navy Yard Doesn't Lack Alcohol


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.


"more like a business" Eh! The Dick Cheney way...right Mary!!

Actually Snowbird I know all the people involved and they are 100% Kennedy liberals, only this time no one died.

You know all the people involved? Are they anonymous too?

About a year and a half ago, I went to a private party at the Charleston Navy Yard in Boston, and even consumed alcohol! I think the circumstances of my event were quite different than the party described here. I was an attendee at the American Association of Museum's annual conference. The evening event was an opportunity for professionals in the museum industry to see first hand the working relationship between the National Park Service and US Navy, experience the interpretive programs, and wander through the visitor center.

The event was catered, and included two drink tickets per person for beer. There were signs and polite officials which made sure the beer and food did not travel into the museum exhibit area. Everything was quite orderly.

I think the difference between my event and the event described in this article is that my museum's event was intended to be educational in nature, while the McKesson event appears to be a corporate party next to a cool lookin' old boat (Old Iron Sides). I'd imagine that the paperwork for the McKesson event included plenty of provisions for educational opportunities to match the requirements necessary for renting the facility, but with alcohol abuse and police intervention, in practice the event turned into something entirely different.

Why is it a big deal that the park service rented out their space for a party that (gasp!) served (legal) alcohol? [edit] Honestly. Are you upset that you didn't get an invitation? I've been to a wedding reception that was held there. Were they supposed to let park visitor's into my friends' reception? Give me a break.

I've deleted one of your comments and edited another. This is a forum for open debate, not name calling or unnecessary profanity. Your thoughts are welcome, but the personal attacks are not.

If you've read the article and the comments you'll understand that the debate here is not whether alcohol was being served illegally, but whether the entire event was appropriate on our nation's protected landscape. I'll take it from your criticism's you believe the event was entirely appropriate and that an examination of such events on Park Services managed lands is not needed. Thank you for sharing.

Is that what the Park Service has come down to? Managing properties to rent out for parties and weddings? What's next, renting out the boardwalk around Old Faithful for a private party or the ground beneath Yosemite Falls for a wedding? Should the Tetons or Arches National Park be used for the climbing competition in the next Extreme Games?

The point that apparently eluded you is that Congress is not properly funding the Park Service and that if the trend continues we're likely to see more and more private affairs and other money-making ventures staged at units of the park system that have a totally different mission. And the public whose tax dollars supposedly support the national park system will be on the outside looking in.

Seeing how this current administration has used the Department of Interior and particular, the National Park Service, for a test case of outsourcing jobs and slashing the budget to the point where the departments can barely operate, how else are you supposed to fix parking lots, leaking roofs, and broken computer equipment than to do a little creative fundraising?

I agree that this is not a big deal. I have been to events at the Navy Yard that weren't open to the public and where alcohol was served. And I'm just Joe Schmoe.

Even if it was "Kennedy liberals" using the facilities for a price, why is that a debatable issue? Are "Kennedy liberals" not allowed to rent out properties for an event? Not too long ago, Laura Bush was at the Navy Yard for a ceremony that was closed to the public. Does that mean the "Bush conservatives" get the same mirror held up to them?

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