A Perk for Federal VIPs: Park Service’s Mountain Getaway

Brinkerhoff Lodge Brinkerhoff Lodge National Park Service photo

Back in the day, the National Park Service had several VIP properties across the country, reserved for the use of members of Congress, presidents and high-ranking federal officials. These included Bodie Island Cottage, a three-bedroom lodge at Cape Hatteras Lighthouse in North Carolina, and Little Cinnamon House in Virgin Islands National Park.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, though, setting aside such luxe accommodations for government officials came to be viewed as unseemly, and the Park Service declared it would convert the properties for official use. But according to a report in Time, one of them -- Brinkerhoff Lodge in Grand Teton National Park -- is still being used to host government VIPs. And “official” has been stretched to include vacation getaways for some of them, including Vice President Joe Biden in August.

In addition to Biden, several other top officials have stayed at Brinkerhoff Lodge in recent years, including former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson, former Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, Education Secretary Arne Duncan and former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.

Often, the stays at the facility included family members, and extended for days. The Park Service has taken the position that family members can stay in the lodge as long as the public officials they’re traveling with engage in official business at some point during their trips.

“With few, if any, exceptions, officials who stay at the Brinkerhoff are given in-depth briefings and/or issue tours,” a Park Service spokeswoman told Time.

There’s some confusion over whether the officials need to reimburse the Park Service for use of the housing for family members. Biden has offered to pay $1,200 to cover the cost of his family’s stay at the Brinkerhoff. Duncan has requested an invoice for the costs for his stay. Lahood said he made a $250 donation to the Park Service after his visit, and Salazar donated $150.

The days of federal VIPs’ use of the Brinkerhoff may be numbered. The Park Service is launching an investigation into how the facility has been used.

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