A state park will be closed to the public for three days next month while world leaders gather nearby at the Camp David presidential retreat for the G-8 Summit, according to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.
The move is highly unusual, and may be without precedent.
The closure of Cunningham Falls State Park in Frederick County, which has two public campgrounds, was requested by the U.S. Secret Service because of "security concerns," Lt. Col. Chris Bushman, a DNR spokesman, said Monday.
Members of Occupy Baltimore have called on protesters to reserve campsites at the park. But Bushman didn't know whether group members had made camping reservations — or whether the security concerns were related to their plans.
Cunningham Falls will be closed from Thursday, May 17 to Saturday, May 19. The annual G-8 Summit — a gathering of the heads of government from the United States, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United Kingdom — is schedule for May 18 and 19.
Ed Donovan, a Secret Service spokesman, declined to comment Monday night on the issue.
The state park, about 60 miles west of Baltimore, adjoins Catoctin Mountain Park, the location of the retreat where presidents have hosted foreign dignitaries for decades. President Jimmy Carter brokered the peace accords between Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin there in 1978. Other visitors have included Russian President Vladimir Putin and British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
The Secret Service's request that the park be closed during the event is the only one of its kind in recent memory, according to Bushman, who has worked at the department for 32 years.
Bushman would not comment on the security concerns raised but said DNR received the Secret Service request on Thursday.
The White House announced Camp David as the location for the summit — originally scheduled for Chicago — on March 5. The news was quickly shared on blogs and social media websites by protesters associated with the Occupy movement, who had reportedly planned to protest the event in Chicago.
That same day, an administrator of Facebook's Occupy Baltimore page wrote that a reservation had been made for 12 of the group's members. On March 6, a post titled "Occupy the G8 Summit" was placed on Occupy Baltimore's online calendar, encouraging protesters to reserve camp sites in Cunningham Falls.
Several hours later, Maryland Park Service Superintendent Nita Settina wrote on Twitter, "Occupy movement may camp at Cunningham Falls SP in May to protest G-8 Summit at nearby Camp David. Never a dull moment!"
Bushman said the park had 85 camp site reservations for May 17 to 19, and that 67 of them had been made prior to the White House announcement that Camp David would be the site of the summit. The total is normal for May, he said.
Through a contractor, the park has contacted everyone with reservations and offered a 50 percent discount on a camping stay in any state park this year, he said.
It's not clear whether any of those people were Occupy protesters. Members of the protest movement did not return calls for comment.