Some weeks ago Sabattis suggested that perhaps Dirk and Mary take a road trip through the national park system to get a close-up look at some of the ailments out there. Not a bad idea, frankly, although the Senate better hurry up and confirm Mary so she can get her ticket punched before the snow flies.
But where would they go, what would they see? I mean, there are nearly 400 units in the national park system out there. Which units would serve as poster-children for the hurting National Park Service?
Glad you asked. Here's an unscientifically-arrived-upon list of ten needy parks, in no particular order:
1. Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. During a stop here perhaps Dirk and Mary could tour the lakeshore's historic light stations, in all their run-down glory.
2. Dinosaur National Monument. Sigh. A visit here would not include a tour of the cool visitor center at the quarry, where once upon a time you could look at thousands of dinosaur bones embedded in a hillside. These days the center is on such shaky ground you can't enter it.
3. Yosemite National Park. I doubt Dirk and Mary would share a tent cabin in Curry Village, so why not put them in adjoining tents? That way they'll still be able to have a quiet after-dinner talk...if the neighborhood isn't too raucous that night, of course.
4. Glacier National Park. I know, I know, lodges supposedly are the responsibility of concessionaires. But don't you think if the Interior secretary and Park Service director stayed in one of the tiny rooms in either Lake McDonald Lodge or Many Glacier Hotel and dropped some hints that perhaps the lodges would get a long-overdue makeover?
5. Grand Canyon National Park. No national park trek is complete without being mired in a South Rim traffic jam at the Grand Canyon in July when the sun is pounding down on the roof of your rig. Memo to Dirk and Mary: Bring some congressional-folk and see if you can't persuade them to fund a public transportation system system for this side of the canyon.
6. Gateway National Recreation Area. Agenda: Meet with the Save Sandy Hook friends group to discuss ways to avoid turning over part of Fort Hancock to a developer. Oh, wait, Mary should know all about this, since she's been the Northeast regional director and as such should have been privy to this deal.
7. Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. Nice unit, nasty criminal side. Note to Dirk and Mary: Pack your bullet-proof vests for this stop.
8. Valley Forge National Historical Park. A relatively short ride from Washington, you even can start your tour on your cell phone long before you arrive by calling into a taped audio tour of the park brought to you by Lipton Tea! Crass commercialism, perhaps, but since the park obviously is struggling to afford interpretive rangers at least you'll get some insights into this Revolutionary War battlefield.
9. Acadia National Park. Now, I have to admit that this gem of the Atlantic is not as financially pinched or rundown as a lot of other parks. But if you visit during the winter months, you'll understand the funding woes when you try to use one of the restrooms...and discover it's locked until spring.
10. Gettysburg National Military Park. Boy, quite a few things to take into consideration here. You can either look at the trees or peek into the maintenance backlog that has precluded the painting of historic structures and upkeep of cannon carriages.
There you have it, folks. Not a bad start, but I'm sure there are other examples out there. Maybe selling entrance passes at the West Yellowstone Entrance of Yellowstone at the height of the snowmobile season?
Anyway, if there are other nominations for parks Dirk and Mary should see, don't be ashamed to share them!