Washed Out National Parks: Now What?
As the accompanying pictures clearly show, this week's heavy rains really exacted a toll on Mount Rainier, just as the earlier pics I posted about Glacier showed how that park had suffered. Now one of the questions that should be debated is how should these parks repair the damage?
In Mount Rainier, should the 18-site Sunshine Point Campground be restored? Granted, the storms that hit the park were unusual, but obviously the risks of locating a campground so near a river were clearly demonstrated this week. Imagine if the storm had struck in mid-summer, when the campground was full?
Too, what should be done about the Carbon River Road in the park's northwestern corner? Park officials long have known the road is too close to the Carbon River, as this is not the first time it's been washed out. Should they rebuild the road yet one more time, relocate it, as some have suggested, or abandon the road in favor of a foot path?
And what should be done with the Nisqually Road just inside the park's southwestern entrance? Roughly a quarter-mile of it was washed out by the storm waters. The campground at Ohanapecosh also suffered damage, in the form of a landslide. You can find more information about the damage, and more pictures, at this web site.
Over in Glacier, similar questions arise, but, as with Mount Rainier, there are no easy answers. While several sections of the Going-to-the-Sun Road were washed out, there's no question that this road, the only road that bisects the park, will be rebuilt. And that will be an engineer's nightmare, no doubt.
This work likely will cost millions of dollars, money that I'm not sure the parks can pull out of a rainy day fund (no pun intended). Hopefully next week some questions, such as how the parks will afford this work and what the construction timetable will be, will begin to get answers.