Long one of the beauties of a national park visit have been the ranger-led tours, tours that traditionally have been free. While some parks sadly are beginning to charge for interpretive tours, others aren't moving in that direction quickly enough to suit some in private enterprise.
In New Orleans, for instance, tour companies want the New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park to stop offering free ranger-led tours through the French Quarter because they are supposedly cutting into their business.
According to The Associated Press:
Commercial operators say the government tours are pulling away visitors -- and their livelihoods are being threatened.
The park service said the tours are legitimate because the French Quarter is a historic district. Officials said the once-a-day tour is limited to 25 visitors -- but is averaging far less than that now.
Still, Gray Line Tours said its tours are running at only about 42 percent of capacity. The commercial tour operators are asking state and New Orleans officials to intervene on their behalf.
Perhaps Gray Line needs to compare its $60 tours with those offered by the Park Service and figure out a way to offer a more enticing tour, one worth the money. If the Park Service backs down in New Orleans, how soon before we can expect concessionaires and outfitters across the park system to make similar requests in a bid that surely would move the parks further along the road toward privatization?