We at the Traveler would like to wish all our readers a very Happy New Year! May 2009 bring you many adventures in the National Park System.
The past year has been an interesting one across the system, to say the least. We saw much vitriol over the prospect of concealed weapons in national parks, sadness over tragedies that claimed the lives of park visitors, the joy of lost hikers being found OK despite what seemed like staggering odds. There have been fights over inholdings and how they might be developed, over access to lands that by their very definition are public lands.
Through the past 364 days, the Traveler has tried to cover as many of the issues and news events surrounding the national parks as possible. Salted among these posts have been stories about how best to visit the parks and other "soft" travel pieces that seem to be in demand. Our hope is to offer folks "one-stop shopping" when it comes to following news and life in the parks. By rough estimate, these pages have carried 887 park-related stories since 2008 arrived a year ago. It's a remarkable number when you consider the Traveler runs on 100% volunteer sweat.
The core mission of the Traveler remains the same since day one: Our goal is to follow news events around the system, watch how the National Park Service carries out its mission, and, at times, express our opinions on those actions. We hope that along the way we're able to nurture a few more advocates for this incredible park system. It surely needs as many as it can get. To that extent, we encourage constructive debate about these issues, for only through such debate can we possibly come to see another side to the issue at hand or, perhaps, even find common ground.
When I launched this site three-and-a-half years ago, it was built solely around my voice. Since then I've been pleased and honored to be joined by Dr. Robert Janiskee, who many know as the site's quiz-meister. Of course, he's much more than that, as one of his joys and talents is to ferret out the obscure and overlooked of the park system and bring it home to you. This past summer Jim Burnett, a veteran ranger with three decades (and two books) under his belt, agreed to lend his voice to the Traveler. And, judging by the reads his posts receive, it's a much-loved voice. His tales of life in the national parks provide much depth and color to the site, and his overall perspective is invaluable. While you haven't seen much of Chance Finegan's words in recent months, that's only because he's grappling with life as a college freshman. His passion for the parks hasn't waned, and we expect to see much more of him in the months ahead.
We've also been fortunate throughout the year to bring you other voices and perspectives from guest columnists and guest writers scattered around the country. There have been at least 13 guest writers, including: John Adornato III, Brett Gross, Owen Hoffman, Randy Johnson, Jim McDonald, Amy McNamara, Sabattis, Richard West Sellars, Rick Smith, Jim Stratton, Ann Torrance, Claire Walter, Ann Mitchell Whisnant, and David E. Whisnant. (Our sincere apologies if we’ve left anyone out.) We look forward to more of their thoughts in the months to come, and hope to add to their ranks. Let us know if you're interested.
Not to be overlooked at all are all the National Park Service employees -- from seasonals all the way up to superintendents and even NPS Director Mary Bomar -- who have taken time to speak with us so we might better understand what's going on in the parks. It's a cliche, but they are the ones on the front lines whose perspectives are necessary to convey. Not everyone will agree with those perspectives 100 percent of the time -- maybe not even 25 percent of the time -- but those views are still valuable to relay for they help the rest of us better understand what's going on and why.
Of course, the Traveler would be little without its readers. Your ranks have grown substantially since August 2005, and your voices are a vital part of this site. Stick with us as we move forward into 2009, bear with us as we tinker at times with hopes of improving the site, and invite your friends to try us out. Also, don't be timid about suggesting story ideas or asking questions. While we likely can't tackle them all, we'll certainly consider them.
Here's hoping that we'll cross paths in the parks in 2009.