They're big, they're red, and they're heading back to North Cascades National Park this summer. Oh, and they'll also make it a bit easier for you to negotiate portions of the park.
The red buses are replicas of the early 20th century rigs that once roamed the Stehekin Valley. While they have a vintage look, they also contain such modern amenities as large touring windows and a windowed ceiling, comfortable seating, and the ability to "kneel" for easy entry.
"These buses make a great addition to the Stehekin experience," explains North Cascades National Park Complex Superintendent Chip Jenkins. "They are just a part of the $2.5 million that the National Park Service has invested to improve the concession facilities in Stehekin."
The buses were purchased by the National Park Service and will be operated by the National Park Service concession, Stehekin Landing Resort, to shuttle visitors along the Stehekin Valley to access trailheads, campgrounds, and private businesses.
The buses will also be used for the popular tour to 312-foot Rainbow Falls.
"This partnership will provide for a fun and memorable ride on these vintage-style buses," says Supt. Jenkins. "We hope families will come to Stehekin for a great vacation."
The buses are also accessible and have bicycle racks, storage for backpacks and camping gear, a public address system for narrated tours, and air conditioning.
The buses were purchased through a grant received by the park in 2006 from the U.S. Department of Transportation Paul S. Sarbanes Transit in the Parks Program. The goals of the program are to conserve natural, historical, and cultural resources; reduce congestion and pollution; improve visitor mobility and accessibility; enhance the visitor experience; and ensure access to all, including persons with disabilities.
North Cascades National Park applied for this grant to replace the aging fleet of school buses owned and operated by the concessionaire. The grant funded a detailed analysis of the bus characteristics best suited to operate in the unique, remote location of Stehekin. Then, a prospectus was developed based upon this analysis, and through open competition, a contract was awarded and the buses were manufactured by TMC Group Inc. of Elkhart, Indiana.