Around The Parks: Give Back Shenandoah, Point Reyes NS Elk, Rocky Mountain NP Visitation Plunges

A Virginia legislator wants the Commonwealth to reclaim Shenandoah National Park from the federal government. Kurt Repanshek photo.

A Virginia politician wants the Commonwealth to take back Shenandoah National Park, ranchers say there are too many elk at Point Reyes National Seashore, and plunging visitation at Rocky Mountain National Park is costly.

Virginia Legislator Wants Shenandoah National Park Returned To State Control

A Virginia politician, citing the economic damage done by the closure of Shenandoah National Park back in October during the partial government shutdown, wants the Commonwealth to take back the park.

Bob Marshall, a Republican member of Virginia's House of Delegates, wants the General Assembly when it meets in January to consider his bill calling for that to happen.

"My bill would create a commission to evaluate the possibility of bringing the Shenandoah National Park back under Virginia’s control," Del. Marshall wrote in an opinion piece that ran this past week in the Roanoke Times. "The commission, which would be bicameral, bipartisan and temporary, would take a hard look at the feasibility of reacquiring the Shenandoah National Park from the federal government, estimate the costs of the transaction, and work with Virginia’s secretary of natural resources to develop an annual operating budget for the park.

"... By closing businesses operating inside the parks, the federal government destroyed jobs. By making it illegal for millions of tourists to visit the parks, the federal government threatened the livelihoods of the thousands of small businesses and their employees."

The Republican, saying Congress can't ensure that future closures of the National Park System won't occur, said it is in Virginia's best interests to take Shenandoah back.

"Virginians deserve a better and more permanent solution," he wrote.

Are There Too Many Tule Elk At Point Reyes National Seashore?

At Point Reyes National Seashore in California area dairy ranchers are worried about the growing number of Tule elk, and want the National Park Service to do something about them.

The problem is that the elk reportedly are trampling fences, competing with the cattle for grazing forage, and making a mess out of water holes. While Seashore crews have provided some ponds for the elk and are considering different types of fencing, local officials want faster action.

At the Marin Independent Journal, the editorial board voiced its opinion that the Park Service needs to resolve the elk problem.

"The National Park Service has a reputation for, at times, a slow bureaucratic and methodical approach to addressing issues. That is what's frustrating Point Reyes National Seashore ranchers, who fear free-roaming tule elk will drive them out of business while the park service studies the issue," the board wrote this past week.

"This isn't an unsolvable problem. But, that said, the federal bureaucracy has a knack for making easy solutions complicated, costly and time consuming."

Drop In Rocky Mountain National Park Visitation Costly

When Rocky Mountain National Park's primary access routes were cut off by September flooding, one result was a related plunge in visitation to the park. And that drastic decline is costly to the park in lost entrance fee revenues.

Park statistics show that visitation in September was down 52 percent from a year earlier, and that in October it was off 70 percent.

According to Rocky Mountain spokeswoman Kyle Patterson, September revenues came in at $483,000, compared to $1.18 million in September 2012. In October, the revenues were just $116,000, she said, a 75 percent decline from October 2012.

"About 80 percent of our visitors come from the east which means they are traveling on 34 and 36," she told the Estes Park Trail-Gazette. "When you have two major roads not accessible, that's going to have a huge impact."