Recent comments

  • "Paddling Protection Act" Raises Debate Over Wilderness Travel In Yellowstone National Park   3 weeks 2 days ago

    Great article, Kurt. The NPS refusing to sit down with a group reminds me of a conversation the Smokies superintendent had after we badgered him to grant us an audience over proposed "backcountry restructuring". Dale Ditmanson said," We have all kinds of fringe groups that want to meet with me from segway riders to you backpackers."

  • "Paddling Protection Act" Raises Debate Over Wilderness Travel In Yellowstone National Park   3 weeks 2 days ago

    I'll have to confess my ignrance here, and admit that this is the first time I've ever heard the term "packrafting."

    But it certainly seems to be very low-impact activity. I think I'd like to try it someday.

    However, I'd also hate to see it simply unleashed to be allowed everywhere. Some places need to remain sacrosanct. One, for example, is the Yellowstone River as it passes through Hayden Valley. Another might be the Madison as it flows between Madison Junction and the park's western boundary. Shouldn't there be at least a few places where the scenic values should not be interrupted by humans any more than the already are?

    Again my old mantra: Proceed only with extreme caution.

  • "Paddling Protection Act" Raises Debate Over Wilderness Travel In Yellowstone National Park   3 weeks 2 days ago

    Thanks for this well-balanced article, Kurt!

    I'm not a paddler and can't afford to travel to Yellowstone anyway. But it's curious that most of the stream miles in question are open to fishing, which arguably causes more resource damage (trampling of riparian & spawning habitat, snagged hooks and lines, etc.) and whose more numerous practicioners probably impact wildlife and "opportunities for solitude" more than technical boating seemingly would. And what about taxpaying paddler's opportunities for solitude?

    As far as potential commercial use, this park seems to have been somehow able to tolerate the far greater resource impacts of as many as 9500 concession head of stock annually for decades:

    http://www.nationalparkstraveler.com/2013/11/yellowstone-national-park-p...

    The quoted $4M cost to survey the streams seems to me as exaggerated and self-serving as most of the NPS's visitation and economic benefit statistics. Yellowstone management somehow finds almost half a million dollars per year (not counting surveys ;o) for the benefit of a tiny number of snowmobilers crossing Sylvan Pass:

    http://www.nationalparkstraveler.com/2008/07/national-park-service-agree...

    Rather than waiting many years for the bureaucratic gears to slowly grind out another grand plan, the largest and/or most desirable streams could be surveyed first and opened or closed on a case by case basis. I'd bet many of those wishing to paddle in Yellowstone would be happy to reduce the park's costs by assisting management in such an effort. The current legislation does seem poorly written, but I suspect NPS management's attitude would be much harder to revise than the bill's language.

    Superintendent Wenk's statement that "visitors to the park haven't come specifically for transportation or recreational opportunities" seems contradicted by my examples above. The "traditional use" argument seems especially hollow from here at Mount Rainier. Paradise is one of the birthplaces of American skiing and one of the best and most beautiful places for backcountry skiing and snowshoeing in our national parks, yet today's winter recreationists are increasingly locked out of a road the NPS has to plow and patrol daily anyway.

    Yellowstone management's refusal to engage seems to be sending paddlers the same message Rainier employees have told me in person: "If you don't like the way we do things, then go somewhere else."

  • National Park Service Promotes Parks As Economic Engines   3 weeks 2 days ago

    Buxton, you know that pedestrian access to the Point has been closed for 5 months now, this is not just about ORV access. Face it, it's not just the ORV orgs wanting access, state and local governments supporting all forms of access have been fighting the NPS on this problem as well. I think you give the ORV orgs too much credit, they have little influence as we have seen.

  • National Park Service Promotes Parks As Economic Engines   3 weeks 3 days ago

    "So we agree economic engine provided by CHNSRA has slowed or reversed by the actions of the OBX Group NPS over the past decade."

    I don't know that to be the case at all.

    The Parks policy of letting nature take it course is not the problem with access. The problem is politicians and local leaders won't acknowledge modern scientific theories of barrier island dynamics and the immediate implications they are having.

    Birds and turtles have evolved to deal with adverse weather conditions (like a freak 100 MPH July hurricane this year) and bad nesting years but have not evolved to deal with year after year of bad resource protection measures.

    The fact that you can't meet at the Point and spring drum fish is because the only compromise(?) the ORV/ fishing organizations will entertain is unfettered 24/7 ORV access to Cape Point.

  • National Park Service Promotes Parks As Economic Engines   3 weeks 3 days ago

    My family and I love Hatteras Island as much if not more than you do. It has sadden us that were unable to share the spring fishing with our newest and oldest family members as we had for decades.

    So we agree economic engine provided by CHNSRA has slowed or reversed by the actions of the OBX Group NPS over the past decade.

    Access to the island is becoming increasingly challenging by the NPS's new policy of let it be natural, further slowing the economic engine...

    I see excessive resource closures as a ruse, given the fact that since the new plan was put in place birds and turtles have had a sharp decline, this year being the worst so far.

    I am hoping that the new ESA reform act will allow some changes to restore some of the lost access and lost economic prosperity back to the island.

  • Reader Participation Day: How Has Your National Park Experience Changed In Today's Wired World?   3 weeks 4 days ago

    I took my kid to Yosemite for the first time about a month ago. We didn't end up connected to the internet at all times, but we did find that our portable electronic devices could be used to whittle away at the occasional boredome. And that did become an issue - trying to provide power to recharge batteries, whether it was a portable battery power source, the limited output of a car power supply, or finding an empty power plug at Yosemite Lodge or some other restaurant.

    I think it really helped because we brought a young child who certainly enjoyed the experience, but could get restless without something like an iPad loaded with a favorite movie. These devices are also the preferred means to take photos as they're less bulky than most real cameras and are already with us.

  • National Park Service Promotes Parks As Economic Engines   3 weeks 4 days ago

    Beachdumb

    A lot of people now schedule their ORV fishing vacations in the fall when the fishing is better and resource protection measures are minimal. I know what the busness say about the resource closures but there is little to no substantial evidence to support it. My andotoyal observation says the resource closures have at best a minimal affect compared to weather events and highway 12 access on visitation or the local economy.

    The yearly economic result of resource closures is at most negligible, otherwise someone would have some hard facts to back it up with. Mostly I see the economic gambit as a ploy to relax ORV rules.

    Then again because I love Hatteras Island and the NPS even if it were proven that the ORV rules had a profound negative affect on the local economy the Organic Act, the EL for CHNS and the historic conditions of this place would dictate to me the management of CHNS.

  • National Park Service Promotes Parks As Economic Engines   3 weeks 4 days ago

    Buxton, visitation was down before the issues with ferry started. Visitation dropped nearly million after 2002 and has yet to recover. I did not mean a 35% drop in visitation,which I clarified when Kurt questioned. Business owners on the island have said, and on the record, that they have seen up to a 35% decline economicly. This decline was directly correlated with the new resource closures in the shoulder season but the summer season drop was minimal. We used visit several times in the spring but no longer since most of the desirable locations are closed.

    You know that access on/off the island has always been an issue. I can remember always waiting on water/tide to recede in the 80s and 90s.

  • National Park Service Promotes Parks As Economic Engines   3 weeks 4 days ago

    Beachdumb,

    Visitation is down (actually amazingly little) not because of resource restriction or the ORV rule but because of bad experiences with access on and off Hatteras Island resulting in disrupted vacations. It has happened with such regularity that some vacationers are choosing more reliable coastal areas to vacation in. A lot of the loss of visitation can actually be attributed to the weeks of ferry access that can only bring a fraction of the visitors that a highway can. The national geographic article expertly explains the serious problems facing Hatteras Island.

    There are no unbiased economic studies that even remotely suggest that a 35% drop in visitation is a result of NPS management. It is pure fantasy on your part intended to promote a personal agenda. June and July the traditional summer months that normally have no weather impacts on Hatteras Island are not down, even though resource closures are at there peak. I know because right now as I write the shops are full and there is road traffic everywhere on Hatters Island. If there were any smoking local economic guns aimed at access and visitation the ORV groups would have it out there.

  • National Park Service Promotes Parks As Economic Engines   3 weeks 4 days ago

    Climbing back out of the rabbit hole.

    It is obvious that some things are just priceless. I believe that our National Parks (monuments, seashores etc) are.

    We will keep building and transforming the natural world right up to the boundaries of many NP. The more people the more restrictive the National Parks will have to become. The mountain bike trails will be so crowded that hikers will be blazing new trails to stay out of their way. Visitors bring their ORVs to Seashore beaches where there are so many vehicles that your car can be blocked in where you can't leave, flora is destroyed, sea turtles false crawls rise and colonial bird nesting is disrupted.

    I question if any National Parks, sporting events, concerts etc cause any economic value. The most they do is direct money from one geographic area to another. The National Parks should not concern themselves with local economic issues beyond the Organic Act and the Enabling Legislation of that Park. Those should be more than enough to stimulate the local economy (away from some other local economy). The exception I always encounter is the foreign tourists that come to US National Parks exactly for the attributes that the Organic Act seeks to protect. They are here spending their money and not in some other country because the Organic Act is protecting increasingly priceless attributes not because of local economic success. I assume 20% is a considerable sum and many of these tourists are going to spend money and take in other venues not related to the NP. Maybe they will stay in Vegas for 2 nights on their way to Zion like I did one time.

  • Rehydrate Your Hike With A National Parks Traveler Water Bottle   3 weeks 5 days ago

    These water bottles are really great!

    Besides keeping me hydrated, it also came in handy one day to keep things HOT.

    Really.

    Needed a way to keep some food warm while traveling. Since the bottle is metal (or at least feels like it) I simply filled it with hot water, plunked it and the chicken into an insulated lunch carrier and enjoyed still roasty chicken a couple of hours later.

    The bottle has also gotten some compliments from other folks and opened a nice seque to allow me to tell them all about Traveler.

  • Traveler's View: Great Smoky Mountains National Park's Backcountry Fee Debate Points To Larger Problem   3 weeks 5 days ago

    It would more than likely still be the most visited true National Park in the system, just by the population statistics that surround the park. While the casino and Dollywood are part of the draw to the region, those are just components to the overall regional tourist experience In the Smokies, not the entire makeup by any means.

  • Traveler's View: Great Smoky Mountains National Park's Backcountry Fee Debate Points To Larger Problem   3 weeks 5 days ago

    The commerce that flows on Newfound Gap road today is casino traffic heading to the Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge bacchanal. A good story for this magazine would be to try and tease out the "real" visitors to the Smokies. 9 million automobiles and probably less than a tenth of a percent actually get out of their cars and visit the National Park. It is a numbers game employed with great proficiency by park managers when the dollar machines get cranked up. And that is why there won't be an entrance fee at GRSM. Sevier County merchants wouldn't allow it. The first person to suggest that will be run out of town on a rail just like Superintendent Dale Ditmanson after the embarrassment he received at the hands of the Blount Commission who condemned this backcountry fee by resolution. Funny every time I mention dishonest Dale's dealings in the Smokies some new poster shows up here in 3, 2,1....................

  • Reader Participation Day: How Has Your National Park Experience Changed In Today's Wired World?   3 weeks 5 days ago

    I'm conflicted. Pre-smartphone, and in the earlier days of cell phones I was very much against their use, not only in our parks but out in public in general. I've softened my stance but still find myself irritated when I have to listen to others carry on personal conversations in public and especially so in the parks. That said the parks have become more crowded and noisy through the years and I'm learning to ignore or getting better at escaping them at least. I also find myself owning a smart phone myself and do love having the ability to look for camnpsites or lodging along the way rather than planning everything in advance from home. I use it to look for trails, get weather forecasts and it can at times offer some sense of security should the need arise. All of that said, I miss the old days when there was much more a sense of adventure do to all the unkowns, be it trail conditions, weather, what your campsite might be like or where you end up spending the night etc.... My best memories are when the unexpected happened. Smartphones have made that happen less often. Maybe it's an age thing but I miss that. Maybe I need to just leave mine at home :)

  • Congressman Proposes Overhaul To Fee Programs On National Parks, Other Public Lands   3 weeks 5 days ago

    BREAKING NEWS!

    This from today's edition of Salt Lake Tribune.

    http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/politics/58242954-90/bishop-canyonlands-cre...

    Orrin Hatch objects that these Senators don't live in Utah. True, but they represent taxpayers in other states whose tax money is used to subsidize Utah. According to the Sutherland Institute (a conservative Utah organization) 31.5% of the state's funds come from the Federal government -- or from taxpayers in other states.

    http://sutherlandinstitute.org/news/2012/12/13/map-how-much-utah-and-oth...

    Note that this article from Sutherland is intended as a warning to Utah's lawmakers to stop relying on that Federal money. Probably good advice, but can you imagine the screeching if Utah taxpayers are asked to make up the difference or go without services they feel entitled to receive?

  • Reader Participation Day: How Has Your National Park Experience Changed In Today's Wired World?   3 weeks 6 days ago

    Download the wonderful Independence smartphone app for a good example of how the park experience can be enhanced. It includes information on 35 different sites (32 associated with Independence, and the 3 other Philadelphia National Park sites). Descriptions, photographs, hours, costs, contact information, directions -- laid out in a very convenient manner. This can be very helpful when you're dealing with a lot of different sites spread out across 6 or so city blocks. It also includes maps of the city with the sites marked off, and different themed audio tours that guide folks from one site to the next. None of this stuff sounds all that innovative, but the thing is just really well designed, and if you're wandering around Philly, this can absolutely enhance your experience.

    Lots of other parks do the audio tour thing well via smartphone. Not every tour can be a guided ranger-led tour, but this helps ensure that you can still get some interesting information. I recently did the Fayette Station tour at the New River Gorge using the audio tour on my smartphone. The commentary indicated that the tour was prepared for CD format, but I'm sure no one can argue that it's a lot cheaper and more convenient for users to be able to simply access that online now instead.

  • Night Sky Festival Coming To Lassen Volcanic National Park This Weekend   3 weeks 6 days ago

    This is absolutely outstanding. More and more, the NPS is partnering with professional and amateur astronomers to celebrate the "Other Half" of their parks. The Night Sky Festival at Lassen NP looks like a first-rate event. I hope some photos get posted.

  • Reader Participation Day: How Has Your National Park Experience Changed In Today's Wired World?   3 weeks 6 days ago

    "To garner information, you would write to a gateway community for information, or perhaps a state travel bureau, maybe the park itself."

    I always wrote to the park for official information. Now I get my information from the official NPS.GOV sites and always go to the Traveler to see if the park I was to visit is on the site. Sometimes, I go to the park's Facebook page.

    But information flows both ways. I blog, write about the parks and put a link on my FB page.

    As for cell phone chatter. That may happen in the visitor center but reception on the trails is minimal. I hiked Hemphill Bald in the Smokies yesterday. The trail was deserted until I got to the actual bald where two other people were there -- not on their cell phone.

    So as long as the parks keep printing their iconic brochures, the rest is definitely an improvement.

    Danny www.hikertohiker.com

  • Olympic National Park Gets Approval To Move Enchanted Valley Chalet...But How?   3 weeks 6 days ago

    How much does an helicopter cost versus using land based machinery? The Wilderness machinery prohibition is so nonsensical.

  • Olympic National Park Gets Approval To Move Enchanted Valley Chalet...But How?   3 weeks 6 days ago

    Natural logjams do not normally impede fish passage and I doubt a collapsed Chalet would either. I suspect the park's main concern is chemical pollution from wood preservatives, paint, and asphalt roofing paper. There would also be a fairly large amount of nails and hardware, perhaps galvanized.

  • Reader Participation Day: How Has Your National Park Experience Changed In Today's Wired World?   3 weeks 6 days ago

    The wired world now puts me in daily touch with information about the parks wherever I happen to be. Thanks to the internet, I'm now back in touch with many who I once worked with in Yosemite, Crater Lake, and Zion National Parks. I think the NPS is also doing a great job using social media to reach out to a growing public constituency. National Parks Traveler is definitely my favorite independent source of park information.

  • Olympic National Park Gets Approval To Move Enchanted Valley Chalet...But How?   3 weeks 6 days ago

    It's a rather large building for that stream. I suppose it could dam the stream and impede the trout's runs.

  • Olympic National Park Gets Approval To Move Enchanted Valley Chalet...But How?   3 weeks 6 days ago

    I see that, I just don't see the environmental issue or the threat to the trout. Does she think the building is going to land on the fish?

  • Olympic National Park Gets Approval To Move Enchanted Valley Chalet...But How?   3 weeks 6 days ago

    The concern, I believe, is that fall rains could speed erosion and cause the lodge to topple into the river.