Recent comments

  • Updated: NPS Director Jarvis Ends "Core Ops" Budgeting Across The National Park System   5 years 23 weeks ago

    Core operations was designed against the backdrop of the A-76 initiative which was championed by Vice President Al Gore under the Clinton Administration, but began in the prior administration and continued through the Bush Administration. A-76 was an effort to look at privatizing many of the functions of government, and much of its attraction came from the argument that government agencies were bloated and inefficient. The NPS was hit hard by two events that contributed to this perception: The Delaware Water Gap comfort station story which gained national attention for wasteful spending, and the Sperry Chalet story which gained attention for much the same reason. Whether or not these two projects deserved their characterization in the national media, they were taken by Congress, and by our Congressional appropriators, as examples that the NPS was not managing its money wisely, and that its budget process was not transparent or accountable.

    Core Operations was an effort to provide that accountability and transparency. It had nothing to do with any other political considerations. At the time Core Operations was developed, most IMR parks were projected to be mired in red ink based on the budget cost projection module. In addition, most IMR parks had very little budget flexibility to address a crisis, with fixed costs eating up as much as 100 percent of park ONPS base accounts. Core operations was designed to allow each individual park, each program, and the regional office, to look at their operations and prioritize those operations so that they could make budget cuts thoughtfully and strategically – not ad hoc. In doing so, budget decisions would be squarely in the hands of managers, not dictated by circumstance. It was also designed to ensure that, if parks and programs could not meet their basic core needs as identified by the process, they would have a transparent and credible process on which to base their request for an increase in funds.

    The process of Core Operations was not easy. No question about it. No hard look at budget priorities ever is. But it was a solid, straightforward attempt to give the parks and programs in the region the tools to plan strategically for their future at a time of great budgetary uncertainty.

    One of the great joys of working for the NPS is that we share a remarkable mission. We are all dedicated to that mission, whether we are in the parks, running programs, in the regional offices, or in the Washington office. Until this debate on Core Operations, I truly thought that we all believed that each of us was dedicated to that mission. We may have disagreed about how to carry it out, but we knew that we were all equally deeply committed to it. Are those who have posted on this web page, questioning the motives or intent of others, really so certain that they have a corner on how to carry out that mission? Have we lost the graciousness and generosity of spirit seemed to be the hallmark of wearing the flat hat?

  • Woman Dies in Fall From Angels Landing At Zion National Park   5 years 23 weeks ago

    We hiked the trail the day before this event. I went to the top; my companion chose to stop at Scout's landing. It is a spectacular trail. It is indeed high, and requires appropriate care. It is also considerably less difficult and dangerous than many - in and out of national Parks, both in the US and in other countries. Whilst I do not have data to support my hypothesis I suspect that the death toll of this trail is significantly less than many trails that are considered relativey easy walks - Vernal Fall in Yosemite comes mind. That someone lost their life is a tragedy. It would be even more so if access to every "dangerous place" in this world were restricted, or every trail became a Disney style carnival ride with big signposts and guard rails the entire distance. Ultimately people must be responsible for their own actions.

  • Updated: NPS Director Jarvis Ends "Core Ops" Budgeting Across The National Park System   5 years 23 weeks ago

    It is a bit maddening to see that a few people in the IM Regional Office don’t seem to grasp the idea that park staffs and/or management deal with the complete gamut of managing parks everyday, including park budgets. It is also frustrating to see that somehow these regional staff members have concluded (in some cases perhaps legitimately) that parks were incapable of, or not concerned with, managing budgets, but then again we were all well aware of this attitude. It seems that as Core Ops developed in IMR, this feeling that the park staffs were adversaries instead of colleagues striving to deal with fiscal problems became more and more apparent. It is also clear that the process was clearly often tainted with vindictiveness instead of being an objective examination of park needs.

    Ironically, if we could look at all of the fiscal costs associated with this effort including regional and park staff time and travel, I’m quite certain we would find that hundreds of thousands of dollars (perhaps more) in IMR funds were expended on never-completed (and completed) Core Ops Plans and BCPs across the region, not to mention Core Ops exercises that were repeated. Beyond this, the human cost in terms of lost positions vital to park missions and the animosity that his program has generated is incalculable. The tragedy is that most of this effort did not result in positive outcomes for parks.

    While it is maddening to see some of the comments, it is also understandable. After spending many years with the NPS and seeing huge planning efforts such as GMPs, RMPs, CIPs, BCPs, and Core Ops involving hundreds of hours of time by many people, often quickly discarded, I can understand the feeling of ownership in the Core Ops process and all the effort that went into it at the regional level. It is painful for some to see so much effort cast aside. But I would encourage our colleagues in IMR office to use that energy to work collaboratively with new leadership and parks to help confront looming fiscal crises that we are all well aware of.

    I wish the best for Mr. Jarvis as he strives to deal with all the issues on his very large plate.

  • Reader Participation Day: What Do You Think of Lodging Rates in National Parks?   5 years 24 weeks ago

    My wife and I are retired for 10 years now and have traveled to all of the 56 major national parks.We are not rich people but feel blessed that we have done it.We have always travelled in the off seasons to avoid the traffic and people.We have always tryed to stay at the park lodges for a night or 2 to get the experience and maybe dine out at the special park resturants.Over those 10 years we have seen the prices get so out line that it has become pretty much unaffordable to stay in most of the places we would like to go back to.My one beef is if these people would update and put some of this money back into these lodges it would not be so bad. Some are in worse shape than run down motels.But like everything today it's politics and how much MONEY can we make off these suckers.Don't get me wrong we have had some great experiences in these Natl Parks.But these Natl Parks should not be just for the rich and that's sadly whats happening.
    One final note, I would like to thank Kurt for the great job he does keeping us abreast of these National Treasures.

  • Updated: NPS Director Jarvis Ends "Core Ops" Budgeting Across The National Park System   5 years 24 weeks ago

    Yes, superintendents do fail. It is no secret that the NPS does not have a management succession or leadership development program. Superintendents are plucked from wherever they may come from. Case in point, the new GS-15 superintendent of Boston NHP is coming from the US Forest Service. No NPS or park experience. It's hard to blame managers who are put into postions without training or experience.

  • National Park Lodging Rates, On Average, Stay Ahead of Inflation   5 years 24 weeks ago

    I am curious why Glenn makes the correlation between being able to call national parks "People's Parks" and choosing to not stay overnight in them. My taxes pay for roads which I may not be able to afford to drive on. Help me understand the correlation.

    I guess it's a matter of perspective. Frankly the costs of lodging in many NPS units are in line with similar properties outside NPS areas. Some are really high demand areas (especially Yosemite) and don't believe that there should be any sort of artificial price control. Many type of in-park lodging are actually cheaper than accommodations outside the park and not surprisingly book extremely quickly.

    Camping is still an option. One can rent a small RV.

    Prices do vary. The Colter Bay tent cabins at Grand Teton NP are $50. There are summer options for indoor lodging at SEKI for under $100. I stayed in Yellowstone one night for under $60 in a cabin. Maswik Lodge at the Grand Canyon is very reasonable - about $80 night with a TV and telephone. That's actually cheaper than most places in Tusayan, just outside the park.

  • Updated: NPS Director Jarvis Ends "Core Ops" Budgeting Across The National Park System   5 years 24 weeks ago

    I surmise that a major reorganization of the leadership of the Intermountain Regional Office of the NPS will become a Jarvis action item.

  • Updated: NPS Director Jarvis Ends "Core Ops" Budgeting Across The National Park System   5 years 24 weeks ago

    Bill Wade
    Chair, Executive Council
    Coalition of National Park Service Retirees

    Let's be clear here. From everything I know, Core Operations was invented by Mike Snyder and was done so he could ingratiate himself to the then Director, but more importantly, to the DOI - especially then Deputy Secretary Lynn Scarlett. He got buy-in from the Director which had the effect of having the process foisted off on the other regions, but clearly a number of the other regions (including Jarvis in the Pacific West Region) didn't buy it lock, stock and barrel and dragged their feet in implementing it; so the consequences were felt far less in the rest of the NPS than was the case in the Intermountain Region. It seems clear that Mike Snyder has to bear the responsibility for the damage.

    It seems clear that this is the first of other "corrections to the System" that Jarvis intends to initiate. I am attending the "Ranger Rendezvous" - conference of the Association of NP Rangers here in Gettysburg. Jarvis spoke to the attendees yesterday morning, and one of the things he mentioned that he (and the DOI) intend to work on immediately (he's evidently already appointed someone to lead this effort and perhaps has put out guidance to the regions on how he intends to proceed) is to reduce the "excessive reporting requirements" in the NPS. Core Ops was a terribly flawed reporting requirement, and there are other ones either flawed or useless out there. We wish Jarvis huge success in getting a handle on this as he moves ahead with other things needing correction from the mess he inherited.

  • Tough Times or Wanton Poaching Along the Blue Ridge Parkway?   5 years 24 weeks ago


    I'm not sure what you are asking. Do you mean that hunting should be allowed on _all_ federal land?

    There clearly isn't a blanket prohibition of hunting on federal lands: almost all BLM & Forest service lands allow & support hunting, including Pisgah and Nantahala NFs adjacent to the Blue Ridge Parkway. Some military lands exclude hunting, some allow only military & family hunters, some have hunting seasons open to the general public. Even in NPS units, the rules are that hunting is not allowed in most but not all: "Preserve" in the title is a pretty good indicator that hunting is allowed, and I believe that some other units have hunting explicitly allowed in their enabling legislation. The enjoyment unimpaired for future generations for most NPS units includes both wildlife viewing and sustaining wildlife populations in the regional landscape that can be hunted outside the park.

  • Reader Participation Day: What Do You Think of Lodging Rates in National Parks?   5 years 24 weeks ago

    I (still) can't afford to stay in the lodges. That doesn't bother me: other folks can afford it, so they fulfill a need. My wife is no longer happy camping in a tent on the ground, and alas, backpacking for several nights is now out of the question. We need to negotiate combinations of more affordable lodging outside of the parks, car (tent) camping a night or 2 in the core of parks, and maybe an occasional splurge of a night at a lodge in a park. Its all good.

  • Updated: NPS Director Jarvis Ends "Core Ops" Budgeting Across The National Park System   5 years 24 weeks ago

    "The arrogance of thinking the parks are above budgeting when people are struggling too pay home heating, health care, gas and other bills is appalling."

    Typical straw man argument. The parks are acutely aware of the need to manage budgets carefully. Acknowledging that "Core Ops" was an abysmal way to go about the process does not negate that reality.

  • Reader Participation Day: What Do You Think of Lodging Rates in National Parks?   5 years 24 weeks ago

    The prices are fine. You aren't spending a night in NP lodging just for a place to sleep. It's part of the experience. Look at the cultural experience of staying at OFI or El Tovar. If you're looking for Holiday Inn prices, stay at a Holiday Inn! There's no reason to expect these historic relics to compete in any form of the word with other businesses. These are unique places and are priced as such.

  • Arnica Fire in Yellowstone National Park Blows Up to More than 8,000 Acres   5 years 24 weeks ago

    yellowstone park is awesome even when its all burnt up (:

  • Reader Participation Day: What Do You Think of Lodging Rates in National Parks?   5 years 24 weeks ago

    does the parks have areas that you can pitch your own tent?without charging an arm and a leg?we went threw yellowstone last summer,i thought the lodging was nice but for the average family,just making their budgets,it was pricie. another experience was,to me to many people from other countries working at the lodges,hire more americans...thank jack

  • Reader Participation Day: What Do You Think of Lodging Rates in National Parks?   5 years 24 weeks ago

    I can't sleep on the ground and still want to go to the parks for all of the stuff other than sleeping on the ground related. At the same time, we're starting to make sufficient income now that we can afford to save up for a nice treat like a night or two in a lodge.

    There have always been things I could afford and things I couldn't afford. I never resented that fact any more than the fact that there are scenic views I can handle hiking to and others that I can't.

    We just got notice from a lodge that we've stayed at before of an off season buy one night, get a second free, offer, and we're making reservations. That cuts the effective price in half, and makes for a special weekend that's well within our price range. I still can't afford longer stays, and so be it.

  • Reader Participation Day: What Do You Think of Lodging Rates in National Parks?   5 years 24 weeks ago

    I visited both Yosemite and the Grand Canyon this past year and Crater Lake last. While Yosemite's Ahwahnee was a bit steep (over $500) it was well worth the stay and enriched our stay as that hotel has so much history attached to it. The El Tovar (GCNP) and Crater Lake Lodge were pricey given the room itself but we wouldn't have stayed anywhere else. I agree with Connie in that the focus is on the park itself. The lodges just add an element of history and comfort to an already phenomenal experience!

  • Updated: NPS Director Jarvis Ends "Core Ops" Budgeting Across The National Park System   5 years 24 weeks ago

    Great discourse here on the Traveler. Thanks to all who have shared. I've worked with Rick Smith and he is absolutely on the mark with his comments - kudos Rick!

  • Updated: NPS Director Jarvis Ends "Core Ops" Budgeting Across The National Park System   5 years 24 weeks ago

    The CORE OPS was a Titanic from its inception.

  • Updated: NPS Director Jarvis Ends "Core Ops" Budgeting Across The National Park System   5 years 24 weeks ago

    Wow - a few IMR regional office commenters don't seem to get it. Parks most certainly do understand the gravity of the budget situation and certainly know that times will be getting even tougher for all Americans and for all non defense related federal agencies. Director Jarvis is NOT attacking but rather leading! Most employees are excited by his inspired leadership. IMR commenters- please stop insulting us in the parks by postulating we don't understand budgets or BCPs or obligation rates or any of the important components of our very serious fiscal responsibilities.

  • National Park Quiz 75: Potpourri IV   5 years 24 weeks ago

    BASE-jumping, a parachuting variant whose name derives from its unusual choice of launch sites (Buildings, Antennas, Spans [bridges], and Earth formations [cliffs]),

    So, if they referred to bridges as bridges (rather than "spans") it would be BABE Jumping?

  • Updated: NPS Director Jarvis Ends "Core Ops" Budgeting Across The National Park System   5 years 24 weeks ago

    Still waiting, Rick

  • Reader Participation Day: What Do You Think of Lodging Rates in National Parks?   5 years 24 weeks ago

    I don't really have a problem with the prices for various Lodges. My focus is on the Park itself and what scenery and nature it has to offer and not one kind of accomodations I am going to have. For most of the years of our marriage when our family was young, we camped the entire time at Bridge Bay in Yellowstone. Where we slept had no influence on our enjoyment of the park to the contrary, camping gave our kids piceless memories! Now that we are empty-nesters we still camp but we have also began including staying at some of the Lodges when and where we can. If I don't want to spend hundreds of dollars a night to stay in a particular Lodge then I will camp instead! I enjoy the ambiance that some of the Lodges have to offer and due to personal tastes not all of them appeal to me. If I wanted to spend the money like I was staying at "The Ritz" then I will go to New York City rather than hiking in one of our National Parks!
    Connie Hopkins
    Denton, Texas

  • County In Wyoming Sues National Park Service Over Snowmobile Numbers in Yellowstone National Park   5 years 24 weeks ago

    @ paul: Everyone - but the wildlife. A single day of everyone doing what ever they want with their snow mobiles in the park can be enough to kill animals. Every time they are disturbed and have to flee through deep snow, they use up vast amounts of energy. To refill their energy they need quiet time to browse, quiet time they would not have on such a day. Now image seven consecutive days like that.

  • Pruning the Parks: Wheeler National Monument (NPS 1933-1950) Was a Great Idea Until Colorado Got Good Roads   5 years 24 weeks ago

    Thanks for the feedback, Debbie. Was the Wheeler site in good shape when you visited? Did you see any evidence that people were ignoring the ban on motorized vehicles?

  • Pruning the Parks: Papago Saguaro National Monument (1914-1930)   5 years 24 weeks ago

    Well, Sharlene, there's a long list of people who'd like to see the area less commercialized, but de-development is not an option. We'll just have to consider the Papago Saguaro story a cautionary tale.