Recent comments

  • Designations Just One Example of Disparities Within the National Park System. Web Sites Are Another   5 years 18 weeks ago

    The largest, most popular parks are much more highly favored not just by visitors or managers.
    Park partners, especially "educational" partners, provide a great deal of funding to the larger parks with screaming resources that everyone wants to visit. The big sexy parks get more support, unfortunate but it's true, because it's awesome and cool to be associated with them.

    Who paid for the production of Yellowstone's volumes of web content? You can bet one of the partner's did, and not the NPS. Who got all that content up on the website? Very possibly one of their hundred's of volunteers.

    So, put aside the visitation arguments, the unification of branding arguments, etc. And let's look at a plain reality.
    The smaller, less visited units of the NPS have much smaller staff, and fewer, if any, financial partners. Who is supposed to develop the web content? Who is supposed to pay for it? Web content must be on the bottom of the priority list for the managers of smaller, less visited units.

    Seriously Kurt, I hope the motivation for this argument was to get a dialogue going, and not to criticize the big parks for taking advantage of the finances thrown their way, and the partners that are knocking down their doors. That's unfair, and unnecessary.
    And PLEASE, I hope no one suggests that the NPS add more staff in Washington or their regional offices to accomplish a web-equity program; those offices are already way too top heavy with marginal visible effectiveness, or results that affect the visitor in a positive, tangible way.
    It would be more useful for you to just put up a giant banner ad on this website that says VOLUNTEER AT YOUR LOCAL NATIONAL PARK, or CREATE FINANCIAL PARTNERSHIPS WITH YOUR FAVORITE PARK. Because we all know the sad truth that the federal government just won't pony up the dough to take care of all 391 units equitably.

    And while you're at it Kurt, how about a moratorium on Traveler content concerned with the same 20 big parks, and maybe a new focus on the 100 or so smallest or least visited parks? That would be a more proactive solution to the inequity you give lip-service to.

  • House Consideration of Massive Public Lands Bill Could Involve Gun Amendment   5 years 18 weeks ago

    This is crap. DINO needs fixing. Now. Surely we can wait on an NJ park?

  • Sections of Pacific Crest Trail Poached by Mountain Bikers; Could Problems Arise in National Parks?   5 years 18 weeks ago

    It's like ATV issues...ride your bikes on Forest Service or BLM land. It's just as spectacular (usually)

  • Sections of Pacific Crest Trail Poached by Mountain Bikers; Could Problems Arise in National Parks?   5 years 18 weeks ago

    IMTN, I guess I don't really see a problem. There are plenty of places to ride mountain bikes in national parks. The problem is not all mountain bikers like those options.

    I struggle somewhat to understand that, for reasons I'll elaborate on below, but also because there is no shortage of beautiful places to ride outside the parks, places where the beauty is national-park quality. Here's a short list:

    * The Vedauvoo area just east of Laramie, Wyoming

    * The Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

    * The Sawtooth National Recreation Area

    * The San Rafael Swell

    * Moab's Slickrock Trail, where, by the way, you're not likely to encounter any hikers.

    * The Kokopelli Trail. I'm not sure, but I don't think you'll encounter many hikers here, either.

    If you've ever been to West Yellowstone, you're probably familiar with the Rendezvous Trail System. In winter it's one of the finest cross-country ski systems in the Rocky Mountain West. Come summer, it's a great trail system for mountain biking.

    A couple years ago my wife and I and a friend spent a morning riding our mountain bikes on the 25Ks of trails. The next day we headed into the park and hiked the Mystic Falls Trail. Same trip, two totally different experiences. How might the Mystic Falls experience have differed if there were mountain bikers on the trail?

    I guess the point I'm trying to make is that there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy both mountain biking and hiking, and that each in its own can be a unique experience, a different experience. I believe we need to maintain each of those experiences...but at times keep them separate as well. Now, I realize some will take that last statement and quickly point out that such separation exists in officially designated wilderness, which currently is off-limits to bikes. But how likely is a young family to hike all the way back into that wilderness for the experience?

    Over the years I've come to believe, to accept, that the national parks are a different animal than other public lands. They are managed for an entirely different purpose, one focused largely on conservation/preservation, not meeting everyone's recreational preference. Is that too idealistic? Perhaps.

    Is that a waste? Is that a misuse of taxpayer dollars? I don't think so. I'd like to view it as wise and prudent to hold onto something from the past and not let it be overrun, so future generations can experience it that way.

    The other day I cited a passage about going out into nature with our encumbrances left behind. That is part of the essence of heading off into the backcountry of a park, whether it's just a short mile-long walk or a multi-day sojourn.

    Now, under its current lobbying platform, the International Mountain Bicycling Association has been seeking access to more trails -- and to cut new trails -- in the national parks. They've stressed the importance of single-track, saying that's what mountain bikers want, that dirt roads are too boring. That indicates to me that mountain bike access in the parks isn't about seeing nature from your saddle, but rather expanding the possibilities for another thrill sport.

    Now, if that effort succeeds and all of a sudden there's a mountain-bike presence on park trails, how will that impact the young family with toddlers and tweens going for a short hike to a lake or an overlook? Will we encounter mountain bikes at the base of Delicate Arch?

    If IMBA succeeds in having wilderness closed not to "mechanized" travel, but "motorized" travel, thus allowing mountain bikers to head off deep into the backcountry, how will that impact the backcountry experience? Will it impact the backcountry experience? Probably not in every place, simply because some areas are just too rugged for bikes. But in some places it will. Is that a plus for the national parks, or a minus?

    Should we have places where you can only go as fast as your footsteps will carry you? Is that a benefit to our natural souls, or is that a joy and experience of a bygone era?

    You say that folks dislike the "mass-consumption" of national parks. But isn't throwing the doors open to mountain biking one more example of catering to that mass-consumption? You also say that wilderness has "a more stable following." If it's officially designated wilderness, it also comes without mountain bikes. Does that explain the "more stable following"?

  • Sections of Pacific Crest Trail Poached by Mountain Bikers; Could Problems Arise in National Parks?   5 years 18 weeks ago

    hi zebby & pro park mountain biker folks:

    i just don't think the nps lands are good for mountain bikes. we'll never agree on this, but in my opinion there are plenty of places to ride, state, local, private, usfs and blm, that you really aren't missing much. so, imtnbike, respectfully submitted, not an inch when you are talking about backcountry trails in national park service areas.

    i'd love it if imba and all the local mtn bike trail orgs would just get over this and start lobbying for more trail *maintenance* dollars to come down as well as concentrate on developing new trails... but that's probably a pipe dream, this nps issue has much media attention and people don't donate to organizations they don't think are standing up for them.

    i don't agree, either, that not allowing mountain biking in parks will really have an impact on the nation's physical fitness. that's a pretty silly assertion, in my opinion. people are fat because they watch too much tv or play too many video games or eat "food" which is really processed crap.... not because they are banned from riding their mountain bike in a national park.

    having introduced quite a few people to the sport of riding a bike on trails, it's very cost prohibitive (you probably won't agree with me here, either! ;) and takes a much higher level of physical fitness to really enjoy... hiking, as you know (aside from boring you to death!) has a much lower heart rate zone in most cases than biking does. at least in the hilly areas most parks occupy. i mean, i can take my mother hiking here out the west's mountains and she lives in the flatlands... but i could never take her mountain biking! no way! there is an undeniable difference in the level of fitness needed. hiking is more accessible to all walks of life. besides, most parks are super far away from population centers anyway, so there is another barrier.

    i do completely agree that mountain biking needs to be included on other federal lands, it's a beautiful sport and i love it. it's much different than hiking and a great way to get out, keep in shape, etc. you just don't be the same rush hiking as you do mountain biking.

    also, i love bikes. i ride one to work 8 months (mostly) out of the year back and forth to work, so i'm not anti-biker. plus, i do volunteer work days for mountain bike trails... so while we don't agree on this topic, i want to be clear that i do enjoy bikes + mountain biking.

    speaking of which, i need a new bike. someone suggest a good dual suspension model!? 29'er?

  • Sections of Pacific Crest Trail Poached by Mountain Bikers; Could Problems Arise in National Parks?   5 years 18 weeks ago

    Quick followups to some of the more recent comments:

    Rolling Thunder: "this is totally flogging a dead horse with the same people commenting the same gripes and no one is giving an inch."

    That's not accurate. I said earlier in this thread:

    Some mountain bikers do recognize that we run the potential to compromise others' desire for solitude, absence of hypervigilance, and stillness in the wild. There's a lot of dogma on all sides on this emotional issue, and I refuse to be dogmatic.

    Specifically, I and many others, I'm sure including Zebulon, are willing to give more than an inch. But since we have zero access now in certain places we'd like to visit by bicycle, we don't have much to give. All we can offer is that we'd go for alternate-day use and other established means of keeping disparate trail user groups as happy as possible.

    Rolling Thunder, what inch would you be willing to give?

    Random Walker writes:

    I abhor the continuous lobbying for more development in our National Parks and Wildernesses; be it buildings, roads or trails for mountain bikes, horses or boots, and the belief that nature should conform to the trends of society.

    That at least is a principled stand. I trust that Random Walker doesn't go to the national parks or Wilderness areas, lest the marginal impact of one additional visit impact nature negatively. But it's a politically untenable view. Wall off wildlands to the public and public support for them will evaporate. There's some evidence that this is happening with the national parks already. People dislike the $20 entry fee, the bureaucracy, the rules, the regimentation, and the mass-society and mass-consumption aspects of them. I have that impression, anyway. Wilderness seems to have a more stable following, perhaps because it's free and not full of parking lots, tour buses, and towaway-zone signs.

    Jim Burnett writes:

    Although many of the mountain biking supporters who have made comments clearly don't accept the idea that their activities detract from the ability of other uses to safely enjoy trails, the point is that the hikers feel differently.

    That's true, and those hikers who resent mountain bikes' presence are entitled to have their view respected. At the same time, there are negative impacts to excluding mountain biking too. Economists understand that life is about tradeoffs. Mountain bikers continue to offer compromises, but regularly meet with blanket "no"s, usually couched in the language that there are "concerns" that mountain biking would be "inappropriate." (I continue to criticize this kind of amorphous language because it's unanswerable, stifles debate, and makes it impossible to know what the writer of it means.) Very few parks advocates say, "Well, maybe we could try X."

    Kurt asks Zebulon:

    A question about alternate days—how does that work with backcountry travelers? Say a hiker, or a mountain biker, wants to head off on a multiday trip. Under an alternate day program, would they have to coordinate so they exit the backcountry on their respective "day"?

    Mountain bikers and horse-packstock outfitters would have to stay in a base camp on the days they weren't permitted to ride. Hikers won't be affected by my definition, because I consider hiking not to be multiday. Backpackers would have to put up with horse-packstock trains on Day X and mountain bikers on Day Y. That could be a negative for some. But again, society runs on tradeoffs. No mountain biking has costs too, from a larger number of sedentary and physically unfit people to a narrower spectrum of people who are brought to value our nation's wildlands.

    Kurt, let me ask the same question I am asking Rolling Thunder: what inch, if any, would you be willing to give in terms of departing from the status quo?

    Let me add that this is one of the very few forums I know of where these issues are seriously debated. So Kurt is doing a great service and I appreciate it.

  • House Consideration of Massive Public Lands Bill Could Involve Gun Amendment   5 years 18 weeks ago

    This proposed amendment, along with several existing provisions for this bill, illustrates the perils of omnibus bills. While such bills may be touted as an "efficient" way to move a lot of items through the legislative process, they simply offer too much temptation for many of our elected officials to tack on their pet projects or causes. As a result, some items which deserve careful discussion often receive very little attention.

    The politics of many such bills is based on having something in the bill to appeal to enough members to secure the votes needed for passage. Sadly, there aren't many members of congress who are willing to vote against their own pork, even if it means voting for some other item they would not support as an individual bill.

    I've said before that the result of omnibus bills is often to throw good legislative process under the bus.

  • House Consideration of Massive Public Lands Bill Could Involve Gun Amendment   5 years 18 weeks ago

    In terms of some frivolous projects, for sure. But what does a gun issue have to do with a lands bill? That's one of the problems with Congress, they often resort to sleight-of-hand to get pet or controversial issues through.

    That said, I understand the Rules Committee decided not to allow amendments, and so now the lands bill is up for a simple up or down vote in the House. Passage sends it to the president's desk.

    Now, if Congress would allow the president a line item veto....

  • House Consideration of Massive Public Lands Bill Could Involve Gun Amendment   5 years 18 weeks ago

    You know.............in some ways he has a point

  • Flamingo Lodge is No More   5 years 18 weeks ago

    Our family stayed there in the late 80's and had a great time. It was March and we don't recall the mosquitos at all. We would have used repellent in any case, but perhaps they were hibernating? I think we still have the logo glasses from the bar/dining room. The birds and wildlife were teriffic and we still recall the story the guides told about witless tourists trying to pose next to alligators, even trying to get them to open their mouths. I'm sorry the deep everglades experience will be gone. It will be impossible for most people to imagine what Florida was like before it got built-up

  • Sections of Pacific Crest Trail Poached by Mountain Bikers; Could Problems Arise in National Parks?   5 years 18 weeks ago

    Kurt,

    Most of the live experiments with alternate days uses allow hikers to use trails every day, and force equestrians and cyclists to alternate. Hikers can then decide whether they'd rather encounter a horse or a cyclist. For the multi day backpacking, this would have no impact. Furthermore, if one is hiking that far into the backcountry, odds are that the trails are pretty empty to begin with so that sharing them should not be a big deal.

  • National Park Foundation Launches 2009 Junior Ranger Essay Contest   5 years 18 weeks ago

    Interesting that children of NPS employees are ineligible. My children are homeschooled and we utilize the Parks as a learning tool. My 11 year old has a pretty good grasp of the issues encountered by park management not from dinner table discussions but from attending interpretive programs and Junior Ranger Programs.

    This is a little like asking for input on a science related issue and then disqualifying any input from scientists. I would bet that whatever my child suggested would likely not be regarding the park I work at, he would likely write about his favorite park (he has no reason for bias)

  • Sections of Pacific Crest Trail Poached by Mountain Bikers; Could Problems Arise in National Parks?   5 years 18 weeks ago

    Richard,

    How do you keep mountain bikes out of wilderness? There are many front-country trails that lead to wilderness areas, some officially designated, others managed as de facto wilderness and waiting for the day Congress officially designates them as such.

    As a few others have mentioned, they don't really care about trail designations and where they're supposed to ride and where they're not supposed to ride. Who will manage/police these situations?

  • Sections of Pacific Crest Trail Poached by Mountain Bikers; Could Problems Arise in National Parks?   5 years 18 weeks ago

    Ray Bane mentioned a place where hikers don't compete with mtn bikers. That is called wilderness. Other trails can be used for mtn bikers, so we can all get along. He also talks of walking slowly and quietly. Thank goodness that people like him don't run parks, as I want to be able to make as much noise as I want, particularly in bear country! I also expect to be able to run if i had the ability, and no one is trying to regulate thpose activities yet i hope.

  • Sections of Pacific Crest Trail Poached by Mountain Bikers; Could Problems Arise in National Parks?   5 years 18 weeks ago

    Zeb,

    A question about alternate days -- how does that work with backcountry travelers? Say a hiker, or a mountain biker, wants to head off on a multi-day trip. Under an alternate day program, would they have to coordinate so they exit the backcountry on their respective "day"?

  • Sections of Pacific Crest Trail Poached by Mountain Bikers; Could Problems Arise in National Parks?   5 years 18 weeks ago

    For the record, Point Reyes has some nice single track that flows really well with no hikers to be found.

    Re. carbon poles, I was obviously stereotyping for good reason. I figured that I could use the tactics of the anti cyclists on this board. Apparently, it works just well. :)

    I spent way more than a few hundred dollars on my bike, but that's completely irrelevant. I've tried hiking, it just bores me to tears.

    Jim, you make some good points, but miss the obvious. If different uses are incompatible, then we can develop an alternate day approach. That way, we get to share the trails, something way fairer than keeping legitimate users out. How would you feel about it? I can guess the answer, but it's always worth asking. As for the chaos and destruction, that is pure conjecture on your part and certainly not supported by actual life experience.

  • NRA Appeals Ruling Blocking Concealed Carry in National Parks   5 years 18 weeks ago

    any chance we can get all of you to care about getting children back into parks or reducing our carbon footprint?

    Kids hardly want to play pick-up games of baseball or touch football anymore much less explore a national park. Why heck, if they're missing for more than a few minutes off the fear wracked radar screen of constant surveillance someone's liable to issue an Amber Alert. The post-modern world has not spawned the most adventurous children that civilization has ever known but don't blame them.

    As for carbon footprints----how come every time I see a national park patrol vehicle stopped for any length of time it always has its engine running? Recently I watched as two LE vehicles, that were parked by the side of the road, while two rangers were chatting, were running and spouting out greenhouse gases galore the entire time. I came back 15 minutes later and the vehicles were still at it, idling away a carbon footprint the size of the Jolly Green Giant. No make that the Jolly Gray Giant.

    While we're on the subject of carbon footprints how about doing something about that gas belching volcano in Lake Clark? That things throwing up enough gunk to keep Al Gore in the carbon offset business until the dawning of Aquarius. When Yellowstone blows y'all are really gonna have some egg on your face. At least the whole planet will smell that way.

  • NRA Appeals Ruling Blocking Concealed Carry in National Parks   5 years 18 weeks ago

    any chance we can get all of you to care about getting children back into parks or reducing our carbon footprint?

    Sure, Chief. Let's talk about reducing the carbon footprint in national parks. How much carbon is emitted maintaining nearly 10,000 miles of NPS roads? How much carbon is emitted by plowing the Rim Drive at Crater Lake as well as those in other snow-covered parks? And the boat tours on Crater Lake? How much carbon for that? Are there any plans to reduce/eliminate these emissions? How much carbon do NPS patrol vehicles emit and what is being done to limit that? How about gas-powered leaf blowers? Are those still allowed in national parks? Gas-powered mowers still maintaining yards in national parks?

    I find it very odd that such environmentally impacting activities are carried out without the save level of scrutiny as a constitutionally protected activity.

  • Flamingo Lodge is No More   5 years 18 weeks ago

    Bob mentioned mosquitoes. I worked in Everglades for 3 years. I probably traveled to Flamingo at least twice a month from park headquarters. One of the most comical sights in the Flamingo area was to watch foreign tourists in Flamingo during the summer--they were really the only ones there besides a few die hard fishermen and the park and concession employees. There were large patches of grass between the parking lots and the visitor center and the lodge. These areas were cut by sidewalks so people could get to these buildings without walking on the grass but it was a little longer walk. Many times you would see these foreign visitors, usually dressed in shorts and tank tops because of the warm, humid weather, begin to walk across the grass. After about 4 steps, they would have disturbed the mosquitoes lurking in the grass. The first sign would be that the visitor would slap the first mosquito to land on him/her. The rest of the way to the building became a mad dash with numerous slaps to various parts of the body. They looked like whirling dervishes. It was an absolute lock that they would walk back to their vehicles on the sidewalk.

    Rick Smith

  • Sections of Pacific Crest Trail Poached by Mountain Bikers; Could Problems Arise in National Parks?   5 years 18 weeks ago

    Ray Bane, your message rings well and clear into my ears. I too, must surrender to the physical elements of old age with a bad back and neck. But, this doesn't stop me from hiking the the beautiful majestic trails of Yosemite National Park or Point Reyes National Seashore. What does disgust me, is the very idea of allowing mountain biking into the national parks. I cannot imagine and seeing something that is so awkward and out of place as mountain biking in the national parks. I do cycle and a lot, but in the most appropriated and designated parks where there is the least minimal harm to the environment. Good in put Ray!!

  • Flamingo Lodge is No More   5 years 18 weeks ago

    I never had the pleasure of an overnight stay at Flamingo myself, Dick, but I've heard plenty of feedback from people who have. The Flamingo area of Everglades NP is an outdoor recreational cornucopia, offering great birding, fishing, boating and paddling, and other delights. I won't let the Lodge's demise keep me from enjoying those things when I get the chance. That said, I will make sure to avoid the place during the warmer/wetter months when the mosquitoes are at their worst. I don't mind tenting, but I do have strong objections to donating my blood to mosquitoes. It's in my hard wiring. Growing up in Michigan, I dealt with mosquitoes that were as big as eagles. They worked in teams of three. Two of them would hold you down while the other would drill you.

  • NRA Appeals Ruling Blocking Concealed Carry in National Parks   5 years 18 weeks ago

    Here we go again. To both sides I applaud your conviction to what you believe is right. Please remember that with every decision there is a considerable operational impact. For those of us who are charged with keeping the resource safe from the people, the people safe from the resource and the people safe from the people we'll continue to stand by while this gets properly vetted. Until then and in no way am I trying to be disrespectful, any chance we can get all of you to care about getting children back into parks or reducing our carbon footprint?

  • Sections of Pacific Crest Trail Poached by Mountain Bikers; Could Problems Arise in National Parks?   5 years 18 weeks ago

    Seriously, Zeb, chill out and quit speaking in ultimatums. And no one ever said anything about North Face jackets and fancy boots. Myself, I prefer a flannel work shirt and shoes I've had for years. It does no good to paint everyone with one stereotypical brush. What if a hiker said you are just someone who blows hundreds of dollars on a bike because you're too lazy to walk?

  • Flamingo Lodge is No More   5 years 18 weeks ago

    Too bad! We stayed there several times over the years and always enyoyed ourselves...even the lizards in the room. It was all part of the experience. Had some pretty good meals in the restaurant too. I'm sure that those people expecting the "Hilton" experience were disappointed, but we never were. After all, it was the Everglades.

  • Sections of Pacific Crest Trail Poached by Mountain Bikers; Could Problems Arise in National Parks?   5 years 18 weeks ago

    Zebulon -

    It's true that everyone won't share the values of Ray, or Zebulon, or ... in terms of "how we're supposed to enjoy the parks." However, I'd suggest that there is a very rational justification for a government role in managing parks and other public outdoor space.

    There should be places where users with differing preferences can enjoy parks, national forests, BLM lands, and similar sites - and many of those uses are not compatible. Although many of the mountain biking supporters who have made comments clearly don't accept the idea that their activities detract from the ability of other uses to safely enjoy trails, the point is that the hikers feel differently. I suspect (hope) that at least some mountain bikers would also feel negatively about motorized dirt bikes or 4-wheel drive vehicles using their same trails.

    Without oversight by the managing agency, what we'd have on public lands is chaos and destruction of the resource, and even the mountain bikers would have a hard time finding places to enjoy their activity. The difficulty for both the agency and the public lies in finding acceptable compromises among conflicting users. From my perspective, parks can't be all things to all users, and some type of "zoning" of areas for different types of use is necessary. Attempts to accommodate every type of user dilutes the value of the experience for everyone.

    In the not so distant past, in very general terms, most national parks were used primarily for more "passive" activities - such as those described by Ray Bane, and the vastly larger number of acres managed by the USFS and BLM were open to more active recreation - such as mountain biking, ATV's, snowmobiles, etc. That seemed to be both fair and workable. Unfortunately, that system is breaking down under the assault of users who insist on their "rights" to engage in their favorite activity. In the end, all users are the losers if that trend continues.