Recent comments

  • Traveler Tech Update: IE8 and Latest Performance   5 years 21 weeks ago

    With regard to IE8 I found that Microsoft has added a new button called “Compatibility View: websites designed for older Browsers will probably look better, and problems such as out of place menus, images and out of place text will be corrected”. It’s located next to the refresh button on the address bar. (it looks sort of like a page torn in half) ;-))

    Semper Fi
    Doc

  • Survey Says National Park Service Is Far from the Best Government Agency to Work For   5 years 21 weeks ago

    Yes, it's true, there was a time when Dr. Carl Sharsmith was reassigned to a duty station other than Tuolumne Meadows. This was during the late 1950's. Carl had been working summers in Yosemite since 1931. He was the only naturalist at Tuolumne Meadows until 1946. Will Neely joined him at Tuolumne Meadows in 1950. By the late 1950's, he and Will had become very popular with return Tuolumne campers. Many of these return campers purposefully sought them out for walks and evening programs. Less experienced staff had difficulties competing. But, part of Carl's re-assignment was to perform a special ecological survey for the NPS on visitor impact of High Sierra lakes and meadows of Kings Canyon National Park. He and Will Neely were eventually reinstated at Tuolumne Meadows, and the ranger-naturalist programs there continued to prosper.

    In the years prior to his "reassignment" Carl had been awarded the Department of Interior medal for meritorious service, after he had completed 25 seasons of service. He went on to serve the NPS each summer at Tuolumne for another three and one-half decades, completing his last season in 1994 at the age of 91.

    Owen Hoffman
    Oak Ridge, TN 37830

  • Stanley W. Abbott, Wizard of the Blue Ridge Parkway   5 years 21 weeks ago

    Abbott Lake at Peaks of Otter was named after Stanley Abbott. The Park Service installed a marker there in his honor. See http://www.hmdb.org/marker.asp?marker=9743 for a photo of the marker.

  • Hot Springs Hoopla Goads Government   5 years 21 weeks ago

    That city has become so run down and dirty, it probably doesn't make much difference what name they use.

  • Survey Says National Park Service Is Far from the Best Government Agency to Work For   5 years 21 weeks ago

    I agree with Tahoma. Beamis should write us another chapter of Park Circus! Because the NPS has a chronic disease and laughter is the best medicine.

    Owen, be grateful for your memories. I'm not sure so much has changed. For example, Harry Yount resigned under pressure and frustration after only 14 months and a young Carl Sharsmith endured reassignment by managers jealous and threatened by his talents. Also, with all due respect, five summers in a short season park is a honeymoon.

  • Survey Says National Park Service Is Far from the Best Government Agency to Work For   5 years 21 weeks ago

    With all this negative flow about quality work issues regarding the NPS, I sure hope this doesn't deter the younger generation from going into resource management...especially when we need the very best and the brightest in the field of resource & wildlife management. Why does the NPS get the dipstick in the job pool with mediocre talent? Who's lowering the totem pole for supervisory talent? It's understandable, why the younger generation doesn't look towards the NPS as prestigious employment. The cronyism that forestalls the rewarding of those who display their intellectual mantle for a job well done, is a prime example of structural interdepartmental family nepotism that stifles the creativity of the best and the brightest. Yes, seasonal workers must earn those brownie points for advancement by doing the job of of a glorified custodian that wipes toilet bowl clean. You pay your dues college boy! There's a lot of blame to go around with the NPS and starts at the very top...the President and down. The last administration didn't give a living hoot how the NPS was run...as long as there was rape, greed and pillage on the drawing boards. Put the right people in who could careless about the proper direction of the NPS and it's natural resources and care, borderlines on defunct administration that's hell bent towards failure. Sure looked like it over the past eight years. A complete overhaul is needed and let's kick in some young talent for change. The old school is dead! Let's start afresh and it's NOW!

  • Hot Springs Hoopla Goads Government   5 years 21 weeks ago

    Well, who was there first? The city or the park service? The answer to that could possibly be the solving of the problem, while at the same time, eliminate the free advertising they are both getting while the squabble continues .

  • UNESCO Agrees to Send Field Team to Inspect Threats to Glacier, Waterton National Parks   5 years 21 weeks ago

    the world heritage should not be telling the us or canada what to do period...stay to hell out of our business...thats what we get to be a one world country.....

  • Have You Seen the National Park Service's Redesigned Web Portal Yet?   5 years 21 weeks ago

    As the NPS begins to increase its reliance on web-based methods of electronic communication and public outreach, so should it invest in frequent auditing and updating of posted information. For example, sometimes I've found more complete, accurate and updated information for specific park units on Wikipedia.com or on websites maintained by non-profit organizations, than on nps.gov.

    It's one thing to initiate a new structure and feel to an old web site that function's as the Agency's front page. It's quite another thing to audit, correct, and update accurate information for each park unit. I wonder what effort is being put into www.nps.gov to ensure ease of use and accuracy of posted information at the level of individual park units?

    Owen Hoffman
    Oak Ridge, TN 37830

  • Survey Says National Park Service Is Far from the Best Government Agency to Work For   5 years 21 weeks ago

    With two wars, the economy, and instability in Iran, it's hard for me to see just how the White House will have time to focus on the plight of NPS employees.

    I only worked seasonally for the NPS as a uniformed park ranger-naturalist (Crater Lake, Zion, and Yosemite 1966-71). During that time, I found myself to be a member of a highly motivated and respected organization. Many of my colleagues were university professors and professional educators. Some performed research while carrying out their duties presenting programs and engaging in visitor contact.

    Our guided walks and evening programs were very well attended, and they were frequently audited by peers, supervisors, and park administrators (and their families). Sometimes, unannounced audits would be conducted by staff from the Regional Office.

    My direct supervision was highly educated, trained and motivated. Many contributed to the overall knowledge base of the park through publications. Standards for performance of duty were set high. Recruiting and hiring of a professional, high-quality staff was taken seriously and given a very high priority. Most seasonal employees, who were not already employed full time during the off-season, aspired towards permanent NPS status.

    In my day, the NPS was considered to be among the very best places to work within the Federal Government. How is it possible that today that the NPS now ranks much lower than other Federal Agencies, like the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, EPA, or even the US Dept. of Commerce?

    Given the recent history of depressing survey results as summarized in the article above, and the description of major employee morale issues confirmed by comments made by several with more recent NPS experience than I have had, I can only ask, what has changed? What are some of the root causes that have allowed the NPS to slip so dramatically from the organization I remember from my youth?

    I look forward to reading more comments on this important topic.

    Owen Hoffman
    Oak Ridge, TN 37830

  • If You Have to Ask the Price, The Ahwahnee And Jenny Lake Lodge Are Probably Out of Reach   5 years 21 weeks ago

    djhouston: I get it that you have many grand memories of camping as a kid with your folks in these grand places. Most of us do and I for one repeated these experiences by camping at and visiting the NP with my kids and my grandkids. I know from their comments they experienced the same joy as I did as a kid and still do as an adult.

    What I am trying to understand is why you stated: "I had the privelege (not the right) to spend about 30 days camping..."? I think we are privileged to have these places available but I also feel that as citizens of this great nation we have every right to visit and use them. We have the obligation that goes with those rights to use them and take care of them in a responsible and sustaining way.

    Part of the problem I have with the pricing with many of the facilities in the NP is that I can't afford them. I know,...duh. But I can't help but feel that it isn't only corporate greed or whatever catchphrase you want to use here...It is also a way to keep the rift-raft out for the people that can afford it. But then that by definition is what makes it "exclusive". Not being a hob nobber and with my own definition of the "good life", I will stick to my older motorhome and tents and enjoy the great outdoors the way my ancestors ancestors did. Of course they didn't have Sirius radio or DVDs or etc,etc....Ah the good life!

  • Survey Says National Park Service Is Far from the Best Government Agency to Work For   5 years 21 weeks ago

    Some great comments here folks. Thanks! I can understand how seasonals might feel like second class
    citizens, but it's often almost as bad for rank & file permanents. Congress's capture of the NPS for its pork barrel schemes has evolved a class of managers more interested in agency growth and personal careers than
    preserving the Parks or assisting their employees. Most of my supervisors were most talented at managing the
    egos of those above them; some had only the vaguest idea what their employees did and what problems they
    faced.

    Anonymous of June 26 makes an important point about the lack of accountability of NPS management. Every Park I worked at seemed to have an Assistant Superintendent or three who had seriously screwed up at some other unit. The system for wayward managers seems remarkably similar to that of the Catholic church for pedophile priests.

    Beamis hits the nail on the head, both with his comment and his wickedly funny and only slightly exaggerated
    park circus site. I wish he'd resume work on it. He may be wrong about the lack of opportunity for 'the go getters of the world' though. Here's a snippet from http://www.doioig.gov/upload/APR2009SAR.txt , the most recent DOI Inspector General's Report to Congress:

    "After a confidential source alleged a possible conflict of interest over a real estate transaction between a
    park superintendent and a park concessioner, the OIG investigated the case. We determined that the
    superintendent bought a parcel of land in 1992 for $84,000, sold it in December 2002 for $425,000, and
    financed the sale of the property to a concessioner over the course of 63 months."

    "Based on the appearance of a conflict-of-interest, we reviewed documents submitted by the superintendent.
    This review determined that he made false statements or concealed material facts on his Office of Government
    Ethics form 450, as well as in an e-mail he sent to the NPS reviewing official who had requested additional
    information concerning the nature of the transaction. The superintendent also signed the conflict of interest
    certification for the contract process, further complicating his position."

    "Our findings were presented to the local U.S. Attorney’s Office, which declined to prosecute the NPS employee because his case did not meet its criminal threshold. Our office was notified in March 2009 that the superintendent had been transferred to another national park and given a Letter of Reprimand."

    It will be interesting to see if Mr. Jarvis and the new team can turn this once proud agency around, or if Obama's talk of accountability and transparency are mere rhetoric.

  • Survey Says National Park Service Is Far from the Best Government Agency to Work For   5 years 21 weeks ago

    Well put RoadRanger and spot on as my British friends would say. The reorganization of 1995 was a joke in poor taste and completely ineffective. Just witness the fact that we have morphed back to essentially the same kind of organization that existed before 1995 just one with three fewer regional offices (in theory at least). As an agency we tried to reorganize without ever re-engineering the work and oh my, guess what, it was a failure. Roger Kennedy decried our militaristic command style of leadership so he crippled us with decisions by committees. The old guard has all retired and as an agency we did little to nothing to prepare future leaders based on merit. It comes as no surprise that the survey highlights the lack of effective leadership.

    Our senior "leadership" is dismal. Never in a 30+ year career has there been such shallow field experience at both WASO and in most of the regional offices. Regions have reverted back to the bloated entities that they once were and yes, jobs still get created out of thin air for the spouses of regional office employees. In the Intermountain Region only one of the senior leaders has any kind of recent field experience and many of them fail to even get out to at least one park a year. Is it any wonder these people lack credibility among park staffs?

    We have become an agency seemingly obsessed with process over progress, tethering our field employees to their computers in order to feed meaningless databases that force you to report the same information across several different platforms. Rather than expend the time and energy at central offices to extract the information that is already available in one system or another it's just easier to have the parks report on it again in some slightly modified form. The time wasted is incredible - especially since we fail to make the IT investments necessary to provide the field with the necessary bandwidth to feed these resource greedy computer applications - sure, they work well in central offices but please remember that in remote park areas the information highway often turns into a badly-rutted dirt road. We have nearly destroyed our contracting capabilities and are well on the way to doing the same with personnel. At times it seems as if we are consciously trying to make our administrative functions as ineffective as possible and as far removed from the parks as we can possibly get them.

    So why do some of us old dogs still hang on? Because at the end of the day for us it's still about protecting park resources and serving park visitors. The mission of the agency hasn't changed and it's still an incredibly important mission. I wouldn't trade my career in the NPS for anything but I do long for the days of effective leaders that came up through the ranks and who actually did understand park operations. I long to have a Director like Geroge Hartzog again - someone who could and did walk the halls of Congress and be recognized and welcomed. Perhaps it's all just wishful thinking or wistful reminiscing - but please, give us our agency back.

  • Have You Seen the National Park Service's Redesigned Web Portal Yet?   5 years 21 weeks ago

    Neat and very well done for all park visitors. While I'm not a fan of flash-sites (limited access for search engines and so on), the large slide show on the front page looks great. I miss a drop down list with direct access to the parks, though. That one would be nice even if it's usually not the method of choice for almost 400 parks.

    And it is wonderful that lots of in-depth information has been collected, sorted and linked through a decent structure. A wealth of information is buried in the NPS servers, and some of it could only be found by accident. Now most of it is listed and much better accessible. I miss the peoples directory so far, but it is probably linked somewhere too and I have to browse a bit more (and I have it bookmarked anyway).

  • Survey Says National Park Service Is Far from the Best Government Agency to Work For   5 years 22 weeks ago

    The National Park Service is still very much an elite agency in government, with all the modern challenges of a large organization. The NPS is trying to improve agency hiring, and in some quarters is gaining traction. The U.S. Park Police command under its current leadership is doing solid work. Yes our law enforcement rangers are still a closed and insular clique, but that too will change over time. I understand everything everyone else has said, it can be true at certain parks at certain times. But not everything is black and white. There is nuance, strengths and weaknesses even from those NPS leaders we see as being controversial. I was the biographer of many of the senior NPS leadership and saw what happened behind closed doors. It is a tough world for them too.

  • Toddler Dies After Drinking Citronella Oil at Chickasaw National Recreation Area Campsite   5 years 22 weeks ago

    The last commenter is wrong [about the alcohol rule]. According to the park regulations, alcohol is permitted in picnic areas and campgrounds.

  • Free Weekends AND Free Tours At Mammoth Cave National Park   5 years 22 weeks ago

    If you click on the highlighted park name it takes you directly to the park's website, which tells you right up top where the park is located.

  • Free Weekends AND Free Tours At Mammoth Cave National Park   5 years 22 weeks ago

    While it was an interesting article, no where did you mention where Mammoth Cave National Park is! I had to go to a search engine for help...did you just figure that all readers are from East of the Mississippi?

  • If You Have to Ask the Price, The Ahwahnee And Jenny Lake Lodge Are Probably Out of Reach   5 years 22 weeks ago

    You get what you pay for. If I want to stay in a clean, beautiful, classy place with excellent amenities, I will fork over the money for it--even if it means saving up for months in advance.

    In order for a place to be truly clean, good maid service is needed, and good maid service costs money. In order for a place to be classy, people who can and will deliver good service will need to be employed, and they will cost money. Nice linens cost money. Good food means high quality chefs. Beautiful grounds mean expensive gardeners and landscapers. Well-maintained buildings mean paying for their upkeep.

    It's nice that there are choices.

  • Toddler Dies After Drinking Citronella Oil at Chickasaw National Recreation Area Campsite   5 years 22 weeks ago

    This person is a liar. No alcohol is permitted at the park and none was at this small child's party.
    [Ed: Alcohol is permitted in the campground area at Chickasaw.]

  • Survey Says National Park Service Is Far from the Best Government Agency to Work For   5 years 22 weeks ago

    Probably the worst thing about the NPS is the way our leadership just moves people around instead of disciplining them or firing them when they need to be. Heaven forbid someone took the time to manage people instead of working on a "business model", whatever that means. Since when was preservation of our natural resources a "business" anyway? We all need to be grateful and accountable to Congress and taxpayers but let's not try to emulate the private sector because I think we can all see how well that works! Finally, while the parks and the people who visit them are valuable beyond words, trying to pile on more and more expectations with less and less bodies is crushing us all. Someone throw me a life ring....

  • NPS Snowmobile Plan for Yellowstone, Grand Teton Bucks Science, the Public, and Itself   5 years 22 weeks ago

    Kath, you are so right. I was just on the parkway this week(June 25, 2009) and the motorcycles out number the cars. That could be because the bikes are running everyone else out. Anyway, my wife and I like to go on the parkway about mid-June every year to see the flowering bushes(azalea, rhododendrum). We like to rent a convertible and ride the parkway-one of the most beautiful places on earth. BUT, the motorcycles are out of control thundering through the hills and in your ears. It crazy. Isn't the parkway suppose to be a place to get away from it all? Guess not and the NPS seems to be doing nothing about. The Goldwings and BMW's are fine, but the Harleys are the problem. What can we do??????????

  • Secretary Salazar Wants Everglades National Park to Return to Endangered List   5 years 22 weeks ago

    Sorry about that culture vs. natural error MRC. I don't want to be politically incorrect here but on the natural note possibly the UN and UNESCO recognized the commitment of the American people through our elected representatives to spend $20,000,000,000 yes $20 Billion dollars that we don't have currently to enhance Everglades National Park's habitat as their justification for removing ENP from their Endangered list. America has actually encumbered quite a few of its future generations with the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan's debt. We American's have gone the extra mile in my opinion and deserve the recognition provided by ENP's removal from the list. As far as my previous comment about Big Cypress National Preserve's staff lacking a cultural specialist I will add that in the last few years under new and exceptionally professional management I've personally witnessed an improvement regarding planning sensitivities to ethnographically associated peoples. That is a good thing. I will just add that I appreciate the National Park Traveler for providing this very interesting forum.

  • Going-to-the-Sun Road Open End-to-End in Glacier National Park   5 years 22 weeks ago

    This has to be one of the most spectacular drives in America. Amazing amount of traffic however especially with the constuction...on the positive side however it forces people to slow down and allows you to take it all in.

  • Creature Feature: To Save the Mission Blue Butterfly, You Have to Save the Lupine   5 years 22 weeks ago

    Ben: Summary MBB information, including references to the Skyline ridges MBB populations, can be found at the website of the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy. I have not personally confirmed the presence of MBBs at the sites they reference, but I do consider the information source reputable.