Recent comments

  • IMBA: Not Every Park Suitable For Mountain Biking, No Interests, Currently, For Trails in Wilderness Areas   5 years 25 weeks ago

    I have yet to hear a reasonable argument as to why cyclists should be banned from Wilderness. People need to escape the harsh reality of daily life... Well, public parks are not your own private Idaho. Being publicly funded, they should be shared by all. All I hear is rationalization to justify the unjustifiable.

    I've been to Henry Coe (south of Silicon Valley, home to millions of people), biked there for a whole day, and barely saw another soul. And this is 30 miles south of San Jose, CA, a major metropolis. I bet that the same is true for just about any park in this country, and that except for a handful of very popular trails, most of them are empty beyond 2 miles from the trailhead. Yet, some Wilderness advocates are pushing hard to make Henry
    Coe state wilderness. The real goal is simply to ban bikes, and this is what is going on all around the US, thanks to the eco zealots from the Sierra Club and other so called environmental organizations.

    Please take a read through the following for the real history of the Wilderness Act: http://www.dirtragmag.com/print/article-print.php?ID=673

  • Sky-High Ginseng Prices Boost Illegal Harvest in Blue Ridge Parkway and Great Smoky Mountains National Park   5 years 25 weeks ago

    just curious how much is ginseng going for these days?

  • IMBA: Not Every Park Suitable For Mountain Biking, No Interests, Currently, For Trails in Wilderness Areas   5 years 25 weeks ago

    So, I was curious as to what the Wilderness Act mentions about bicycles. It says nothing. At least not directly.

    It requires wilderness to provide "outstanding opportunities for solitude or a primitive and unconfined type of recreation" and bans "other form[s] of mechanical transport". Certainly bicycles are "other forms of mechanical transport", and "primitive type of recreation" would also preclude the possibility of mountain bikes in official wilderness. (I think anyone would be hard pressed to say that mountain bikes are not "primitive", especially not those $5000 Cannondales.) Kurt talks about how bicycles, as a non-primitive recreational activity, would bother him in the backcountry. But where do we draw the line when it comes to primitiveness? Are GPS units and radios and other recreation devices part of "primitive recreation"? What if I'm annoyed by climbers who are using state-of-the-art equipment in their recreation? What if someone's two-way radio is bothersome?

    At any rate, these other considerations seem moot when it comes to the Wilderness Act's prohibition of "motorized transport". I don't think the IMBA would be wise to push that issue.

    But there certainly are a lot of fire roads in the back country of Crater Lake (which is not official wilderness) that would be fun to bike. Congress has been sitting on the Crater Lake wilderness proposal for years and years. Might have something to do with the boat tours, although under the Wilderness Act, motorized boats could be allowed on the lake because boats can continue to be used "where these uses have already become established". Which seems like a huge double standard. It's ok to have motorized boats on Crater Lake but no non-motorized bikes in the backcountry? Now THAT boggles MY mind. If it's played this way, I think IMBA would have a good case to allow bicycle where their use has already become established.

  • Blue Ridge Parkway’s 75th Anniversary Celebration Begins   5 years 25 weeks ago

    Anne,

    Thanks so very much for your answer to a challenging and quite "Mushy" question!

    I agree that the fairness aspect to landowners through public comment periods would be better today, and newer construction techniques could be less invasive, but the environmental concerns would certainly trump all others in regards to being built or not. I was amazed to see the previous posters reference to the Foothills Parkway in the Smokies that is still under construction that began in 1944!

    It is a true statement also that roads are currently built and expanded, and the restrictions in place today are beneficial, such as the new construction techniques and water drainage control systems that are utilized in my area of Virgina to help protect the Chesapeake Bay.

    We appear to have good weather for Sunday, and near peak foliage conditions! This trip should be quite memorable, as we are taking out 2 year old son for this first trip along the parkway, and cannot wait to see it through his eyes.

    Thanks for your article and thoughtful answers. I'll look for your book at the bookstore!

    dap

  • IMBA: Not Every Park Suitable For Mountain Biking, No Interests, Currently, For Trails in Wilderness Areas   5 years 25 weeks ago

    Geez, Zeb, sounds to me like you need to get in touch with your inner 19th century anachronistic side. Why don't we just change all the rules and regulations to suit your fancies?

    I don't think the ban against "mechanical" devices defies logic. Believe it or not, there actually are some folks who enjoy escaping today's contrivances and experiencing a simpler time and life in a wilderness setting.

    And while you're right that one can head off down a trail and encounter few if any other users, how long will that last if bikes are allowed on those trails? A cyclist can cover much more ground than a hiker. Is it out of the realm of possibility that a hiker heads 5 miles or so into the backcountry, sets up camp and begins to enjoy the setting when two or three bikers come through?

    Just as bikers should be able to enjoy their activity, I don't think it's unreasonable to allow backcountry hikers to be able to enjoy their's -- especially when you consider all the opportunities for bikes outside the national parks.

  • Blue Ridge Parkway’s 75th Anniversary Celebration Begins   5 years 25 weeks ago

    Anon,

    Thanks for your input to my question. I had never heard of these instances, I'm guessing mainly do to my location in Richmond, VA. It does clearly show that lobbying and PAC donations can produce results, both desired and undesired.

    My hope is that the people of the area have reaped at least some benefit from the costly construction of these roads, and it was not done in vain.

    It is interesting that such large amounts of time have been spent on all of these projects. 20-60 years to complete some stretches? Astounding...

    Thanks again!'

    dap

  • IMBA: Not Every Park Suitable For Mountain Biking, No Interests, Currently, For Trails in Wilderness Areas   5 years 25 weeks ago

    That's an interesting take on the definition of mechanized. I don't see how skis, canoes, kayaks, snowshoes, or even high hiking poles are less mechanized than a bike. It just defies logic.

    Really, Zebulon, you can't see the difference? A bike is a machine. Chains, gears and other devices that multiply human force and effect. None of the other devices you mention are machines. I think trying to see these devices as the same, is just a legalistic argument.

    I am not flat out against bikes in any National Park, but I do believe it should be presumed they are inappropriate, unless a specific finding is made that for a specific resource they are compatible and consistent with the purposes and capacity of that area.

  • Should Anything Be Done With Angel's Landing?   5 years 25 weeks ago

    The Zion Park Service shouldn't have to monitor who hikes Angel's Landing or any other major attraction in the main canyon. The vast majority of people who hike that trail come away happy and uninjured, with a newfound or renewed respect for its challenges. If an occasional hiker proves unprepared or unfit for the trail and pays the ultimate price, then their plight should simply serve as a helpful reminder to others that it's a risky trail where people need to be responsible for their own safety (and that of their children). Anyone who undertakes Angel's Landing hike as a proverbial "walk in the park" is just flirting with Darwin.

  • IMBA: Not Every Park Suitable For Mountain Biking, No Interests, Currently, For Trails in Wilderness Areas   5 years 25 weeks ago

    "And really, let's be truthful, wilderness areas are not off-limits to humans. They are off-limits to motorized and mechanical vehicles and devices, but open to those on foot, cross-country skis, canoes, kayaks, snowshoes and probably some other non-mechanical means that don't come immediately to mind."

    That's an interesting take on the definition of mechanized. I don't see how skis, canoes, kayaks, snowshoes, or even high hiking poles are less mechanized than a bike. It just defies logic. Wilderness access should be based on 1) whether it's human powered or not and 2) the impact of the activity.

    We don't want wilderness to become less accessible to humans. We all need to go in wilderness to enjoy its beauty. We can't erect nature temples that only a chosen few will be allowed to visit. Humans need to be part of the wilderness, not just some spectator from afar.

    As for the landmass percentage, it is totally misleading. It would be more interesting to compare the amount of wilderness to the total amount of accessible parks, since this is really where the issue is. Finally, let me give an example of how absurd the wilderness designation has become. California has been toying for a while with the idea of making Henry Coe state park (90,000 acres) state wilderness (CA wilderness rules follow Federal rules). People have been biking in Henry Coe for decades now. However, if this park becomes wilderness, bikes will automatically be kicked out of it. Nobody can reasonably explain why this park is suitable for bikes now, but might not be tomorrow if labeled wilderness. It just goes to show that banning bikes from wilderness defies logic and science, however, the Sierra Club and its ilk have been pushing for more wilderness knowing full well that it's a perfect means of appropriating a public park to a select few users. One day or another, reason will prevail and cyclists will be once again allowed in Wilderness. And BTW, you can ride a whole day in Henry Coe, and you'd be surprised to encounter more than 5 other users.

  • Blue Ridge Parkway’s 75th Anniversary Celebration Begins   5 years 25 weeks ago

    dapster,

    I would encourage you to look at two places to find the answer to your question.

    First, think of the North Shore Road controversy over in Great Smokies. http://www.northshoreroad.info/index.htm
    You can read about it for yourself but it basically boiled down to a 1947 agreement whereby the feds foreclosed on people's land to build a dam/lake and promised to build a road in return. The road was never built, and over time the environmental and monetary costs of building it skyrocketed. Did the government uphold its word? No, and people were justified in asking the road be built. But did we NEED said road? Not really.

    Second, think of the Interstate 26 extension that runs from Asheville, NC northward to the Tennessee Tri-Cities area (Bristol, Kingsport, Johnsonville) near the TN/VA line. The extension is essentially a widening of the old US Hwy 23. Again, did we NEED the extension? Umm....probably not. But was it built? Yep. See http://www.mountainx.com/news/2003/0716tennessee.php

    What's this mean? If the proposed road can be sold to the right people and shown to have a positive impact on the economy, chances are that it'll go through.

    Also, as a footnote, construction on the Foothills Parkway on the TN side of the Smokies is still proceeding. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foothills_Parkway The government owns the right-of-way, so it's being built as money allows.

  • Blue Ridge Parkway’s 75th Anniversary Celebration Begins   5 years 25 weeks ago

    That's a great question, and one that I get asked all the time. I usually say a couple of things in answer:

    1. You are certainly right that due to NEPA especially (1969), there would be *vastly* more requirements that the impacts of this project be considered than were in place when most of the Parkway was built. Now the good news of this would be that local people who were going to be adversely affected would have much more voice in the deliberations about what would be done. But the bad news, of course, might be the failure of the project. In the late 1960s/early 1970s, there was a proposal to extend the Parkway from North Carolina southward into Georgia, to a point near Marietta. The same standards were set out for the Parkway that had been applied up to that time on the NC and VA portions. But opposition soon arose, largely from the environmental community, it seems, who objected to more road building through wilderness areas. There were some public hearings, and maybe an EIS, and eventually the project foundered and died. So . . . in this regard, I can certainly say that this would be a much more difficult project to put forward today than in the 1930s, 40s, 50s, and 60s when a majority of the Parkway construction was done.

    2. BUT, on the other side of this, it is the case that somehow as a nation we do manage to continue to build highways all over the country. New Interstate corridors are built, bypasses are put in, old roads are widened, etc -- all of which certainly entails quite similar "impacts" on property owners and local citizens, not to mention the natural environment. And all of this continues to go on the post-NEPA age. So from that standpoint, I'd have to conclude that it would not be *impossible* to build the Parkway today, although it would certainly be more difficult (though, as I said above, possibly more fair).

    Does that help? I know that's a bit mushy, but these things are mushy. Enjoy your trip this weekend! The color should be just about at its peak, at least in some areas.

    Best,
    Anne Whisnant

    Anne Mitchell Whisnant, Ph.D.
    Historian & Author of Super-Scenic Motorway: A Blue Ridge Parkway History
    Chapel Hill, NC

  • IMBA: Not Every Park Suitable For Mountain Biking, No Interests, Currently, For Trails in Wilderness Areas   5 years 25 weeks ago

    I promised not to digress, yet I feel I must. One last time....

    Having worked at Fire Island National Seashore, I recognize the materials used to close beaches TEMPORARILY to protect nesting plovers. While the beaches are closed, again TEMPORARILY, the interdune regions of barrier islands are usually open to access and the bays behind them are also not affected.

    Frank C, you are correct Sir, that the initial intent of these closures are to be "Temporary". However, couple these temporary closures with:

    -Overwintering Population Closures (Birds)
    -Critical Habitat Designation (Birds)
    -Nesting Season Closures (Birds)
    -Fledging Season Closures (Birds)
    -Turtle Nesting Closures (Eggs laid)
    -Turtle "50-day window" Closures (Hatching)
    -Wilderness Study Areas (Year-round)
    -Safety Closures (Storms, beach erosion, etc.)
    -Closure Entry Violation Buffer Zone Expansions (Sporadic and Subjective)

    …And you have overlapping closures that can last year-round. These closure windows can be also be manipulated so that immense stretches of beach are closed for the entire summer season. Also, please remember that CHNSRA is operating under a Consent Decree, which has changed the rules dramatically. The environmental groups that wrote said decree have their own agenda.

    And closing an area to bikes or motorized vehicles is not the same as closing it to all entry.

    Again, correct Sir. However, the former can quite easily, and often times will, lead to the latter. That has been my point this entire thread. Nothing is sacred when it comes to access.

    Kurt, I second Beamis’ motion that this is a great topic to be discussed in another posting.

  • IMBA: Not Every Park Suitable For Mountain Biking, No Interests, Currently, For Trails in Wilderness Areas   5 years 25 weeks ago

    This certainly has been an enlightening and productive discussion. It has reinforced that NPS should base its management decisions on science and evidence rather than emotions and anecdote. Closing areas to the public, like beaches, caves, and canyons, should be based on the best science available and should be temporary unless science recommends otherwise. (As a former Zion ranger, I was also forbidden from visiting Parunuweap Canyon and agree with Beamis’ assessment of the situation there; politics, not science, were at play in this closure.) Studies have shown that snowmobiles are negatively impacting Yellowstone, but NPS management has ignored the science. Likewise, studies have shown that mountain bikes’ impacts are not greater than allowing hiking or horses, and again, management has ignored the science. One of the great problems of centralized management is its ability to be swayed against science. Certainly not all parks are suitable for mountain bike usage, but some are, and the non-scientific, one-size-fits-all approach currently employed by NPS management is harming rather than helping.

    Thanks Kurt for bringing the mountain bike issue to our attention.

  • Natchez Trace Parkway – Colorful Choice for a Southern Fall Trip   5 years 25 weeks ago

    What part of the Trace did you work at/in?

  • IMBA: Not Every Park Suitable For Mountain Biking, No Interests, Currently, For Trails in Wilderness Areas   5 years 25 weeks ago

    Parunuweap Canyon (the East Fork of the Virgin River), which occupies a huge chunk of eastern Zion National Park, has been closed to any and all access since 1992. Depending on whom you ask it is to protect a variety of things, including, but not limited to: some very low grade archeological sites, a scattered population of big horn sheep or a "pristine" riparian habitat (full of tamarisk, Russian olive trees and old tires that have washed down from a dump near Mt. Carmel Junction). Others will tell you, privately, that it was done by a previous superintendent to appease a millionaire landowner that did not want people hiking across his property to access the canyon, even though Utah law stipulates that ALL waterways and river drainages are in the public domain. This landowner even took control of an old county road and barred use of it, with nary a peep from any of the officials, local or federal, who are supposed to represent the interests of "we the people".

    There still remains no consistent answer as to why this gigantic area has been closed to any and all public access for the past 16 years because by now it has become so thoroughly shrouded in the mists of bureaucratic decision making that, much like the embargo against Cuba, it is so institutionally entrenched that no one bothers to even ask why. It just IS.

    Kurt, this would make an excellent subject for a future posting.

  • IMBA: Not Every Park Suitable For Mountain Biking, No Interests, Currently, For Trails in Wilderness Areas   5 years 25 weeks ago

    These sort of temporary closures are part and parcel of the park system, although I doubt there are many. That said, I believe that in Yellowstone some areas near Mount Washburn are permanently closed to humans due to grizzly bear habitat.

  • IMBA: Not Every Park Suitable For Mountain Biking, No Interests, Currently, For Trails in Wilderness Areas   5 years 25 weeks ago

    Having worked at Fire Island National Seashore, I recognize the materials used to close beaches TEMPORARILY to protect nesting plovers. While the beaches are closed, again TEMPORARILY, the interdune regions of barrier islands are usually open to access and the bays behind them are also not affected.

    When I worked at Lava Beds, some caves were temporarily closed to protect endangered bat breeding colonies. The caves were again reopened after the bats left, just like those beaches will be open once the plovers fly off.

    That pesky ol' "conserve" clause of the Organic Act gettin' in the way of the "enjoyment" clause.

    And closing an area to bikes or motorized vehicles is not the same as closing it to all entry.

  • National Park Quiz 25: Threatened and Endangered   5 years 25 weeks ago

    Thanks, Rick. I've been thinking about going to a once-a-month schedule for the national park quizzes beginning in January. Could you live with that? BTW, I'm always open to suggestions for themes. Guest quiz submissions, too. Would you like to try your hand at creating a quiz?

  • National Park Quiz 25: Threatened and Endangered   5 years 25 weeks ago

    Good quiz, Bob. Thanks for continuing to test our knowledge of our nation's national park areas.

    Rick Smith

  • IMBA: Not Every Park Suitable For Mountain Biking, No Interests, Currently, For Trails in Wilderness Areas   5 years 25 weeks ago

    Kurt,

    You are correct about the signage in these pictures. They were used to illustrate the point that "No Access" by any means does indeed exist in our National Parks.

  • How Will the Next Administration Deal With the Environment?   5 years 25 weeks ago

    Although, a link is provided to the full story, I have to quibble with the following characterization:
    "The Bush administration also did away with the popular National Parks Pass, a $50 gem that got you into any and all of the national park units as many times as you could squeeze into a calendar year."

    It should be noted that the National Parks Pass was only introduced in 2000 - so it only had a 7 year run. Before that time, you could only purchase a Golden Eagle Pass - which was similar to today's America the Beautiful Pass. So you can still get a single pass that will get you into "any and all of the National Park Units as many times as you could squeeze into a calendar year." Its not that they "did away with" the Pass - rather they expanded the terms of the pass and raised the price.

    Historically speaking, the price of the Golden Eagle was raised to $50 in 1997 ($68.16 in today's dollars). In 2000, the price of the Golden Eagle was raised to $65 ($82.58 in today's dollars), but the new National Parks Pass was established for $50 ($63.53 in today's dollars - or about $3.50 cheaper than what you would have paid in 1997 if you were only visiting National Parks). In 2007, we basically returned to the pre-1997 situation with a single pass for all Federal lands, at the new price of $80. The $80 this year is the same as $58.67 in 1997 dollars, so we are slowly returning back to that level.

    The price increases have obviously not been exactly in parallel with inflation, but it is worth noting that today's America the Beautiful pass is a better deal than the circa-2000 Golden Eagle when the National Parks Pass was first introduced.

  • Pruning the Parks: Mar-a-Lago National Historic Site (1972-1980) Was a Gift the National Park Service Couldn’t Afford to Keep   5 years 25 weeks ago

    According to the National Park Service, Mar-a-Lago National Historic Site never had a visible staff presence from the National Park Service and was never opened to the public. Unfortunately, the endowment left by Ms. Marjorie Merriweather Post for purposes of maintaining and operating the site proved to be insufficient for that purpose - and this was a major factor in the decision to delist this Unit. So sadly, you won't ever find a Mar-a-Lago National Historic Site NPS Brochure at a garage sale somewhere....

  • Natchez Trace Parkway – Colorful Choice for a Southern Fall Trip   5 years 25 weeks ago

    I am sure it was the people but after spending several years working at large western parks, I finished my short lived NPS career at this GEM. The folks that lived on and around this park truly knew the meaning of hospitality and the park staff were true stewards to their responsibility. The "Trace" is a great park.

  • IMBA: Not Every Park Suitable For Mountain Biking, No Interests, Currently, For Trails in Wilderness Areas   5 years 25 weeks ago

    Dapster, I might be wrong, but I believe those signs are only erected during nesting of migratory birds and have nothing to do with wilderness. I've seen similar signs at Cape Cod National Seashore to protect nesting plovers.

  • IMBA: Not Every Park Suitable For Mountain Biking, No Interests, Currently, For Trails in Wilderness Areas   5 years 25 weeks ago

    Sorry for straying, but it's still in context, sorta...

    So, when you talk about 2.58 percent of the lower 48 being designated as wilderness, is that so threatening?

    Not at all, when you look at just the percentages against the entire landmass. If that 2.58% includes 90% of your favorite area, then it makes a difference.

    And really, let's be truthful, wilderness areas are not off-limits to humans. They are off-limits to motorized and mechanical vehicles and devices, but open to those on foot, cross-country skis, canoes, kayaks, snowshoes and probably some other non-mechanical means that don't come immediately to mind.

    I can't speak for the WSA situation in Utah, as I've never been there. I will take your word at face value on that.

    What I can speak about are the signs that I now see in my favorite areas. If these areas are designated WSA’s, I’m certain the text on the signage closing them off will be strikingly similar to these:

    “No Entry”. Period.

    I don’t wish this on anyone.

    I won’t digress any further. My apologies.