Recent comments

  • Should Ocmulgee National Monument Be Transformed into a National Park By Stimulus Funds?   5 years 31 weeks ago


    I disagree that the editors -- actually, editor, which would be me -- don't question the proposition of the stimulus. See my response to Beamis.

  • Should Ocmulgee National Monument Be Transformed into a National Park By Stimulus Funds?   5 years 31 weeks ago

    I think you need to separate the politicians from the NPS and certainly from the Traveler.

    Time and again I've pointed out -- as recently as March 1 -- that Congress likes to create parks, it just ain't that keen on funding them properly. I don't recall jumping on the bandwagon for spending stimulus funds willy-nilly just because someone dreams up a project where there's no need in the name of economic development.

    Now, I'm going to hold back on how the stimulus funding is used in the National Park System until we have the plans in hand. If it's used to upgrade monuments to parks or build skywalks or the such, it's a waste of money.

    But if it's used to help complete the Going-to-the-Sun Road restoration in Glacier, or to push forward the Everglades restoration, or build Dinosaur a new visitor center to replace the one that was condemned a couple of years ago, or repair leaking water systems or sewer systems elsewhere in the park system, I don't think you can argue that it's misspent money.

    Now, many will disagree with the concept of stimulus funding for the weight it puts on the national debt, and that's understandable. But some of the economists whose words I've read think letting the economy crash and burn is a worse option.

    Now, back to the stimulus package for the parks: Careful Traveler readers might remember this post following Interior Secretary Ken Salazar's first media teleconference back in January:

    Despite the Centennial Challenge launched by the Bush administration and his own recognition of the National Park Service's estimated $9 billion backlog of maintenance and infrastructure needs, the Interior secretary called the stimulus package a "one-time opportunity" to make significant inroads to that backlog.

    "I would hope that at the end of all of this we will have set the foundation to address what I would call my second 'moon shot,' that is, to rebuild and enhance our National Park System, our national landscapes," said Secretary Salazar. "I think this is a one-time opportunity to get that done."

    And if the stimulus package doesn't get the job done? Then what? Good question.

    My concern then and now is that if Interior officials are banking on the stimulus package to cure the ills of the National Park System, then the future -- let alone the NPS Centennial in 2016 -- isn't too pretty. The $750million -$900 million tagged for the parks is a skinny shadow of the $9 billion needed to bring things up to snuff.

    There needs to be a solid, realistic, long-term funding plan for the parks. And that hasn't materialized just yet. Even the Centennial Challenge would tackle only about a third of that backlog, and only if all the money were spent on the backlog, which it won't be.

  • Should Ocmulgee National Monument Be Transformed into a National Park By Stimulus Funds?   5 years 31 weeks ago

    Kurt, you asked: "Shouldn't the stimulus dollars that have been set aside for the National Park System try to erase some of that backlog, rather than adding to it?"

    The editors and some frequenters of NPT don't question the proposition of a stimulus; most criticism comes when stimulus isn't or might not be spent some think it ought to be (on the maintenance backlog). I think looking to the government for answers is like howling at the moon; "stimulus" is the best these guys--who are, by the way, the same guys that helped get us into this mess--can do. The federal government is nothing but a long string of broken promises, and American Indians can attest to that. I can't believe that anyone still has any faith in the government to do what's right for national parks. Each successive administration--with the exception of Obama, who, for the most part, has ignored the issue--has promised, usually during a campaign, to eliminate the backlog. Heck, Bush pledged several times to eliminate the back log, and it was supposed to be gone by 2005. Well, here we are having the same old debate, and once again we've forgotten the lies broken promises. This time, it's throw us a stimulus bone so we can feed the monster (that monster being the leviathan infrastructure), but the "new" government is pretty much the same as the old government, probably much to the chagrin of those who proclaimed that all national parks needed was a Democratic administration to fix everything. Well, it ain't happening. The government is bankrupting the nation and national parks will suffer for it.

  • Should Ocmulgee National Monument Be Transformed into a National Park By Stimulus Funds?   5 years 31 weeks ago

    Kurt---the stimulus money. The stimulus money! The more the merrier. Stimulus! National emergency! The Feds to the rescue!

    The NPT and its readers have been welcoming this manna from heaven as a source of much needed cash for the underfunded and financially strapped park system ever since this program was first proposed months ago. Now that the federal politicians are ready to start throwing around this freshly minted (and mostly worthless) paper in every conceivable direction it seems that there are now some among us who are beginning to get a bit huffy about how it should be spent. This is a "stimulus" package my good friends. The more the merrier! If some of it gets spent on creating what you consider to be "unworthy" parks so be it. That is the way of the politician. That is the way of Washington. It is the way the parks are already run for the most part. It's certainly nothing out of the ordinary. A multi-billion dollar maintenance backlog is not created by wise and motivated managers, whether they are on Capitol Hill or walking in the labyrinth halls of the Department of the Interior building.

    This is about "stimulating" things by spending vast amounts of borrowed, printed and inflated money. The park system is just one of many avenues of putting it into circulation and maybe getting some political mileage out of it for select members of the ruling elite.

    It is also about who runs the show, who dispenses the pork and who owns the parks, namely: the federal gummit. You know, the ones who continue to bail out AIG and GM. Rewarding failure is in their blood.

    Sit back and watch them fill the trough. Ocmulgee National Park. It does have a nice ring to it, now doesn't it?

  • Should Ocmulgee National Monument Be Transformed into a National Park By Stimulus Funds?   5 years 31 weeks ago

    At least OCMU sits in a relatively accessible place - it's a perfect place to stop for people en route to/from Florida on I-75. Perhaps some more money spent on outreach?

  • Should Ocmulgee National Monument Be Transformed into a National Park By Stimulus Funds?   5 years 31 weeks ago


    Is it after 5 p.m. where you are? I think you're reaching with your latest comments. More isn't necessarily the merrier. Indeed, from where the Traveler is sitting, the NPS has more than enough on its plate right now. That's been our view for quite some time, and I reiterated it in the post above.

  • Should Ocmulgee National Monument Be Transformed into a National Park By Stimulus Funds?   5 years 31 weeks ago

    Aww come on MRC don't be such a spoil sport. The more national parks the merrier. Why let such minor details as authenticity and actual significance get in the way of the federal spending party?

    Since most of you out there in NPT-land desire continued federal governance of the national park system you should be more than ready and willing to take all of the booty you can while the gettin' is good.

    National parks for everyone! Have another round on we the taxpayers!

    I mean, after all, this is a serious proposal by someone in power in Washington, DC. It sure sounds legitimate. Why look a gift horse in the mouth?

    This is what a "stimulus" package is all about my friend. Overpasses, public housing projects, agriculture subsidies, Mafia museums and national parks. Dig in. Enjoy. It's all about saving our country.

    Don't be a such spoil sport! You really should try and be a little more patriotic.

  • Carefully Providing Wheeled Access To Denali National Park and Preserve   5 years 31 weeks ago

    The Ken Burns series on National Parks due out this September has a segment on the history of the road in Denali, including the plan to widen & pave the entire loop and build a fancy visitor's center at Wonder Lake, and the fight by Adolph Murie that stopped the paving.

  • National Park Quiz 45: Green   5 years 31 weeks ago

    It does count for something. It is, in fact, one of the most amazing wildlife displays in the whole National Park System. What is equally amazing is that there are often more than 500 visitors who attend this nightly show.

    Now, the real bat aficionados also would not miss the once-a-year bat flight breakfast that allows people to see the bats returning to the cave following their evening foraging. It is a special treat.

    Rick Smith

  • Should Ocmulgee National Monument Be Transformed into a National Park By Stimulus Funds?   5 years 31 weeks ago

    According to the Earth Lodge Historic Structure Report from 2005 its reconstruction in the 1930s and the subsequent activities were faulty and while the lodge is spectacular for the visitors it is not historically accurate. Most probably it was not covered in earth, but only the walls were earthen.

    The most important features of Ocmulgee are the early mounds.

    The proposal to redesignate Ocmulgee seems ill reasoned: As others mentioned, NPS units which are designated National Park are not necessarily appropriately funded. If the site is not mentioned in scientific or popular literature on Native Americans in the south east, it most probably is not because the site is a National Monument, but because the Earth Lodge does not fit in with anything elsewhere - and we know why by now.

  • National Park Quiz 45: Green   5 years 31 weeks ago

    Well, Rick, I did sit in that little amphitheater at the natural entrance and watch about a gazillion Mexican free-tail bats fly out at dusk to forage for mosquitoes and such. That should count for something, right?

  • National Park Quiz 45: Green   5 years 31 weeks ago


    If you only saw the Big Room via the elevator, it's time for you to go back to the park. You must walk down to the Big Room via the main entrance. It's stunning!

    Rick Smith

  • Congressman Seeks Stimulus Funds For Restoration Work at Gateway National Recreation Area   5 years 31 weeks ago

    .... last September a federal appellate court in New Jersey upheld a lower court's opinion that the Park Service was within its rights to lease the buildings.

    With the political climate and goings-on of today, it is not insignificant to remind everyone wherever we can that CITIZENS have rights. Government has POWERS specifically delegated to them. In this case it would be preferred to say NPS was acting "within its discretion," or "within its power."

  • National Park Quiz 45: Green   5 years 31 weeks ago

    John: I forgot to mention to mention that I've already seen your fine park. I was with that University of South Carolina tour group that came through in July 1985 -- the ones who arrived almost too late to catch the last elevator of the day down to the Big Room.

  • Should Ocmulgee National Monument Be Transformed into a National Park By Stimulus Funds?   5 years 31 weeks ago

    I'm sure the Congressman from Macon would love to get this Indian mound site designated into a national park (making it the first one in Georgia) because it would surely help bring more tourists into his district. Win, win!

    If this particular unit is worthy of national park status then I definitely think Cumberland Island is also. I say let these funds "stimulate" two new national parks into existence for the Peach State and everyone will be happy.

    Ain't Washington politics fun? We all win and no one loses. All we have to do is just keep those printing presses rolling and we can all have as many national parks as we want! The free lunch party is just beginning!

  • Should Ocmulgee National Monument Be Transformed into a National Park By Stimulus Funds?   5 years 31 weeks ago

    I hate this movement to change monuments to parks. We now have Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park and Great Sand Dunes National Park. The monument designation made sense for those two parks, but the names were changed for political reasons. If we're going to negate the monument designation, then we'd might as well rename them all.

  • Believe it or Not, Yosemite National Park Once had a Zoo   5 years 31 weeks ago

    Grinnel wasn't wrong, and neither are the stewards of today's National Park System. National parks preserve habitat, enabling visitors to encounter animals and birds in their "natural" surroundings and watch them interact with each other. Holding wild animals in captivity for the entertainment of visitors is a practice that falls far, far outside the national park mission.

  • Believe it or Not, Yosemite National Park Once had a Zoo   5 years 31 weeks ago

    Grinnel was wrong. The Zoo was a good idea, but likely failed because of a circus like atmosphere...there's a small Zoo in Merced...see blog page....the mandate of the Parks is to provide education about wilderness...and they haven't much nowadays to display wildlife...except the stuffed dusty critters over in the Wilderness Center...small Zoos fill a niche that needs filling.


  • Glen Canyon NRA Releases EA on Castle Rock Cut Deepening   5 years 31 weeks ago

    I am a firm believer in leaving as much of the earth in a natural state as possible(without a viable biosphere we are all toast). If the dam were not there I would be lobbying to stop it. But the dam is there. The lake is unnatural, but it is also one of the wonders of the world! The damage is done! Enjoy what we have, the lake is amazing. Glen Canyon is only a memory now, and will remain so for our life time. Moving a few hundred thousand cubic feet of sand stone, is nothing in the big scheme. Yes, for the Castle Rock Cut. Geologically the area is eroding at a very fast pace because the stone is soft. Someday there will be a concrete plug where the canyon walls have softened and eroded around the dam, and there will be no Lake Powell. But none of us will see it. If there is a man made grove in the rock in some obscure place, it will only be a curiosity to those who pass by. If there is anyone left to pass by.

  • National Park Quiz 45: Green   5 years 31 weeks ago

    John -

    Thanks for the suggestion! Wish I'd thought of the Green Lake Room myself.

    Based on the number Bob assigned to your comment, it looks like he's a bit backlogged, but maybe we can encourage him to get out to Carlsbad :-)

  • National Park Quiz 45: Green   5 years 31 weeks ago

    John, we have referred your remark to our Complaint Department, where I'm confident it will get all the attention that it deserves. Be sure to let us know if you don't get a reply within six weeks. Refer to complaint #031509-10363.

  • The 10 Best of Everything Families: An Ultimate Guide for Travelers   5 years 31 weeks ago

    My husband likes to buy these books and give them to my parents, just to see their reactions and hear the debate. The very word "families" is where the 1st problem of this book began, because the needs of a family with a 6th month old baby are dramatically different than those with teenagers. This book has big problems before even opening the cover. That being said, I am sure my Mother will getting it for a birthday present from her favorite son in law...

  • National Park Quiz 45: Green   5 years 31 weeks ago

    A major bungle on your part: you missed the Green Lake Room in Carlsbad Caverns National Park!

    Shame on you! You need to get down here and see this fabulous park!


  • National Park Service Ban on Lead Ammo, Fishing Gear Draws Ire of Shooting Sports Foundation   5 years 31 weeks ago

    I don't see the public or the system fightin' all that hard "to protect the long-term viability of our parks".

    I should have been more specific. The public being your average visitor has little input in how the parks are run. However, NGO's (non governmental organizations) Like NRA, Shooting sports foundation, Sierra Club, Greater Yellowstone Coalition, and many Friends of the "Name your favorite park" groups are all organized and actively pushing to protect the parks in ways they see fit.

    While this is off topic, I'll take a second to list some more auto related accommodations. Visitor education (handouts...even though many don't read them), wildlife road signs (not the average dear crossing signs), whenever possible managing road traffic with rangers when wildlife gather near roads, interp exhibits, interp safety messages, and creating more open roadsides to make wildlife more visible. Wildlife is not the only reason that the speed is lowered in park borders, car vs car is probably more hazardous than wildlife. Finally, in response to your comment about being skeptical about the influences of speed on auto induced wildlife mortality it seems that you are correct to be skeptical. Some animals, like the whitetail and bighorn sheep, don't always show the expected trend of slower=lower incidences. However, other species do react better to lower speed, like elk. Do a google scholar search for wildlife and road mortality for supporting evidence.

    Now back to the topic. Here are some opinions about nonlead ammo that run counter to many of the claims read in this blog. Note, this is on the "condorinfo" website, so they will be biased in the support of non-lead, second it is a PDF.

    Also, another google scholar search using lead ammunition produces finds over 100,000 sources of information. Many identifying the hazards of lead. But as RAH noted, some folks are not going to see this purely about limiting lead exposure to wildlife, people, and land. Maybe, it does have some political influence behind it. And it is right to call that out. But the science behind heavy metal poisoning is irrefutable. If sportspeople want to ensure that their hobbies and needs are protected they should be proactive in their use of science, and they should push back when their rights are challenged. I have seen a lot of the latter but less of the former in this discussion.

    As our ability to measure our own impacts on the environment increase, we should expect to see rules like this one change. Where there is room to lessen the impacts of use, the park's organic act pushes us to make the decision that are more likely to protect the long term viability of the resource.

    My god I sound preachy.

  • Carefully Providing Wheeled Access To Denali National Park and Preserve   5 years 31 weeks ago

    Our family went to Alaska last August and one highlight was the Tundra Wilderness Tour. I think it is a good balance between preserving the wilderness and allowing access. I would hate to see it opened to more traffic and reduce wildlife sightings. Being able to see the sweeping vista of Polychrome Basin was a memory I will carry with me for my lifetime. It also bolsters my belief of the need to protect places like these and take interest in our parks.