Recent comments

  • Planners In "Wilderness Wal-Mart" Matter Oppose Development on Fringe of Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park   5 years 34 weeks ago

    The cell tower issue was handled amicably between Alltel and the NPS. They eventually found a spot north of town attached to an existing water tower.

    Of course I'm not sure how far this can go. The closest NPS unit to where I live is John Muir National Historic Site in Martinez, California. That's located right on California State Route 4 (a multilane freeway) with a post office next door, a gas station across the street, plus a motel (The John Muir Lodge), car wash, and a supermarket nearby. The visitor center is a converted veterinary office. I used to pass this place on a daily basis when I did jury service in Martinez. That was a case of the city growing up around the site before it became a federal site.

  • Planners In "Wilderness Wal-Mart" Matter Oppose Development on Fringe of Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park   5 years 34 weeks ago

    I do not subscribe to the theory that "just because it's outside the park it's appropriate"
    I live in Black Hills, on a wooded lot. It's a large piece of property.
    This does not make it acceptable to build something, say, of this magnitude on the property next door.
    Even if I am outside the boundaries of the National Forest.
    Whether or not the goal is to either make money (likely) or just riun the area (unlikely), it's still not an appropriate location.
    The last place I lived had 2 Supercenters - in a city of 50,000 people. Didn't matter which part of town you went to, there was this giant paved-over area called a "parking lot" & a complex of surrounding buildings. None of which particularly blended in with their surroundings (how could they???), which is exactly what the end result will be if this goes through.
    55 acres of buildings & pavement adjoining an historic site from our historic past.
    A lot bigger blight on the landscape than a cell tower.......

  • Upon Further Review: "Where's the Spare?"   5 years 34 weeks ago

    Thanks, Owen -

    I'm glad to say one of my co-workers handled the tire changing caper...but he never mentioned a thank you note.

    Over the years, like most rangers, I did receive some nice notes of appreciation from visitors. Perhaps the most unusual was one of the largest arrangements of fresh flowers I've ever seen. It arrived at a ranger station at the Buffalo National River after several of us were involved in the successful rescue of a large group of teenage canoeists. The group leader, who took the kids on the river after we'd advised against the trip due to the weather forecast, sent the flowers and a nice card.

    The florist's delivery driver was a bit amused at the surprised reaction to the flowers by a trio of male rangers. I suppose back in the late 1980s, "macho rangers" didn't receive many literal bouquets, especially deep in the Ozarks :-)

  • Upon Further Review: "Where's the Spare?"   5 years 34 weeks ago

    Thank you Jim for sharing one of many of your true experiences as a national park ranger. Did you ever get a note of appreciation in the mail?

    Owen Hoffman
    Oak Ridge, TN 37830

  • Planners In "Wilderness Wal-Mart" Matter Oppose Development on Fringe of Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park   5 years 34 weeks ago

    I remember that a similar drama was played out regarding something on a smaller scale. There was a proposal to build a cell phone tower in unincorporated Gardiner, Montana. That community just happens to border Yellowstone National Park with the Roosevelt Arch ("For the Benefit and Enjoyment of the People") right next to the town. I suppose that the protest was about such a structure being within eyesight of the Arch.

    I guess that one was a little bit more complex, since this was a place where people actually lived and wanted the service that the tower would provide. Not only that, but I remember visiting the town and seeing what else was in eyesight. The local high school was only a few hundred feet away from the entrance, and one could turn around after seeing the arch and notice the electronic scoreboard at the football field. From what I understood, some local residents weren't too pleased that the NPS was protesting the building of a structure in their town in a place where the NPS had no jurisdiction.

  • Planners In "Wilderness Wal-Mart" Matter Oppose Development on Fringe of Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park   5 years 34 weeks ago

    If you are so worried about this or any other lands, find a way to buy the land. If not someone will and use it the way THEY see fit, not the way you see fit. In this country land owners still have rights to the land they own.

    It's simple, buy it or shut up.

  • Planners In "Wilderness Wal-Mart" Matter Oppose Development on Fringe of Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park   5 years 34 weeks ago

    Anon one, I am not saying that landowners do not have the right to do what they want with their property. But this isn't just a simple land sale from an owner - Walmart has to petition for a special use permit from the Board of Supervisors. As far as "forcing my assumptions" on anything, you seem to agree with me that the developers will get their incentives for building, after all, they are running a business and it's reasonable that they would want to profit from their efforts. No developer builds WITHOUT incentives. Yes, I'm assuming it's for greed more than economic relief. The developers stand to gain far more than Orange County. And it's not a "maybe" that there are 4 Walmarts within 20 miles radius - check a map if you don't believe me. You seem to assume I'm saying that Walmart wants to move there to "ruin the battlefield". No, Walmart wants to build there because they want to profit from this arrangement. I agree with you that the "real" battle should be how we preserve these spaces, it doesn't matter to me if it's a Walmart or a Target that's at issue here. If the state of Virginia (or any other public entity) REALLY wants to preserve this space, they will rezone or purchase the land. I have no quibbles with you there.

    Anon two, you are preaching to the choir - I know that Orange County is ultra right-wing, and anti-government. It's too bad they have so little respect for shared spaces.

  • Planners In "Wilderness Wal-Mart" Matter Oppose Development on Fringe of Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park   5 years 34 weeks ago

    Bat, if I may inform you, Orange County is pro-business and ultra right wing, and saving the environment is the least of there concerns. Trust's living fact!
    It's always a parking lot first and parks last!

  • Planners In "Wilderness Wal-Mart" Matter Oppose Development on Fringe of Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park   5 years 34 weeks ago

    I am still not for or against this project, but I can tell you that your entire comment is based on forcing your assumptions onto a situation. Lets put your arguement to the sniff test... Of course development companies are involved with a development, "its likely.." that they will receive incentives to build, have any incentives been discussed offered or approved? If not, then that point of your arguement is out. The developers will profit, that is what developers (and every other business) tries to do, that is how amoerica runs. Walmarts smart growth is far better than almost any other retailer in this country, sure you cannot build a building without roads, sewers and lights, but what if they are doing their best to actually work with the locals on the development. 4 walmsrts within 20 miles, o.k. maybe, but walmart feels that there are undeserved customers in the area.

    I don't buy the notion that somehow walmart is just putting this up to ruin the battlefield. That they are running around the country plopping these buildings down intentionally to destroy our heritage and history. "How much cheap Chinese underwear do they need? " Who are they, i would assume that you mean walmarts customers, aka the locals.

    As I stated in my earlier comment, you are fighting walmart, (assuming that the fight really is PRO battlefield, and not just ANTI walmart) but your real battle is with the local communities and government that are not preserving these spaces. Local, state or national parks should be in place to protect these places, and they are not. Fighting to change that, is a far better fight then trying to battle each and every company that tries to build.

  • Planners In "Wilderness Wal-Mart" Matter Oppose Development on Fringe of Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park   5 years 34 weeks ago

    The Supervisors claim that it will bring much-needed business and jobs to Orange County, which is rural and economically depressed. It doesn't pass the sniff test - instead of relief it smells like greed. Walmart's two partners in this venture are development companies - who do you think will be collecting rents on the retail space? And it's likely the Supervisors would grant them easements or tax incentives for developing there - so the county won't be profiting that much - the developers will! Walmart claims that their compromises (toning down parking lot lights and less obtrusive signage) speak to their commitment to "smart growth". Walmart's plan is to build 240,000 total square feet of big-box development, less than 1/4 mile from the entrance to the battlefield. That's not just retail space, but parking lots, lighting, new road access, water and sewer construction as well. Does that sound smart to you? Anyone familiar with that area can tell you that there are already four Walmarts within a 20-mile radius. How much cheap Chinese underwear do they need, anyhow?

  • Planners In "Wilderness Wal-Mart" Matter Oppose Development on Fringe of Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park   5 years 34 weeks ago

    O.k. I hear everyone's complaints, and I understand them. and I agree that the wal-mart location is likely to be inappropriate. Just to play the other side for a second from a different view. It's not all about money, it is all about a line on the map. If this land is part of the battlefield then why is it even available for development? If the government and the people care enough about this land then why is it not protected inside some sort of park designation? The community could always zone the land to make it impossible for development. If they did not, then they opened themselves up to the walamrt request, and if denied, they will still be open to more development.

    Where does it end? What is the right balance of protected space vs a companies right to exist. What if it was not walmart. People tend to have a very drastic opinion of walmart (I for one don't shop walmart, I am a Target person). What if they wanted to build housing there? The person who owns the land purchased it without any restrictions, so now, why are we trying to place restrictions on how it is used? I agree that historically significant land should be preserved, I agree in the existence of national battlefields, but if this land is so valuable historically then some government agency needs to step in and purchase the land. Otherwise the land owner is free to do with it, whatever the law allows.

    Turns out that there is a lot of hollowed ground in the U.S. where do we draw the line? Cities like San Fransisco have moved all of their cemeteries from the historical locations to outside the city... is that wrong? there may be a walmart on one of those sites. What if a walmart tires to lease space in one of the new World Trade Center Buildings (a very real possibility)?

    2 things worry me, 1) is this just a handy excuse to stop a walmart (turns out most of us shop there, even the protesters!) and 2) will someone find some historical reason to prevent me from using my land in a lawful manner?

  • Planners In "Wilderness Wal-Mart" Matter Oppose Development on Fringe of Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park   5 years 34 weeks ago

    FANTASTIC - now hopefully the Board of Supervisors will see fit to agree with the planning commission's failure to approve the project & history will be preserved.
    Mega-lo Mart needs to learn that respect for our national heritage should ALWAYS come before corporate profiteering.

  • Climate Change and National Parks: A Survival Guide for a Warming World -- Red Knot and Other Northeastern Migratory Birds   5 years 34 weeks ago

    Ray Bane wrote: "The updated countywide plan will include an expected three meter rise in sea level over the coming decades."

    Three-meter rise in the next few decades? Where are you getting these outrageous numbers, Ray? Even a quick trip to Wikipedia reveals that a "probable maximum value for sea level rise in the next century is 80 centimeters", which is no where near the 300 cm you've pulled out of thin air. A recent study predicts between 7-82 cm of sea-level rise by the end of the twenty-first century, which isn't too far off of the IPCC's prediction of a 18–76 cm rise.
    Other scientists forecast the rise to be about 2cm a year, for a grand total of half a meter, which is consistent with the trend over the last few centuries.

    Now take a look at these predictions, both based on models. Both are quite a range. It is possible that over the next century, we'll only see 7 cm of sea level rise. Take out a ruler, find the 7cm mark and ask yourself if this is the environmental Armageddon you've been expecting. Look at the other numbers in the range and ask yourself if, over the next century, these will also bring about the catastrophe alarmists like Mr. Bane predict.

    One study begins that it's "well established that past rates of sea-level rise due to ice-volume reduction have reached up to 5 m per century" and references several studies that produced this finding. While this can't be used to predict sea-level rise during and interglacial period, it shows shoreline ecosystems have been able to cope with far more rapid inundations than we now experience.

    And there is no promise that sea levels will continue to rise; that's based on a lot of shaky assumptions. There are many other factors that affect sea levels. Take for instance a recent study titled, Snowfall-Driven Growth in East Antarctic Ice Sheet Mitigates Recent Sea-Level Rise. How many other systems or occurrences might slow or mitigate sea level rise, thereby completely voiding current predictions? Sea level rise has leveled off since 2006, which incidentally correlates to the deep solar minimum we're still experiencing.

    As for Fire Island and Long Island, both are very young geologically speaking; Long Island in its present incarnation was formed out of a glacial moraine 21,000 years ago when sea levels were much lower and Fire Island did not exist. Somehow, life coped with these massive climate changes in the past.

    Something tells me it will again, IF such changes are occurring that is.

    As for solutions to this "crisis", there are many market-based approaches that could be pursued, and I've discussed these in previous posts.

    Government intervention, however, leads to stories like this from the UK: Seven arrests in suspected £38m carbon credit fraud.

  • Reader Participation Day: So, How Was Your Most Recent National Park Visit?   5 years 34 weeks ago

    Speaking of bathrooms, how many of the men posting here have seen the new "waterless" urinals at NPS sites? So far I've seen them at Muir Woods NM where they had them at the parking lot restrooms a few years ago and recently remodeled their gift shop/snack bar/office complex restrooms. They've also installed them at Point Reyes.

    I think some NPS sites might be a good candidate for them. A lot of remote sites need to provide their own water and sewage treatment and the water often comes from local rivers or creeks.

    I know there's a certain "ewww factor" to a urinal that doesn't flush, but I found they didn't smell (I'm sure they were cleaned daily).

  • Final Public Hearings Set on Proposed Wal-Mart Super Center Next to Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park   5 years 34 weeks ago

    Governor Kaine recently sent a letter to the Orange County Supervisors urging them to find an "appropriate alternative site" instead of placing it so close to the battlefield. This letter was something the Supervisors were not expecting. I attach a link to an article which describes this in detail, if anyone's interested:

    The Supervisors may vote to grant the special use permit to Walmart, but this isn't over yet. The Supervisors' vote will NOT be the last word. If they do grant the special use permit the preservation groups will take Orange County to court. Walmart may have a big war chest to dip into, but they'll be fighting old Virginia money - established and influential. The battlefield is regarded as sacred ground. Virginians said no to Disney some years ago, and we'll say no to Walmart!

  • Young Kayaker Rescued in Glacier National Park, But Not Before A Nap in a Hollow Log   5 years 34 weeks ago

    And he was smart, too. I'm sure the log was able to keep in his body heat to help warm him up. But isn't it a general rule to stay awake if you are suffering from hypothermia?

  • Reader Participation Day: So, How Was Your Most Recent National Park Visit?   5 years 34 weeks ago

    We spent a week tent camping on Death Valley's back roads in March. It was truly spectacular. I found the more well-known sites had too many people to suit me, but the backcountry was five star. We did go to Scotty's Castle, and I thought the ranger who led the tour through was knowledgable. The ranger at Stovepipe Wells, where we stopped for some information and a backcountry map, wasn't too helpful.

    Leaving Death Valley, we stopped at Manzanar. This site gets kudos for a really well done visitors center with interesting and moving exhibits. The ranger on duty was excellent and readily forthcoming about this sad aspect of American history. I do recall using the bathroom there, and it was fine.

    We also went to Sequoia National Park on this same trip. It had just snowed and the scenery was spectacular. However, we received conflicting information regarding snow chains. I didn't find the visitors centers that exciting, but the scenery made up for it.

  • Top 10 Most Visited National Parks   5 years 34 weeks ago

    Rio Grand Wild and Scenic River seems very low, considering that there are rafting companies that operate adjacent to Big Bend National Park. I know that the River levels are low, but I have spoken to several people who had rafted or were going to be rafting on it in 2009.

    Additionally, there are many popular attractions in Big Bend National park that are alongside the river, so I am surprised at the miniscule visitation number. Maybe they are only counting individuals that travel a significant length of the river.

  • National Park Geologic Sites Draw Raves and Rants   5 years 34 weeks ago

    Niagra, Mammoth Cave, LB Tar Pits! You gotta be kidding me! Who's list is this anyway? It completely omits the monocline of the Waterpocket Fold of Capitol Reef National Park, the coastal geology of Olympic, the arches of Arches, the evidence of the immense power of glaciers at Yosemite, and many others. While Mount St. Helens and Mammoth Cave are great places, they pale in comparison to geological wonders like Crater Lake (see above) and Carlsbad Caverns.
    La Brea Tar Pits!? What the...?

  • Search for Human-Habituated Grizzlies in Glacier National Park Ends With Two Dead Bears   5 years 34 weeks ago

    In Alaska, I thought the black bears were harder to handle than the brown/grizzly bears. Black bears seemed unrelenting. Perhaps it was because those black bears had been scavingers longer, I don't know.

    Unfortunately, as brown/grizzly population increases, and as more humans move near or into bear country, bears do become more habituated to people, and that is deeply worrisome.

    I think with bears operating close to people, if they do not experience active aversion conditioning before they are 3 they will grow without avoiding people. That means bears will die, unless we create bear country with highly restrictive controls on people. Such as the McNeil bear sanctuary. Even people who love bears the most know it is not a slam-dunk that the best thing to do is just clear out the people Long term, you may need to political power of people to preserve bear country, and maybe many of such critical allies need experience in bear country to appreciate why their survival is essential. I am not sure how or where to draw that line.

  • Final Public Hearings Set on Proposed Wal-Mart Super Center Next to Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park   5 years 34 weeks ago

    It never has to be a choice of "development" vs "no development."

    all the tools exist for any local or state government to manage their landscape so that the special character that makes them distinctive is not sacrificed as development proceeds.

    the problem in this area is that Route 95, the primary economic development force in northern Virginia, goes right through the Fredericksburg-Wilderness-Spotsylvania area. Lack of imagination has led to big box developments at all the intersections.

    The problem in Virginia is the fear of smart growth planning systems so that the "depression or development disaster" is not the only way forward. Fearful or small minded people who have had bad experience with government trend to want no government at all, rather than learn how to make government serve them and act smart. That is why in this area there have been a series of explosions where a development plan is either killed (with no options) or developed (with no options).

    Actually, you can save historic retail areas and town centers by marketing them as if they were malls, by designing effective but unobtrusive parking, etc. There are plenty of such successes all over the country where good zoning and thoughtful design and marketing have saved Main Streets. Virginia could have this instead of the horrors they are getting in the Fredericksburg area. There are examples of good development in VA, and the VA local and state governments need to use their power to require development to be properly located, design around significant resources, and be right-sized.

    But such enlightened retail districts may have trouble competing with Walmart, because what Walmart does well is use its tremendous leverage to force wholesalers to drop the wholesale price. That is why Walmart is one of the only thriving sectors of our economy today. This is exactly what the robber barons like Rockefeller did when he forced the railroads to give him preferential shipping rates unavailable to anyone else.

    So the next step is to get retailers to join together so they too can extract good wholesale prices. This is just like getting drug companies or physicians or hospitals or health insurance to charge reaonable rates. As Theodore Roosevelt observed, when (as Frank C says) the 'corporatists' have all the power and the people none, you need to bring "countervaling power" into the hands of the people trying to preserve a decent way of life, or develop in a way that does not savage their heritage and their civility.

    In the meantime, this development must be stopped. For right now, all that is left is to show the local government -- again -- that heritage DOES matter to Virginians, and it is time the government put planning controls into the hands of local people so good development techniques are followed.

    While it IS a good idea for the federal government to buy more land for parks, it is NOT a good idea for federal government purchase to be the ONLY option available for ALL significant parcels, especially in places where a lot of people live.

  • Final Public Hearings Set on Proposed Wal-Mart Super Center Next to Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park   5 years 34 weeks ago

    I understand the need for development, but all too often the opening of a new shopping center only leads to the closing of stores elsewhere. This leaves us with less green space and more empty storefronts.

  • Final Public Hearings Set on Proposed Wal-Mart Super Center Next to Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park   5 years 34 weeks ago

    Whether it's Walmart or Costco or Target, if the land is zoned commercial eventually it will be developed. If the federal government won't buy it, we need a modern day Rockefeller to buy the land and donate it to the national park system. (Rockefeller, as some of you know, donated land for Acadia National Park and others).

  • Final Public Hearings Set on Proposed Wal-Mart Super Center Next to Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park   5 years 34 weeks ago

    Plus I used to work for Wally World and find them to be evil! =)

    I used to work for the federal government and find it to be truly evil. It extracts hard-earned money from its citizens through coercion and force and gives some of the money to unproductive citizens. A large chunk of the stolen loot goes to finance the American Empire and to purchase bombs and bullets that kill innocent civilians in far off lands.

    At least Wal-Mart earns its money through voluntary transactions.

    However, Wal-Mart is warming to the state, having called for a increase in the federal minimum wage, which would harm its smaller-sized competition.

    As our corporatist system evolves, it will become harder and harder to tell the state and corporations apart.

  • Climate Change and National Parks: A Survival Guide for a Warming World -- Wolverines of the Northern Rockies   5 years 34 weeks ago

    I did a fair amount of travel in the wilds of travel in the wilds of Alaska and considered a glimpse of a wolverine to be a rare treat. One once got into a winter camp I had set up on the North Slope and shredded the place. I pulled in by dog team sometime later and spent half the night cleaning up the mess and making repairs. They certainly do have an unusual gait that makes it look like it is bouncing along on springs. Wolverine have been known to drive wolves off their kill and take it over for itself. Natives prize the hide as a parka ruff, because it sheds frost easily.