Recent comments

  • Yosemite National Park Officials Looking For Suggestions on Preserving Badger Pass Ski Lodge   5 years 37 weeks ago

    There were tour packages which included free admission for children. 16 pounds was 32 bucks back then, but my anger for the exchange rate was directed not at Britons, but at the Federal Reserve and our government for continued currency devaluation; our $600 "stimulus" (read: inflation) check went to offset the exchange. But entrance fees need not be any higher than they currently are in US national parks. With increased revenue from retail and lodging, entrance fees would not need to be increased; they might actually decrease.

    Glad to see some of the Diamond Trading Company's ill-gotten profits go toward a good cause.

    What's so bad about saving or investing your money?

    What's so bad about private dinners or weddings held in historic buildings? An unused building is not a productive building.

    Better to drag one's feet on paying bills than to forcibly take money from others or to print money to pay the bills.

    Trusts have to deal with the hard reality of economics. National parks have to deal with the harsh reality of politics. I prefer the first option.

  • Yosemite National Park Officials Looking For Suggestions on Preserving Badger Pass Ski Lodge   5 years 37 weeks ago

    Frank,

    Interesting concept, but.....

    ...You paid 16 pounds per ticket, which works out (today) to about $46 and change for the two of you to tour the Tower. So a family of four could be expected to pay between $75-$100 just to gain entrance for one day? So you're OK with denying access to Americans, whose taxes go a good ways to supporting the National Park System (in theory), who balk at such pricing?

    ...The non-profit partners with the Diamond Trading Company, aka De Beers, and a private investing firm to achieve its financial goals, so the business isn't entirely self-supporting.

    ...The report is a bit cryptic, but it seems to indicate they stage private events in the Tower (and other properties) to defray costs. Now, I realize some park units lease out their facilities for events, but I don't think for a profit.

    ...They are dragging their feet on paying bills:

    During 2007/08 55% of supplier invoices were paid within 30 days of date of invoice (60% in 2006/07) and 71% within 40 days (76% in 2006/07).

    ...Four of their staff were paid between $159,000 and $174,000 annually, 12 made nearly $87,000. The CEO made $202,000+ this past year, an increase of $10,000+ from the year before (an increase of roughly 5% in salary, plus another 3.6% in pension benefits). It's unclear what the salary ranges of the rest of the staff of 564 were, so it's hard without further sleuthing to compare this salary structure to that of an American concessionaire.

    All that said, I'm in favor of searching for a better business model. I just don't think it's easily attainable due to the scale involved with the National Park System.

  • Yosemite National Park Officials Looking For Suggestions on Preserving Badger Pass Ski Lodge   5 years 37 weeks ago

    Kurt, to answer your question let me tell you a story.

    I visited the Tower of London in June. I paid about 16 pounds for an adult ticket, and all of that money went to the Historic Royal Palaces, an independent charity that receives no government support. My wife and I toured the castle all day long, and at lunch, we were famished from exploring the castle's well-preserved nooks and crannies. We ate a modest but high-quality lunch at a cafe integrated into a historical building. It was nice knowing that 100% of our food purchase went to maintain the castle. During our roving, we encountered countless interpreters, some dressed in period costume, who were very knowledgeable and helpful. On our way out, we stopped at the gift shop and picked up some affordable high-quality, full-color, gloss tour books. I felt good about the purchase because I knew that my money was my vote for maintaining the castle and all of my money would stay with the castle.

    Skim the Historical Royal Palaces' Trustees' Report if you would like to see how national parks could be operated in America.

  • Upon Further Review - Let Sleeping Snakes Lie   5 years 37 weeks ago

    Paul? You mean your name is really not Barky?

  • Upon Further Review - Let Sleeping Snakes Lie   5 years 37 weeks ago

    Clever! Yep, they're pretty lucky folks. I didn't realize reptilian suspended animation existed either!

    Here's my own NPS snake story: http://americaincontext.wordpress.com/2008/08/16/chiricahua-national-monument/. Obviously I survived ;-).

    ========================================================================

    My travels through the National Park System: americaincontext.com

  • Yosemite National Park Officials Looking For Suggestions on Preserving Badger Pass Ski Lodge   5 years 37 weeks ago

    Geez, Alexander, Happy New Year to you, too!

    I don't see where I was telling a "sob story" at all. All I was merely pointing out (after noting that I was not taking a stand one way or another on the business practices of concessionaires) was that the Jacobs family had very American roots but because they succeeded at their business (under the rules of the game, by the way) they were being ridiculed. You might say they succeeded because of "Our Great Country" and the opportunities it offers.

    And really, it's not federal dollars that are keeping DNC in business. It's the dollars out of the pockets of Yosemite visitors. True, the federal government technically owns the structures that DNC runs its operations out of, and is responsible for most of the upkeep beyond the 17-20 percent (if that's the correct percentage) that DNC must send back to the government. But if the rooms weren't full, if the restaurants weren't busy, if the gift shops weren't crowded, DNC wouldn't be there.

    And if you've been following the state of the National Park System, you know the government's not doing the best job in maintaining those facilities. Indeed, as I understand it one of the reasons the DNCs, Xanterras and ARAMARKS of the world have little competition for park concession contracts is because 1) the rate of return is so low and/or 2) smaller companies just don't have the financial wherewithal to survive in a highly seasonal market with rundown facilities.

    If it weren't for government oversight, would it be too hard to assume that concessionaires likely would invest more heavily to upgrade these facilities and pass the cost on to the taxpayers in the form of higher rates (and possibly pay their employees more, but that's just speculation). And then taxpayers would be howling that the government isn't doing enough to make national parks affordable. So which model would you prefer?

    Suffice to say that the intricacies of the national park concessions market are too many to distill in a few short graphs.

    And finally, Alexander, before you measure me for a coffin, know that sometimes, just sometimes, I take an approach to spur dialog, not to hold it out as my strongly held personal view.

    Frank, I follow your point re the transfer of wealth but, sadly, it too is the American way, is it not?. Standard Oil might have been the model. Wall Street firms are only the latest iteration. And what did public outrage in light of those bloated salaries and insane bonuses produce? Some of the fat cats are going to forgo their year-end 2008 bonuses. Gosh. It might be said that we (America) are victims of our own success, no?

    As for DNC's pay practices, are they not the industry standard? Wal-Mart might have perfected the use of retirees as door greeters, but if you look around many park concession operations you'll see retirees working the tills, as well as young (low-paid) college students interested in an adventure before they get serious with life and, of late, Eastern Europeans or Asians looking to solidify a foot in the U.S. (To be fair, I understand some operations offer benefit packages and 401Ks, but I don't know the extent of those or how widespread (up and down the pay scale or throughout the operation) that practice is.)

    I'm not endorsing that model in the least. In a way it's not too far removed from the Park Service's move to use volunteers, seasonals and outsourcing to replace full-time rangers, a practice I've long criticized. Unfortunately, it seems to be what society is tolerating.

    And really, isn't what's transpiring with the concessions companies simply free-market economics? If the market balked at their rates and their employment practices, wouldn't that lead to change or failure?

    Beyond all that, though, what model would you suggest replace the concessions companies? Should the federal government buy out the DNCs and Xanterras of the world and hand the businesses over to non-profits? And if so, where would the government find the hundreds of millions (small billions?) and the non-profits fully capable of running such businesses to do so?

    And let's not overlook that non-profits have been known to overpay their top executives (I believe the head of the Boy Scouts gets nearly $1 million annually) while the minions far below are volunteers. Some university trusts pay their managers exorbitant salaries and bonuses. I would suggest the situation in the parks you decry is not that far removed from what's going on in the rest of America's business sectors.

  • Yosemite National Park Officials Looking For Suggestions on Preserving Badger Pass Ski Lodge   5 years 37 weeks ago

    I was the ranger at Badger for a couple winters. There is a lot of park history tied up in downhill skiing at the park. I am inclined to vote for keeping it as a low-key, family-oriented place. It's also a great jumping off point for day ski tours to Dewey Pt. and longer overnight tours to Glacier Point and the Ostrander ski hut.

    I'll leave the argument about concessions, capitalism, corporate-bashing and what constitutes success to other posters.

    Rick Smith

  • Resolved: I’ll Visit at Least These Five National Parks in 2009   5 years 37 weeks ago

    Thanks for the reminder to include the smaller, less visited national parks in our travel plans, dlmatz. We try to remind Traveler readers about these opportunities, even though we do focus more of our attention on the larger, more popular parks. BTW, our regular readers may recall that I wrote a rather lengthy article about http://www.nationalparkstraveler.com/2008/08/allegheny-portage-railroad-national-historical-site-commemorates-great-achievement-early-tra]Allegheny Portage Railroad NHS last August. We'll try to work in an article about Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site at some early opportunity, too.

  • Resolved: I’ll Visit at Least These Five National Parks in 2009   5 years 37 weeks ago

    My sincere thanks to readers who've offered encouragement and suggestions for my 2009 parks-visiting itinerary. Since I managed to go through 2008 without adding a single new national park to my "been there, done that" list, I have very high hopes for a breakthrough year.

    Barky, I've only seen a few wild horses, but the memories really stand out. The idea that I'll see some more at TR makes me even more convinced that a visit is long overdue.

    I'll keep my camera handy when I'm there, too. I can see from Kirby's photos (which I heartily encourage everyone to peruse) that the TR viewscape is really special.

    Kurt's invitation to do some park-trekking in Utah is mighty hard to pass up, and not just because I intend to do some serious freeloading at his house. I've visited Bryce Canyon and Zion, but I've yet to set foot in Arches, Canyonlands, Natural Bridges, Capitol Reef, and several other Utah parks that I've longed to see.

    Good luck to you and your wife, Arlan. Having 17 more National Parks to look forward to is a blessing. You'll feel a bit on the melancholy side when you've visited that last one.

    Thanks for the Navajo National Monument suggestion, Tahoma. Alas; even though my personal quest for the Ancestral Puebloans can't be complete without a visit there, a side trip to Arizona can't be fitted into my Colorado itinerary this May.

    I've already visited Great Basin, dWalker. Well, sort of; it just wasn't a national park yet when I was there. Guess I'd better go back to make it a legitimate visit.

    Brett, your mention of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison puts me in mind of an amusing thing that happened when sandy and I visited there about 25 years ago (that's long before the redesignation). After spending the night in Montrose, we breakfasted and hit the road. Imagine our shock when we realized that we were being followed by several dozen police cars. They proceeded to pass us, one after the other, at breakneck speed -- zoom! zoom! zoom! Our rental car was practically rocking back and forth in the wake of those speeding vehicles. After about the 15th or so, I stopped counting. Later, we realized what was going on. The previous day there had been a funeral for a Montrose policeman who had been shot and killed in the line of duty. The cops in those speeding vehicles were on their way home after attending the funeral and spending the night in Montrose. As you may know, representatives from near and far are sent to funerals held for cops killed in the line of duty.

  • Resolved: I’ll Visit at Least These Five National Parks in 2009   5 years 37 weeks ago

    Please do not forget all the smaller park units that are local favorites. We have one just 20 minutes away - Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site. Or towards the other end of the state is Alleghany Portage Railroad National Historic Site. Sure Steamtown gets a lot more notice but the two I just mentioned deserve just as much attention and needs you to visit them just as much as the bigger parks. Huzzah for our "little" park units!

  • Yosemite National Park Officials Looking For Suggestions on Preserving Badger Pass Ski Lodge   5 years 37 weeks ago

    At first, I was tempted to comment on keeping this "precuious jewel" and continue the tradition for a relaxing getaway for many world families to visit. However, when I read Mr. Repanshek's sob story of how my federal tax dollars are used to maintain a wealthy man wealthier.....I think you should geat real. Hell, If i was rich, I too would donate millions of dollars to my faviorite charity. You are a typical "American Business sucker" who falls for the small change money when tax payers are footing the bigger bill.

    I believe that the resort needs to be torn down and or have a "real" private corporation build a new resort without the help of our federal tax dollars.

    And for Frank, thank you for the information. You keep fighting! Becuase I do the same in my region of the country! You are not alone.

    If we could retire All the persons in the world who think and act like Mr. Repanshek, Our Great Country will be restored as it was once with "Good Morals and Ethics".

    Happy New year to all

  • Yosemite National Park Officials Looking For Suggestions on Preserving Badger Pass Ski Lodge   5 years 37 weeks ago

    Happy New Year, Beamis!

    Happy New year to you too Kurt! (And to all NPT readers!) And congratulations on NPT's phenomenal success this past year! The hard work of the NPT team shows in the quality and depth of content your readers have come to expect.

    To answer your previous questions, I believe becoming a success IS the American dream. I do aspire to better myself and my family. The Jacobs' family recent success, however, is not the American dream the nation was founded upon.

    I think America was an attempt to break free of government monopolies and the mix of government and commerce known as mercantilism. I applaud those who rose from obscurity to be highly successful and make large profits. But those who earn profits on the backs of taxpayers have not generated any new wealth; they have merely (and arguably forcibly) transferred wealth from taxpayers to themselves. No amount of charity can disguise that.

    Yes, Beamis, that was the major point. If you examine the charges leveled at DNC, they resemble those directed at Walmart. Low wages. Unfair treatment. Poor or no health coverage. Discrimination. Where's the outrage? Why bash corporations like Walmart while sparing rebuke for government-granted corporate monopolies?

    I just don't get it.

  • Resolved: I’ll Visit at Least These Five National Parks in 2009   5 years 37 weeks ago

    Bob, I think you'll find Theodore Roosevelt to be similar to your beloved Congaree. Yes, TR is short of cypress trees and Congaree is lacking in bison, but both parks are underrated, underappreciated, and full of unique character. Last summer in TR, I got up before dawn and walked from our campsite down to the Little Missouri River to watch the sunrise. The next morning I was up before the sun again and hiked out to Wind Canyon. ("Hike" is too strong a word, it's a short stroll from the road to the overlook.) From up above the mouth of the canyon you look out over the vast wilderness in the northwest corner of the park with the Little Missouri snaking through the plain. Just as the sun came up and hit the River, a herd of bison about 60 strong moved out of the darkness and waded through the water. Watching and listening to them, my attention was drawn just south of this scene where a small group of pronghorns were cavorting in a field. Over the next hour, I watched the pronghorns go down for a drink, mingle with the bison for a moment, then return to their prancing - half a mile away and hundreds of feet below me. It was one of those moments...

    Then suddenly I heard a bison grunting MUCH louder than the grunts and moans from the herd. I crept around the corner of the little rocky rise I was on to find a big bull staring at me from about 30 feet away. When he finally meandered away I found my way back to the car.

    Here's a link to my shots from TR last August: http://www.flickr.com/photos/10962249@N06/sets/72157606865036969/

    -Kirby.....Lansing, MI

  • Yosemite National Park Officials Looking For Suggestions on Preserving Badger Pass Ski Lodge   5 years 37 weeks ago

    By the same measure Wal-Mart doles out millions in charitable donations each year as well as its direct participation in disaster relief such as was performed in Hurricane Katrina, Rita and Ike. By all accounts they were much more effective than FEMA in getting food and supplies quickly to the neediest disaster victims in the aftermath of all three hurricanes because that is, after all, what they are in the business of doing in the first place: the distribution of goods.

    I think Frank was just pointing out the duality of standards when it comes to the typical corporate bashing seen in much of the commentary written on this website.

  • Studies Show Bear Spray More Effective Than Guns Against Grizzlies   5 years 37 weeks ago

    So why does the sound of the spray scare off the bear... but not the sound of the gun? It sounds like you have it in your mind guns are bad no matter what. Don't make yourself sound so silly.

  • Interior Officials Want to Allow Concealed Carry in the National Parks   5 years 37 weeks ago

    The RIGHT to bear arms should not be restricted . Be it in a park or mall or at work..
    You damned Democrats will never give up until the phrase "only criminals own guns" become a reality and no one can defend themselves or their loved ones from the violence YOU CAUSED.
    40 out of 50 states have proven again and again, when citizens can defend themselves, violent crimes decrease significantly. When are the rest going to figure this out?

    Productive members of society that choose to carry concealed weapons to ensure their safety and well-being should not be labeled criminals by you democrats.

    NRA MEMBER..
    are you?

  • Yosemite National Park Officials Looking For Suggestions on Preserving Badger Pass Ski Lodge   5 years 37 weeks ago

    C'mon Frank, this is America. Isn't becoming a success the American dream? Don't you aspire to better yourself and your family? The Jacobs' family success is the American dream, with three brothers earning their start in business selling peanuts and popcorn at ball games.

    Now, I'm not taking sides pro- or con-concessionaires, but if you're going to deride Mr. Jacobs the flip side should at least point out that while he is a billionaire, he and his wife also give millions to charities each year.

    Jacobs' work with the United Way has not only benefited the communities where the company operates, it has also earned him the designation as part of the Million-Dollar Roundtable of donors. Jacobs is also a member of the Jeremiah Milbank Society, recognizing him for his strong support the Boys and Girls Clubs of America. [9]

    In 2007, Jacobs provided a $1 million gift with his family to support an endowed chair in Immunology at Roswell Park Cancer Institute (RPCI). The gift was made to RPCI’s Leaders for Life endowment campaign in honor of Jacobs’ brother, the late Lawrence D. Jacobs, MD, an immunology researcher who died in 2001. [10]

    The University at Buffalo announced on June 11, 2008, a $10 million gift from Jacobs, his wife, Margaret, and family to establish the Jacobs Institute, which will support research and clinical collaboration on the causes, treatment and prevention of heart and vascular diseases. Again, the gift was made in honor of his late brother, Lawrence. The Jacobs' gift is the largest single gift ever to UB and makes the Jacobs family the university's most generous donor, with gifts totaling $18.4 million.[11] Mr. Jacobs is also a benefactor of the University of Buffalo and has served as chairman, trustee and director of the UB Foundation, chairman of the President's Board of Visitors, and advisor to the School of Management in addition to serving as chairman of the University of Buffalo Council since 1998.

    Source: Wikipedia.org

  • Yosemite National Park Officials Looking For Suggestions on Preserving Badger Pass Ski Lodge   5 years 37 weeks ago

    Very enlightening Frank. Glad to see your sharp mind and investigative research skills have not been dulled by the passing of yet another year.

    I agree, let's get the parks out of the governmental corporatist grip they currently suffer under and look for new paradigms with which to preserve these gems for the future.

    Happy New Year Frank!

    We'll keep fighting the good fight!

  • Resolved: I’ll Visit at Least These Five National Parks in 2009   5 years 37 weeks ago

    My wife and I just returned from Hawaii and the national parks there. This was our 50th state to travel in, and our next goal is to go to all the national parks. We have 17 more to go. We too are planning to go to Death Valley National Park this year. Maybe we will see you there. Happy traveling.

  • Yosemite National Park Officials Looking For Suggestions on Preserving Badger Pass Ski Lodge   5 years 37 weeks ago

    Would it be blasphemy to suggest that Yosemite National Park get out of the ski business?

    This question is irrelevant since Yosemite National Park is not in the ski business; that's the business of Yosemite's government-granted monopoly, the privately-held Delaware North Company Parks & Resorts at Yosemite, Inc.

    "Affectionately known as Devil Needs Cash or Does Not Care by its employees", DNC has mined more than a billion dollars from Yosemite visitors while allegedly treating its workers, especially foreign nationals, unfairly. Some allegations against DNC echo those uttered by Wal-Mart bashers. (Ironic that some NPT readers boycott Wal-Mart for these reasons but are silent about concessionaire corruption.)

    Some allege that DNC's lodging rate increases far outpaced inflation over the last decade.

    While "in all, the company paid between seventeen percent and twenty percent of its revenues for fees, rights and park improvements", the arrangement is corporatist. DNC, through a state-granted monopoly, directly benefits through taxpayer funds.

    Delaware North Company Parks & Resorts at Yosemite, Inc. should get out of the ski (and all) business at Yosemite National Park. Money spent in Yosemite should stay in Yosemite. Corporations should not benefit from public funds, and money spent in Yosemite should not line the pockets of DNC's owner and corporatist billionaire Jeremy Jacobs Sr., who is currently serving his second term on the U.S. Department of Commerce Travel and Tourism Advisory Board.

  • Yosemite National Park Officials Looking For Suggestions on Preserving Badger Pass Ski Lodge   5 years 37 weeks ago

    I have mixed feelings on the issue of downhill ski facilities in the National Parks. On the one hand, thousands of sharp ski edges and the oil dripping from the lift cables & grooming machinery cause noticeable vegetative impacts. Ski areas do provide more incentive for the NPS to provide access for other types of non-motorized winter recreation, though.

    When the small poma lift & rope tows operated at Paradise here at Mount Rainier until the early 70's, the Park Service seemed to take pride in meeting the challenge of opening the road daily and most of the Rangers actually ranged on skis. Even with 2WD GSA patrol vehicles and surplus beater plows & trucks from Bremerton that the Navy had given up on, on average the road opened about one hour past eight AM for every six inches of new snow. Currently that figure is about one hour for every two inches and declining every year. This despite less average snow, more powerful equipment, and a fleet of SUV's that would make a Saudi prince blush.

    Non-openings and extended closures are also increasingly common. A large percentage of local winter recreationists are choosing not to waste their time here, to the dismay of local businesses. It seems as though the NPS would rather raise the drawbridge and polish their brass buffaloes all winter.

  • Resolved: I’ll Visit at Least These Five National Parks in 2009   5 years 37 weeks ago

    I envy you your itinerary, Bob. Death Valley & Great Sand Dunes are both underappreciated gems. I still vividly recall watching the changing moonlight shadows on the distant dunes while shivering all night during an unplanned bivy near the summit of Colorado's Crestone Needle. If you have time, don't miss the very impressive Anasazi ruins Betatakin & Keet Seel at the misnamed Navajo Nat'l Monument.

  • Resolved: I’ll Visit at Least These Five National Parks in 2009   5 years 37 weeks ago

    Good point, DWalker. For several years I've been pondering a backpack trip there, and since it's in my backyard, relatively speaking (what's a 5-hour drive?!?), I should add that to my 09 list.

  • Resolved: I’ll Visit at Least These Five National Parks in 2009   5 years 37 weeks ago

    Don't forget to visit Great Basin, my personal favorite.

  • Resolved: I’ll Visit at Least These Five National Parks in 2009   5 years 37 weeks ago

    2008 was a good year for me, park-wise, as I made stops in Great Smoky, Cape Cod National Seashore, Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park, New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park, Yellowstone, Grand Teton, Death Valley, Yosemite, and Devils Postpile.

    But......there still are many units out there that I have yet to step foot in.

    If the gods are willing, I hope to check off at least Hawaii Volcanoes, possibly Haleakala, Great Sand Dunes, Colorado National Monument, Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Redwoods, and Lassen Volcanic in '09.

    And heck, Bob, if you make it as far West as you're threatening, perhaps we can get you in Arches, Canyonlands, and possibly even Natural Bridges!