Recent comments

  • Reader Participation Day: Are Park Entrance Fees Fair?   5 years 40 weeks ago

    The belief that if fees went away Congress would step in and make up the difference is a little hard to swallow given todays economy and deficits. The answer in California apparently is to simply close state parks that are underfunded. Doing away with fees would more likely lead to increased visitation and lower park budgets to deal with it. In any case, and in the real world right now, there are no doubt folks driving through Yosemite Valley, around Old Faithful or along the rim of the Grand Canyon wondering what on earth we can do to REDUCE the number of park visitors! Our parks are already being loved to death! Maybe what we really should be doing is reducing fees in little visited parks and INCREASING them in busy parks. Or even limiting the number of visitors each day during the summer in such parks.

  • Another Entrance-Fee-Free Weekend in the National Parks   5 years 40 weeks ago

    My wife just read my comments above and wanted to add the following:
    When you don't charge for something you are telling people that it has no value. That is why you can instantly tell the difference when you enter a National Park and leave BLM or forest land. Instantly there is less trash, graffiti etc. Instantly people have more respect for a sense of place.
    I think I agree with that.

  • Reader Participation Day: Are Park Entrance Fees Fair?   5 years 40 weeks ago

    There are three million visitors to Yellowstone in a year. Let's say that only half of them pay at the gate (the rest have an annual pass, seniors pass etc.) Now, for the sake of arguement, let's say there are four people per car. That's still almost one hundred million dollars in fees. And these are all conservative estimates. Wonder how "trivial" Superintendent Lewis would find a hundred million dollar cut in her budget?
    As for parks with entrance fees getting more money than those without.......duh!? Maybe it costs more to run Yellowstone or Yosemite than it does Santa Monica Mountains?! I'm sure that it costs more to run Yellowstone than it does to administer BLM or National Forest land of the same size.
    I love your last post Kirby. Nothing in life is "fair". But I really think these fees are a good idea. Should we also do away with camping fees inside the park? Is it "fair" to charge for firewood? How about a t-shirt? It's not "fair" that that kid got a t-shirt and I can't afford one for my kid!
    Jim, you sound like a socialist there buddy. That's OK, because I am one; but I still think these fees make sense given what special places and special protections National Parks are and need. Set up discounts for the poor (BTW, I'm that too), or even free passes. I don't care; but don't do away with the fees.

  • International Park News: "Nappies" for Horses Spur Controversy in Irish National Park   5 years 40 weeks ago

    The biggest problem, from a business standpoint, that I can see is that the cause of an unpleasant odor will be with the passenger (the paying customer) for the balance of the trip. If a horse needs to evacuate at the beginning a trip around the park, it could make for a most unpleasant experience and one that not likely to be recommended.

  • Reader Participation Day: Are Park Entrance Fees Fair?   5 years 40 weeks ago

    Jim Macdonald -

    First of all, I think your first point is that, assuming there is some number that you can put on how much it costs to run the parks, Congress funds the parks but reduces funding and expects it to be replaced with revenue from entrance fees. And you're also saying that if for some reason the parks had a surge in revenue from entrance fees, Congress can and would reduce its own direct funding.

    Anyway, I'm not sure what your point by noting that is, but I gather you're suggesting that even if revenue fell Congress would step in, and that therefore these fees are not necessary to fund the parks and that to say they support the parks is untrue. I doubt it's that simple, and given that the parks are underfunded it's a bit illusory to talk about a given figure that is needed to fund the parks. And while I agree that Congress might reduce funding if user fee revenue increased, I'm not so sure the reverse is true. So, to say "Congress funds the parks no matter the circumstance" is a confusing statement to make.

    You also of course overlook the fact that under such an arrangement, these parks are paid for largely by everyone, but that some of the cost is shifted specifically to those who use them and create impact in them. I kind of like this. Although they are public goods, I think it's nice that the people who do visit them pay a slightly disproportionate share of maintaining them.

    Also, yes it's not worth comparing public goods to private attractions. But I think people mention it because we sometimes hear complaints that the experience of visiting NPs (the entrance fees) are too expensive. And I think it's insulting because of how little you pay for an entrance fee, you get a lot for it. Of course everyone also is paying with their taxes, so maybe we should complain.

  • Another Entrance-Fee-Free Weekend in the National Parks   5 years 40 weeks ago

    I agree with Mike. Twenty five bucks is not going to make or break anyone's vacation. Increase in visitation is going to come from locals who, frankly, are just going to add to congestion and not contribute a dime. They are not going to camp, rent a room, buy souvenirs, buy food or gas or anything else (inside or outside of the park). Parks are underfunded as it is. Doing away with entrance fees is not the answer. Entrance stations and fees are part of what puts parks on another plain from BLM and National Forest lands. They make people stop and think about how they are entering a special place. For eighty bucks you can buy an unlimited pass good for twelve months at all federal fee areas! In today's economy that is one heck of a bargain.
    No one likes to pay anything for anything, but these fees make sense. If these fees were gone, how would they make up the difference? General fund? Already strapped. I could see a day where the suggestion would be made to allow hunting (with tags and fees). Heck, guns are now going to be allowed anyway. Plus we have over populations of elk in parks like Rocky Mountain and Teddy Roosevelt. The distinction between parks and forest would soon disappear. I would hate to see the day where hunters became the only voice of conservation in our National Parks in the same manner as they have in our forests, because they "are the only ones paying". An example of that is where song bird habitat is not a priority because no one hunts songbirds. (Not that hunters have been a bad voice of conservation....they were among the first and strongest such voices....but they should not be the only such voices, especially not in our parks, which are supposed to be different.) Keep the fees and allow those who actually use our parks; families, seniors, children, wildlife and bird watchers, photographers and researchers....those for whom parks were designed....have the strongest voice in their conservation.

  • Reader Participation Day: Are Park Entrance Fees Fair?   5 years 40 weeks ago

    In a better world, we would not pay entrance fees, as the general budget should cover the Park's needs. But we all know our system doesn't allow that to happen, and yeah, that's annoying. In the real world however, I'm happy to pay entrance fees to the Parks - it's one of the few things I still like about America. In fact, I wish we could designate where all our tax dollars went; I'd feel good about contributing to a sane system that supported sane values, rather than feeling like most of every dollar I give the government supports the military. Imagine - one less bomber - and we wouldn't have this conversation at all. The problem is so much larger than just the Parks, but thank goodness they're there for the sanity of us all. I'd do almost anything within reason to support the Parks - it feels right

  • Reader Participation Day: Are Park Entrance Fees Fair?   5 years 40 weeks ago

    Jim, you're correct that relative cost is irrelevant in a discussion of fairness. I'm apparently illiterate and read the question more as whether fees are a good idea.

    I guess the original question asked if fees were "fair", so I probably shouldn't argue the point at all, given that my ideas of fairness are far from mainstream. If we wanted it to be truly fair, the poor people (many of whom don't pay taxes) should have higher entrance fees than those who pay lots of taxes since they already paid their admission on April 15th. And should I have to pay taxes to support programs that have no benefit to me, my community, or my state? If I hate nature, why should I have to support the parks at all? Those are questions of political philosophy with valid arguments on both sides, but nothing is ever going to be fair. If we go beyond taxes we can argue the fairness of excluding or including non-Americans, whether anyone other than Native Americans should even own a lot of this land, if the ownership of land is even a human right... Fairness is subjective and can be argued to absurdity. Hmmm, maybe that's what blog comment sections are for? :-)

    Now if we want to argue if fees are a "good idea" or if they're legal, then we can use data and argue it. Those of you pointing out that entrance fees are trivial in the budget of the parks would lean me toward saying they serve no purpose. But why, if fees are so meaningless, would parks that can't collect them wish that they could?

  • National Park Quiz 63: Pools   5 years 40 weeks ago

    First time I ever got nine. Missed two of the t/f and number 12 had no clue. We just hiked Abram Falls and got a great picture of my son covering the word "don't" on the warning sign about drownings. Beautiful place, but hated the drive on the Cades Cove Loop Road. You get stuck behind people who have never seen a dear and stop for 10 minutes holding up everyone. Then they go 200 yards at stop for 10 minutes to stare at turkeys. Moral of the story: get there early.

  • History and Scenery in One Great Package – and Getting There is Part of the Fun   5 years 40 weeks ago

    I must be mistaken. I don't know why I was thinking it was 13. A great park, regardless.

  • National Park Mystery Spot 1 Revealed: Bob Hope and Bing Crosby Were Here Too   5 years 40 weeks ago

    The Presidio Golf Course website has a comments section, Terry, and in that you'll find some complaints about rude marshals. Sure doesn't sound like park ranger behavior to me. As for the free bucket of balls, well, I guess it wouldn't hurt to ask. I don't think you'll find them in a charitable mood, though. BTW, I've seen this course, but haven't played it yet. I usually visit the Bay Area a couple of times a year, and one of these times I'm going to play that course and use that warmup range.

  • Reader Participation Day: Are Park Entrance Fees Fair?   5 years 40 weeks ago

    It feels like we've been over this ground a thousand times.

    Rangertoo is correct in ridding us of an important myth; entrance fees do not pay for the parks. Yes, the money from them does go into the parks, but it's a sleight of hand to suggest they actually pay for the parks. The money from entrance fees is an accounting trick. Instead of funding the parks by means of Congress, Congress removes some of that money and expects entrance fees to make up the short fall. If revenue increased, it's just as likely that funding would be reduced. In other words, Congress funds the parks no matter the circumstance; the idea that your entrance fee is funding the park is simply not true.

    The arguments against entrance fees are rather simple. First, if the national parks are public goods that are supposed to be available to all of the American public, which is exactly what they are supposed to be, then their cost is supposed to be paid for by the public at large. If payment is determined by use, the places aren't public goods but are essentially commodities whose value is determined by their popularity. Yet, if that's what national parks are, then their status in law should be re-defined, not as places protected in perpetuity, but places protected depending upon their popularity. Second, any cost whatsoever to entrance stratifies access, making the park more accessible to those with more money and less accessible to those without. Yet, a public good is supposed to apply to all the public equally, and so entrance fees accept the principle that some public goods are more for those with more rather than those with less. If national parks aren't such places, then the law should be changed to acknowledge that (perhaps, it's already a de facto truth since national parks are not all equally accessible for a whole host of reasons, but that's a larger discussion that questions the very nature of national parks).

    It's not relevant whether fees are relatively more affordable. Some places - take for instance amusement parks or movie theaters - aren't public goods; whether they should be would be for another forum; however, the relative cost of seeing one rather than the other has no bearing on the question. If national parks are supposed to be there for all people (just as transit systems in cities, etc.), then any user fee associated with them is unfair. It doesn't matter that there are other things that may be more unfair; the greater evil of something else doesn't justify the lesser evil that exists.

    It's also not relevant that user fees to national parks (or any other public good) generally don't affect impoverished people (because people in poverty already are shut out of most parks because it is too expensive even to make the trip). The fact that people in poverty are already shut out (except those few who are able to secure jobs in the parks) is not reason for further shutting them out and adding to the line of those who are shut out. If you are a modestly poor person who happens to live near a park, the user fee can in fact be a determining factor. Anything that serves to uphold and exacerbate an existing injustice, even if only barely, is not something worth supporting.

    Of course, everything I am stating depends upon accepting that national parks are public goods, that they apply to all Americans equally as national parks, and that this arrangement in itself is something worth supporting. Do the Everglades really mean as much to me way down in Florida as Yellowstone, Grand Teton, and Glacier much closer to me? Does my American identity stretch that far, even though it would be nearly impossible to give me as much access to the former as to the latter? Perhaps, things are too big, and that lends itself to contradictions that are irresolvable. Perhaps, and we shouldn't be afraid of having that larger discussion. However, the premise as it stands suggests that parks are public lands, that the public is allowed to have access to the lands, and that there's no reason to have any formula at all that makes a place that much more accessible to those with more than those with less. When you add in my first point - that the user fees don't actually pay for anything except as a kind of congressional magic trick - then you realize that it's unfairness all for the service of absolutely nothing.

    Jim Macdonald
    The Magic of Yellowstone
    Yellowstone Newspaper
    Jim's Eclectic World

  • National Park Mystery Spot 1 Revealed: Bob Hope and Bing Crosby Were Here Too   5 years 40 weeks ago

    I assume my America The Beautiful National Park Pass won't get me a free bucket. Do the marshalls wear Smoky Bear hats?

  • Another Entrance-Fee-Free Weekend in the National Parks   5 years 40 weeks ago

    I have NO problem w/ paying the entrance fees. I feel that this is an investment in the greater good of my country, my land and my fellow Americans. The National Parks are not just the crown jewel in our living legacy and a gift we give not just ourselves but our children, it is also a business and needs to be treated as such. We pay fees for entertainment and theme parks so fees also need to be implmented in all parks w/ a tendency in revenue spending towards marketing which would put them into competition w/ the other avenues of relaxation.

    bob moore

  • Reader Participation Day: Are Park Entrance Fees Fair?   5 years 40 weeks ago

    I've heard people complain about fees, but the fact is that even the most expensive park is probably dirt cheap compared to a week at Disney World, etc...

    If it is true that they are so small a part of their budget, and that removing them would increase visitation, maybe that is something that should be considered. Nonetheless, I do like the idea that, while we all own these places by virtue of paying taxes, the people who actually visit them pay a little more.

    Also as others mention, many places don't charge fees, and for those that do, it's technically more of a parking fee, though I say technically because you can't access many places without a vehicle.

  • Another Entrance-Fee-Free Weekend in the National Parks   5 years 40 weeks ago

    Who would schedule a vacation around not having to pay a $25 fee? If you're planning a trip to Yellowstone, chances are you do it far in advance and at a time that fits you and your family's schedule, not on the chance to avoid such a fee (by the way that fee also gets you into Grand Teton, and lasts an entire week). If fee-free weekends are truly responsible for increased visitation, I would propose a few explanations:

    1. People have a big misconception about how much it costs to get into a national park (that is, almost nothing). When they get there, they may be surprised to learn that they are not saving much money at all (which may delight or disappoint them), and may also be surprised to learn that while there is no fee to get in, their campsite is not free.

    2. Locals account for increased visitation. I.e., I probably won't plan a major trip around being able to save a small amount of money, but if I live close to the park, I may go that weekend because it's free. If this is true, there should be more increased visitation on these weekends for units that are close to larger populations (i.e., Cuyahoga Valley) and less for those without (i.e., Kobuk Valley).

    But I'm not sure. How is the park service "marketing" these free weekends? Just via their web site? How many people really know about them?

    Also, I'd note that NPS units are not at all advertized. If we wanted more visitation, think if they actively advertized parks and units in magazines, travel sites, etc... Now I am not saying they should do this, but you never see commercials encouraging you to visit a park. Is this a good thing? May be a good article topic. This is even more true for national wildlife refuges. The trend I have noticed is usually that unless you have directions, you won't know how to get there and there are no signs until you reach the entrance. Of course they're not primarily designated for visitation, but I find this a little perplexing since some of them do offer nice experiences for visitors.

  • Reader Participation Day: Are Park Entrance Fees Fair?   5 years 40 weeks ago

    "Now, as for whether or not fees are impediments. Why else would the NPS suspend fees if they were not some sort of impediment? Seems as though the creation of these fee-free weekends is a tacit admission that fees are preventing some people from visiting parks so have no fees will get them to come."

    If fees are impediments - and I'm not arguing that they aren't - then it's based on psychology rather than the real economics of it. The fees are trivial compared to the costs of simply getting to the parks for a vast majority of the population and a vast majority of the parks. (I'm thinking the big parks here, not urban NPS units.) It seems like a lot of folks that would shell out a few hundred to go to an NFL game, $50 to take the family to a movie, or a couple hundred for an amusement park will cry hardship about $20 for a week in Acadia. (Ten bucks if you go in Mid-June before the crowds!)

    You can't convince me that most of the people pouring into parks on these free weekends aren't living above the poverty level and wouldn't blink at losing $20. They're showing up because of the word "FREE". That's Sales 101. If they were free all the time, the luster would wear off and things would be back to normal.

  • International Park News: "Nappies" for Horses Spur Controversy in Irish National Park   5 years 40 weeks ago

    So what is the problem? I don't see here why they are opposed to these "nappies." I assume it means the operator will be responsible for emptying the "nappy," but that doesn't sound too bad...

  • Reader Participation Day: Are Park Entrance Fees Fair?   5 years 40 weeks ago

    I've had a few visitors complain about the fees and I always look at it this way: It would cost well over $25 to take a family of 4 to a 2 hour movie. For less than that you're able to take your family to a beautiful National Park for a week where they will be able to learn new and exciting things and gain memories that will last a lifetime.

    Ranger Holly

  • Reader Participation Day: Are Park Entrance Fees Fair?   5 years 40 weeks ago

    I have no issue whatsoever paying to get into our National Parks. National Parks are the most inexpensive vactation there is. Besides, buying a pass for $80 for my family for a year is the best deal around. We usually break even within the first month of the year.

  • Reader Participation Day: Are Park Entrance Fees Fair?   5 years 40 weeks ago

    Entrance fees are a needless system. They generate less than 5% of the NPS budget and their use is restricted to certain things. Plus, it has set up a have and have-not park system where parks with entrance fees (less than one-third of them) get more money for maintenance projects than the parks with no fees. Most of the time, the parks that do not collect fees do not do so because they are not permitted to by law, or it is impractical. You can bet that parks like Santa Monica Mountains, Indiana Dunes, and Fire Island would love to collect fees if it were feasible. Most or all the state parks around them do, making the NPS a poor step child to the state parks nearby.

    Congress could add 10% to the NPS operations budget and eliminate all the entrance fees. The public would make out, no one would fail to visit a park because of a fee, and the NPS can get out of the entrance fee collection business.

    Now, as for whether or not fees are impediments. Why else would the NPS suspend fees if they were not some sort of impediment? Seems as though the creation of these fee-free weekends is a tacit admission that fees are preventing some people from visiting parks so have no fees will get them to come.

  • Reader Participation Day: Are Park Entrance Fees Fair?   5 years 40 weeks ago

    I have no problem with entrance fees, especially since you generally see the benefit in improved facilities, great ranger programs and better preservation of nature.

  • How To Avoid A Bear Attack in the Great Outdoors, The Cartoon   5 years 40 weeks ago

    Well, that appeared to be a black bear. I'm confident that 99.9% of the time a punch to the nose of a grizzly will get your "head ripped off." Funny video.

  • Reader Participation Day: Are Park Entrance Fees Fair?   5 years 40 weeks ago

    I just got back from a tour of several national parks in Atlantic Canada, and the admission was quite expensive. They have daily fees per person, while most parks in the U.S. have weekly fees per car. So for two of us to spend several days in Gros Morne National Park in Newfoundland cost about C$80. The annual pass would have been only C$10 more, but we weren't going to be back this year, so why bother. The two of us spent only two days in Fundy National Park in New Brunswick and had to shell out C$40 for that. I'm not sure if Canada has an equivalent to the America the Beautiful card. If it did I was an idiot for not looking into it.

    That said, I didn't mind paying those fees, and generally don't mind fees in American parks. It usually feels like I'm getting more than my money's worth. As for taxes and that argument, there are so many things done with my tax dollars that I find utterly reprehensible, I don't even think about the fact that I'm "double-paying" to get into parks. I'm just glad our enlightened leaders are still funding things like parks at all and I'll continue to be happy to chip in a few extra bucks beyond that.

  • Bridge to Somewhere Stirs Debate at Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area   5 years 40 weeks ago

    I think the bridge should not be built for the reasons stated earlier regarding habitat destruction and soil erosion due to the bikes off trail. Don't build the bridge save the money, habitat, and topsoil. I don't see a easy compromise as the nature of mountain biking is to go "off road".