Recent comments

  • National Park Mystery Photo 11: And What Room Might This Be?   5 years 44 weeks ago

    If I'd known the answer, I would have been tempted to sign in as Strangelove or Gen. Jack D. Ripper.

  • Reader Participation Day: Are Park Entrance Fees Fair?   5 years 44 weeks ago

    Some fees do help pay for the parks. The increase in the entrance fee at Zion was to help in paying for the upkeep of the Shuttle system. True the entire $25 doesn't go to the park, but a small amount does. If it wasn't for that entrance fee, the shuttle system would have to be nixed.

    The $11 charge (while not an entrance fee) for the tours at Scotty's Castle in Death Valley goes entirely to the upkeep of the castle. Often the fee dollars (from entrance fees) goes towards the new signs and wonderful composting toilets that are seen in the parks. If you look, there will be signs that say "this project was completed using your fee dollars." While the entire amount doens't go to the parks, some does.

    Ranger Holly
    http://web.me.com/hollyberry

  • National Park Mystery Photo 11: And What Room Might This Be?   5 years 44 weeks ago

    I doubt that he's a missileer, Kurt. Heck, I seriously doubt that he even knows how to spell the word. :0)

  • Another Entrance-Fee-Free Weekend in the National Parks   5 years 44 weeks ago

    I seem to agree with all of these comments. Keep the fees or even go up if necessary. When I was a kid I was lucky to have been to a lot of our National Parks thanks to my dad being a Bird Colonel in the US Army that gave my family the opportunity to travel a lot. That experience and those memories were something else. Back in 1960, or close to it, my dad took us to a parade in Frankfurt Germany, where we lived, to see a parade with President Kennedy in his black limo. A secret service agent actually picked me up and carried me over to the limo and let me give my American Flag to the President, that I will never forget. Ill have to find the picture of that because no one believes me when I tell that story. Anyway, now that Im older and pay more attention to the news, all the bad things like crooked politics, companies, crime and the economy seem to make me not think about all the great stuff we have. Im from New England and get to Acadia National Park, and the Cape Code National Seashore quite a bit. When we travel out of New England we try to see a National Park at least for a day if not more. The thing is that when you go to these places your way of thinking seems to change, you thing about how great this country is and how lucky we are to have what we have. My wife thinks Im soft in the head but I become that kid again.
    So keep the fees and even increase them if necessary to keep what we have and even add to it. Happy travels.

  • National Park Mystery Photo 11: And What Room Might This Be?   5 years 44 weeks ago

    Methinks this was an inside job, Bob. Could Djjeffrey100 have been, or currently is, a missileer?

  • 52nd Annual Bat Flight Breakfast at Carlsbad Caverns National Park on July 18, 2009   5 years 44 weeks ago

    I went to three of these when I was the superintendent of Carlsbad and Guadalupe (the two parks were managed by a single superintendent in those days. Now Guadalupe has its own superintendent.) While seeing the bats leave the cave is a regularly interpreted event during the summer, watching them dive bomb back into the cave after their nightly insect hunt is an organized event only once a year. It's a great wildlife spectacle. I hope all NPT readers will do it once.

    Rick Smith

  • International Park News: "Nappies" for Horses Spur Controversy in Irish National Park   5 years 44 weeks ago

    Jeffrey -

    The photo I found to illustrate the type of cart may have been misleading - the roads in question aren't in a city, they're out in a national park. Based on the photos I've seen of the park, this is a spectacular natural area.

    Here's an answer to your question from the NPWS:

    NPWS and the jarveys attended a mechanical road sweeper trial in Killarney in April 2008. Although the road sweeper proved somewhat effective in collecting horse dung, there were considerable factors militating against its use in Killarney National Park – noise, durability on the paths, cost and the intermittent use of the road sweeper leading to horse dung remaining on the paths for long periods of time.

    Since about 9 miles of road are involved, I'd think the cost of sweeping multiple times per day would be prohibitive, not to mention the unwelcome noise from a mechanical sweeper on otherwise quiet sections of the park.

  • National Park Mystery Photo 11: And What Room Might This Be?   5 years 44 weeks ago

    Pretty darn good, Djjefffrey100. We'll have to dock you a couple of points for careless spelling, though. It's Minuteman Missile National Historic site.

  • National Park Mystery Photo 11: And What Room Might This Be?   5 years 44 weeks ago

    Minute man missile National Historic site. Launch control center Delta-01

  • Reader Participation Day: Are Park Entrance Fees Fair?   5 years 44 weeks ago

    I am 74 yrs old and been going to the National Parks camping for 40 years or more. I have no problem with the fees, my income is limited, just barely over 1,000/mo. But, I am glad to help out the parks. there is nothing better. they are a marvelous gift to us. Thank you.

  • International Park News: "Nappies" for Horses Spur Controversy in Irish National Park   5 years 44 weeks ago

    If the tax payers are footing the bill why then wouldn't it be fair to pay a city worker to make 2-3 trips a day with a street sweeper. I am not all that familiar with street sweepers but assumed it would work or be modified to work.

  • Reader Participation Day: Are Park Entrance Fees Fair?   5 years 44 weeks ago

    Frank,

    You are missing the equation.

    Either there is an increase in user fees or there is a decrease in user fees, in both cases Congress is likely to cut funding. Therefore, user fee revenue has nothing to do with the total amount of funding received. That is, neither reality is the cause for the ultimate result - they both end up with the same result. That is, it's not relevant. Congress is simply going to figure out how much the parks are worth; if they are making more via user fees, they may well use it as an excuse to provide less funding. If they don't provide the shortfall from user fees, Congress is still likely to provide less because the national parks aren't a priority. The user fee is simply a substitute for whatever they've decided to fund.

    I'm originally from Ohio. One way they bamboozled the state to accept the state lottery was to claim that the lottery paid for education in the public schools. That was nonsense. Statistically, it paid for 8 days, but it actually paid for less. The state legislature simply removed funds that would have gone to education and replaced it with lottery money. So, it was a lie to say that user fees even constituted eight school days worth of funding; it actually provided nothing because money was taken out the back end. The lottery didn't pay for education; it did, however, tax the poor.

    The same goes for user fees in the parks. When people think user fees pay for the 15% or whatever it is for funding of the parks, it's not true. It's not really the case; money is subtracted from the back end, and the budget is made up for by substituting in user fees. That's why I say that user fees are relevant to the process of funding, not to the bottom line. The amount has one determinant - Congress. However, the mechanism is unfair, and legitimizing the user fee mechanism only makes the funding source that much more unstable and that much more tenuous. All of that is inconsistent with parks supposedly there for the public good.

    Your quote about the amount of money that stays in the park, etc. only allows Congress to provide that much less funding to the park. They simply figure the user fees into the equation of the funding mechanism. However, it doesn't mean Yellowstone is funded that much more if it has that many more visitors. It just means that the money that is allocated to Yellowstone is accounted for in a larger percentage by user fees (and none at all in some of the parks). The only way that user fees could serve as an actual funding source is if Congress disregards them entirely in their appropriations; then a park with more in user fees will receive necessarily more in funds. It would still be unfair, but then user fees would actually contribute to the total. Even then, however, it is a decision of Congress in its appropriations and not the collection of user fees that is the real politik here.

    Making the mechanism dependent on fees is simply a step toward making the parks disappear. Because they are not funded as public resources and have become so dependent on user fees, when revenue does shrivel up, the parks will seek outside sources for funding. The foundations will make more and more corporate deals. That was happening even when today's economy seemed better. User fees ultimately are a step toward outright corporate privatization; that's been the case in just about every situation I can think of around the world where they are applied. You see it especially in World Bank and IMF structural adjustment programs and how those fees have destroyed the fabric of society. They show that Congress's priority is not with the parks they felt they had the right to set up. And, that's the rub here. Congress does not value the parks, and that's why the user fee mechanism gives the fascade of funding the parks when in fact it divests public investment in the parks through the regressive tax of user fees.

    That being the case and the case being that user fees are otherwise unfair, it's far better to be rid of them. If the parks are going to hell in a hand basket because Congress doesn't care about them, it's better that at the very least it not exacerbate the problem. And, ultimately, I don't care whether Congress divests itself of parks (they never had the right to create them in the first place), but I do care how the current order deconstructs. If we are to have a better world (I have no interest in ideals or ideal worlds - utopia is for fools), then we should commit ourselves to justice. Because when everything eventually does fall apart, then we will be in a better place to take care of the places we love. It would be far better that they fell apart with Yellowstone still accessible to the widest diversity of society than it to decay into the rotten hands of corporations and the very rich.

    But, short of that bleak vision, at the very least, we can stop pretending that user fees pay for the parks. We can stop the unfair practice and open the gates to as many people who are willing to explore the wonders of the parks as possible. We can't continue to exacerbate the problems of economic class and ultimately care for parks at the same time. That had better be reality or else it's all just a cynical and ugly hell, and all our words and solutions are for nothing. While I'm not an idealist, I certainly don't think our words and our love for these places are for nothing and that we can in reality do much better.

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

  • Let's Start a Tradition: "Thank a Ranger Day"   5 years 44 weeks ago

    I never met a National Park Service employee who took their job for the money. Many gave up much more lucrative careers to be part of the system.

  • Let's Start a Tradition: "Thank a Ranger Day"   5 years 44 weeks ago

    I thanked all that I saw in the Smokys in June.

    Who was the first National Park Service ranger to be killed in the line of duty and what park?
    (By the way, I know the answer.)

  • Another Entrance-Fee-Free Weekend in the National Parks   5 years 44 weeks ago

    Triple or quadruple the fees I say! Where else can you go and enjoy millions of acres of the best scenic land in America for $25?

  • History and Scenery in One Great Package – and Getting There is Part of the Fun   5 years 44 weeks ago

    I'd also recommend Highliner Coffee - the Fairweather Blend is awesome and they'll get you a pound to take home. Another kudos to Level II - it used to be the Bayview Restaurant. They've changed the interior and menu a bit. It's a nice view over Crescent Harbor. If you want fine dining, make a reservation at Ludvig's. Also, if you're visiting in July and have a rental vehicle that has at least front wheel, if not 4-wheel drive, take the road up to Harbor Mountain (gravel, chuck holes and a little mud) if the gates are open to the parking lot at the top (Tongass Forest Service office will have that information or ask around) and climb up the wooden stairs to the old gun placements. Take a picnic! It's a spectacular view of Mt. Edgecumbe!

  • International Park News: "Nappies" for Horses Spur Controversy in Irish National Park   5 years 44 weeks ago

    Seems like a reasonable solution to an awkward situation. The only "problem" the cart drivers have identified in the media reports I read is their claim the devices are a "safety problem" due to changing the weight distributions of the cart. However, I haven't read any information they've provided to bolster that argument. As others have said, this solution seems to work well in a lot of other locations.

  • Reader Participation Day: Are Park Entrance Fees Fair?   5 years 44 weeks ago

    (That last anon was me, BTW...I forgot to put my name in)
    I agree that if fees go up funding will not necessarily go up; but I strongly disagree that if the fees go away funding will remain. You apparently agree with your statement : "One of the claims that has been made in response is to suggest that Congress won't in fact fund if user fees disappear. That's quite likely true as far as I can tell....." therefore your statement that fees have nothing to do with funding our parks makes no sense.
    From the United States Department of the Interior website:
    "The officials noted that 100 percent of the revenue derived from passes sold at federal recreation sites will directly benefit the selling agency and no less than 80 percent of the revenue will remain at the site where the pass was sold."
    If these fees disappear they are not likely, in todays economy, to be replaced.
    Ideas are important, so are ideals. No fees would be great, so would no taxes. Neither is likely to happen in the near future. Not with a National Debt of over eleven trillion dollars.

  • National Park Quiz 63: Pools   5 years 44 weeks ago

    Cool Quiz!

    I did not do as well as the previous responders, but at least I don't have to take a course over again! LOL. I considered the course "Geology of National Parks" that I took as an undergraduate as one of the most fun courses I ever had. The "Going to the Sun Road" opening was an interesting question. I was in Missoula visiting family in July one year (can't remember exactly when, but in the early 2000's) and to go there was a plan for one of the days. We got up before the sun to go and had to cancel, as there had been 4 foot of snow over night and they closed the road. I was crushed! To date, I have yet to get to Glacier, but I will.

    To Anonymous - yes, some do that with Elk in Rocky Mountain NP, too. Luckily, I used to live close by, so I would have some days that it was not an issue. Early to any NP is advisable...you get to spend more time. :)

  • Reader Participation Day: Are Park Entrance Fees Fair?   5 years 44 weeks ago

    Rangertoo -

    I think you make a good point about inequity between units that can raise funds and those that can't, but if there is inequity Congress should fix that, and so the problem isn't necessarily that they're not allowed to charge fees, but that Congress doesn't make up for not allowing them to.

    I would also say though that for some units, it may be undesirable to charge fees. Do you want to charge people to walk into the Jefferson Memorial? It is a valid question. Of course you have to ask if people will pay for something they can just look at. But it is a good question nonetheless as to whether we should charge people to walk into the JM. I think a lot of people think it's nicer without a fence around it requiring a fee to get in. And units are so different that it's hard to say there is one rule that fits all. Some units are gigantic pieces of land, whereas some units contain buildings scattered around an area.

    Also take Klondike Gold Rush in Seattle. Would people pay to get into a small museum? For sure, some would. But a lot would not. So maybe in some cases it's better to let Congress fund units to let the public enjoy free of charge.

    As for feasability, of course it's hard for some units to charge user fees. In my state we have the St. Croix National Scenic Riveryway, which as I understand it protects the river and land adjacent to it. So if someone steps onto that land, should they pay? I think that's a case where it makes little sense to charge a fee, because it's just too hard to do that. You can do it, and you can create an honor system for people who enter the land, but I just don't think it always makes sense to charge fees for every entrance to every unit.

    But I will concede you're right to question whether parks are adequately funded, and if it is undesirable or unfeasible to charge fees, whether we're doing our best to make up for that.

  • Reader Participation Day: Are Park Entrance Fees Fair?   5 years 44 weeks ago

    But, fees don't pay for the parks ... they don't. You understand that if the fees are taken away so too is the funding; the same is true of the opposite. If fees go up, the funding also decreases. In other words, in the real world, user fees have nothing at all to do with overall funding ... just the process of the funding. In the real world, user fees contribute nothing to the funding of the parks. In either circumstance - more revenue of funding from user fees or less revenue from funding from user fees, overall funding is determined by one thing - how much Congress appropriates.

    Our yearly pass does not one thing to support the funding of the parks; all it supports is the unfair mechanism. In fact, where user fees are relied on for public services, those services become more and more privatized and less protected - that's the real world fact.

    As for the common idea that ideas and the real world have nothing to do with each other, an idea that has nothing to do with the real world is not much of an idea; and a real world imagined to be inconsistent with reason is not real at all. If you don't think an idea matches up with reality, it's up to you to show it - a lot of public goods don't rely on user fees (think the military as one example); there's no reason to apply a mechanism for funding which doesn't fund, and which more importantly happens to be unfair. Either way, the parks lose, and it's a false sense of accomplishment to think when we pay that yearly $50 for Yellowstone and Grand Teton, to think that our payment has anything to do with the real funding of the parks. That's one reason why I called it right from the start a sleight of hand.

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

  • International Park News: "Nappies" for Horses Spur Controversy in Irish National Park   5 years 44 weeks ago

    Similar devices have been used for years on horse drawn carriages in US cities. I see no reason that they would not work in Irish parks

  • Reader Participation Day: Are Park Entrance Fees Fair?   5 years 44 weeks ago

    Can you imagine the line at the gate of Yellowstone if all visitors had to watch the video of the bison throwing the tourist in the air that they show at the canyon visitor center before they could enter the park? What fun! That would thin out the crowd!......Not the video, but the line! Bet people would still want their picture taken next to the big bull!
    "One of the claims that has been made in response is to suggest that Congress won't in fact fund if user fees disappear. That's quite likely true as far as I can tell, but that misses the point."
    Jim, I have a great deal of respect for you and your work. I am an avid reader of your "paper" and thank you for that; but sometimes you get so caught up in ideals and ideas that you leave the rest of us mere mortals standing here with our mouths hanging open. In the real world what is right and ideal does not always win out. We live in a world of compromise and necessity. The money has to come from somewhere. If you do away with fees and Congress does not step up and use more of China's money to make up the difference, then the parks will be hurting. Those are the facts, here in the real world. Right, wrong or indifferent. It doesn't matter what the "point" is. You can make any point you want and we can all agree with you, and it won't matter if we watch larger parks like Yellowstone understaffed and overrun with "ignorant" tourists and smaller parks sold off due to lack of funds to run them. Ideals are great (and I hope I haven't lost all of mine that I had when I was your age!), but all the ideals in the world and two bucks will buy you a cup of coffee.
    Personally I am proud to pay for my entrance pass. I, like you, live near Yellowstone and spend a lot of time there. I am happy to do my small part. Every year when I buy my pass I think, "Man! What a steal!!" I feel like I have a stake in Yellowstone that I wouldn't have if it were paid for exclusively out of tax dollars, and that I don't have in the surrounding National Forests. Frankly I get tired of talking to my hunting friends about why fish and game doesn't do this or that for this or that species, and they say it is because that species isn't hunted and fish and game gets their money from hunters. I wish there were a "wildlife watchers" tag that I could buy to show fish and game that we (and the species we care about) count too. We live in a capitalist society, anarchist or not; and money talks and bs walks as they say.
    In a way, this is how California got into such financial trouble. Every single time there is a ballot initiative to increase public services, they vote yes. Every single time there is an initiative to raise taxes to pay for it, they vote no! Things have to be paid for, including our parks. Fees are a fair way to help do that, because they target actual users.

  • Reader Participation Day: Are Park Entrance Fees Fair?   5 years 44 weeks ago

    Kirby, I don't mind having the discussion on whether the national parks make any sense at all and whether the basic assumptions are wrong. I wrote a several-part series of essays a couple years ago looking at the creation of Yellowstone, the reasons why, attacking those reasons as unsound, and then suggesting a different approach to the question. If you have an evening or two, read http://www.yellowstone-online.com/2007/02/part-1-john-locke-yellowstone-and-dogma.html. My argument is that if the parks have a basic premise of what they are, it's logically inconsistent to apply user fees to them (I don't think anyone considers t-shirts, etc. - following up on another post - to be public goods; however, suggested by the foundational act). However, if parks shouldn't be conceived that way or governed that way, all bets are off. In my case, I'm still never going to support a classist solution to access, but neither am I going to support a lot of other things my argument assumes as well.

    Anonymous, I'm not a socialist; I'm worse - I'm an anarchist. However, I'm beyond that a person interested in policy that is logically coherent. At the very least, policy should follow validly; at the most, it should also be sound. User fees do not follow from the congressionally-defined meaning of national parks. There is an inconsistency in policy. My discussion with Kirby suggests that I also don't think the policy is sound on other more fundamental grounds.

    As for the shell game of user fees, rangertoo has very good points to make. One of the claims that has been made in response is to suggest that Congress won't in fact fund if user fees disappear. That's quite likely true as far as I can tell, but that misses the point. Funding is ultimately tied to Congress; greater numbers generated by user fees also won't guarantee more income for the parks, both those that don't receive them and those that do because Congress can just as easily take more money away in the next budget supposing that to be made up by user fees. Wherever user fees are used for public goods throughout the world, the funding problem is almost never solved (think postage, think utilities in other countries, think public transit), and costs actually rise for users and for services significantly over time (though they are supposed to pay for better services and share the cost burden over a greater number of people). So besides being unfair, they don't work.

    One other claim was made to encourage greater user fees in places that are overcrowded; I would oppose that idea because it defines access again on class rather than a more appropriate designator - like say, knowledge of how to treat the resources. I have always believed Yellowstone, for instance, could handle 20 times as many people if people were half as ignorant when they came into the park. A much better way to control access is based on ability to use the resource; in one state park in Hawaii, all visitors to the beach with a coral reef are required to watch a video in a visitor's center before entering the park. Perhaps, just that reform would go a long way toward protecting the parks and restricting access to the dangerously ignorant (which is like drunk driving when you think of it in terms of a national park) instead of just to those who are just as ignorant but perhaps have more money to spend.

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

  • Reader Participation Day: Are Park Entrance Fees Fair?   5 years 44 weeks ago

    I wonder how much of the increased visitation to the parks on the free weekends were not due to "free" but instead due to increased advertising. Every local and national news station or newspaper I saw/read advertised these free weekends. However, the rest of the year, I don't hear a word about the parks on regular news. So, maybe just that increased marketing has something to do with increased visitation. Hard to know.