Recent comments

  • Getting American Youth More Involved in the National Parks is a Difficult Challenge and a Golden Opportunity   6 years 2 weeks ago

    Thank you Chance.

    And I credit my Mom for sharing the Smokies with me.

    May you find the peace and joy in the mountains as I do.

  • Federal Judge Blocks Recreational Snowmobiling in Yellowstone National Park   6 years 2 weeks ago

    There is no mystery about what is going on here. Just have to look to see what elected officials live near Yellowstone and Grand Teton.

  • Prime Location and Varied Habitat Help Make Point Reyes National Seashore a Biodiversity Treasure Trove   6 years 2 weeks ago

    Yes, I agree that Indiana Dunes has received less attention than it deserves in Traveler. I'll try to remedy that at some early opportunity.

  • Prime Location and Varied Habitat Help Make Point Reyes National Seashore a Biodiversity Treasure Trove   6 years 2 weeks ago

    You want diversity in a small area? Try Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. Only 15,000 acres with more than 1400 species of plants, including more than 30 species of native orchids, and 46 species of mammals. I wager no other NPS area has so much in so little space.

  • Getting American Youth More Involved in the National Parks is a Difficult Challenge and a Golden Opportunity   6 years 2 weeks ago

    You know, maybe we should think about relaxing the advertisings restrictions on NPS.

  • Attendance Shortfalls at Steamtown National Historic Site Prompt Calls for Privatization   6 years 2 weeks ago

    Ok,

    The story on Steamtown is this, the much of the place of the park is historic and worth protecting but "sort off" on a local and regional scope. However, it was the rail yard and headquatersfor one of the first lines in the USA and is one of the best examples of "age of steam".

    The park should be using this to there advanage and have focus general on the national history of steam engines not a local one.

    The park might also do better as a site National Historic Site run much as the one in Newport is run, as an affliated site run by National Railway Historical Society with an agreement with the National Trust for Historic Preservation to give its title.

    However, I do think that Beamis does make some good points, but also think that economic development is not a bad thing for a park to do and that a compromise could be reached.

  • Getting American Youth More Involved in the National Parks is a Difficult Challenge and a Golden Opportunity   6 years 2 weeks ago

    Chance, thanks for a lovely, thought-providing essay. Another important player is the philanthropic community (private and corporate foundations), as well as the donations that individuals give to their national parks and the friends groups that support the national parks. Much more funding is needed than is currently available.

    For example, I spent last weekend in Voyageurs National Park with 21 volunteers, including 11 college students. We helped the National Park Service restore disturbed areas of the the Park by planting trees and removing exotic plants. My organization could easily have found another dozen student volunteers if we had had additional funding to transport them to the Park and feed and house them. (And it was only due to the generosity of the Beim Foundation and the resourcefulness of the National Park Service staff at Voyageurs National Park that we were able to get as many students there as we did.)

    We are currently looking for funding to bring student volunteers to Voyageurs National Park in 2009, and it will take a lot of legwork. Just to give you a sense of how competitive and time-consuming the funding race is, we recently applied to a funding probram, seeking funds for volunteer trail maintenance in the Park. We were not successful, and only 14 of the 73 groups that applied to that program in the same time period that we did were funded. It took us a few hours to complete that funding application. We will go through that process with at least another five foundations this year, plus requests to individual donors, in our quest to find the money to get younger people to Voyageurs National Park.

  • Attendance Shortfalls at Steamtown National Historic Site Prompt Calls for Privatization   6 years 2 weeks ago

    My error Beamis. The annual Little League tournament games at Cooperstown are indeed not the "official" LLWS finals. More of a preliiminary finals would be accurate.
    Ah, good 'ol Monday mornings, when the fingers and what little brain I have remaining aren't coordinating too well.

  • Attendance Shortfalls at Steamtown National Historic Site Prompt Calls for Privatization   6 years 2 weeks ago

    ON PARK ORGANIZATION CODE LETTERS:

    NPS people should be wary of using any Park Org Code in any discussion of any national park. Not only is it hopeless jargon, but it trivializes the meaning of the name of the park. Fortunately, the National Parks have names that actually mean something. Many National Wildlife Refuges and National Forests have names that have nothing to do with what the resource is. Parks should be proud of their names, and NPS people should use the name.

    The US Fish and Wildlife Service also uses 4-letter ORG codes just like the National Park Service. See what is happening to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge since oil development advocates realized what a benefit it would be NEVER to have to say "wildlife" or "refuge" whenever they spoke of the Arctic NWR. So: they reduced it to the ORG code they had been hearing from FWS bureaucrats who would call the refuge "ANWR" when they met and in their correspondence.

    Now, mainstream media have picked that usage up. So far, you don't hear politicians or people in the media say "YELL" when referring to Yellowstone NP, or "GRCA" when speaking about Grand Canyon NP, or "YOSE" when speaking about Yosemite NP: this is further evidence that the use of "ANWR" is done deliberately to demean a majestic national wildlife refuge. NPS people should take note, and never use ORG codes in place of the names Congress gave units of the National Park System.

  • House Subcommittee Considers Bill to Relax ORV Rules for Cape Hatteras National Seashore   6 years 2 weeks ago

    Cape Hatteras wildlife and visitors will benefit from a reduction in ORV traffic on the beaches. When I went there, it was a disappointment to see how the motor vehicles dominated the beaches. Something had to be done because beach traffic kept increasing, and bird nesting populations were rapidly going downhill. Assateague Island National Seashore could be a good model for regulation at Hatteras -- half the beach mileage is open to ORVs, half closed. Only 145 vehicles are allowed in the Maryland part at any time, 48 in the Virginia part. Drivers must display an annual permit issued by NPS. The consent decree was a valuable first step toward reasonable long-term limitations on ORVs.

  • Attendance Shortfalls at Steamtown National Historic Site Prompt Calls for Privatization   6 years 2 weeks ago

    Mr. Clayton,

    I was using STEAM in reference to Steamtown NHS, although the correct alpha code is STEA (mea cupla). I am fully aware of steam (ie - water in its gaseous state) and its importance to the economy since I live in TVA (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tennessee_Valley_Authority) country and my entire life owes itself to steam-generated electricity.

  • Attendance Shortfalls at Steamtown National Historic Site Prompt Calls for Privatization   6 years 2 weeks ago

    Lone Hiker-----two minor points of clarification: I believe that STEAM is the NPS unit designation for this park and the Little League World Series is held annually in Williamsport, PA.

    [Ed: The NPS code for Steamtown is STEA. It seems that the Park Service has a hangup about using codes with four letters or less.]

  • Attendance Shortfalls at Steamtown National Historic Site Prompt Calls for Privatization   6 years 2 weeks ago

    it's not like STEAM has much of an impact on the national economy

    I think that was another bit of tongue-in-cheek Ted. Nobody could possibly possess a level of ignorance that great to make that statement in all sincerity.

  • Attendance Shortfalls at Steamtown National Historic Site Prompt Calls for Privatization   6 years 2 weeks ago

    I've been an avid railroad enthusiast since I was able to walk, having grown up along the maintenance feeder siding of the main AT&SF yard in the country. I'm also a member of the NMRA, have an expansive working 1920's-50's layout in my home which, spans 3 rooms (delivers burgers, hot dogs, chips, etc. around the house) and have 2 of my boys involved as modelers now as well. Like Marylander, I never pass up the opportunity to ride the Durango to Silverton line, the Grand Canyon Railway (in summer only, when the steamers are in use), along with many other scenic, historic, and fascinating "tourist" lines across the country. But the idea that everyone with an interest in the history of railroading in America would flock to Scranton was a bit naive. Certainly, there are a few million of us in the nation who hold the steam era near and dear to our hearts, and consider this the Golden Age of railroading, but there just as assuredly aren't anywhere NEAR enough of us who would care to make Scranton an annual destination and throw down enough cash to support a park centered on the history of a local faction of the national scope. This ain't like another out of the way destination of even smaller stature, Cooperstown NY, where you have literally millions of baseball die-hards willing to migrate each season (and out-of-season for that matter) to watch the well-marketed Little League World Series, the ex-Hall of Fame Game and the annual induction ceremonies. Personally, a railroading-centered vacation would have to encompass WAY more than hours of driving to a single location for one lousy encounter, and there just isn't the plethora of other railroading opportunities along the way coming from most any other direction to make that type of a trip attractive. Even at Cooperstown, you can manage to take in games in Detroit, Cleveland, Philly, NY, Pittsburgh, etc. such that you can help justify the investment of time heading out to "middle of nowhere NY".

    That said, disposing of the inventory shouldn't be a major concern. There are numerous privately funded groups across the nation who would be more than happy to acquire vintage steam locomotives and rolling stock. Local museums, such as the Illinois Railway Museum in Union, IL. survive on showcasing these icons of the American expansion movement, run special excursions on them, and have a "moving exhibit" available for viewing every day of the year. Trust me; the hardware wouldn't go the scrap heap.

  • Attendance Shortfalls at Steamtown National Historic Site Prompt Calls for Privatization   6 years 2 weeks ago

    Anonymous said;

    "... it's not like STEAM has much of an impact on the national economy"

    Just to clarify here, our civilization would promptly collapse, without steam. Steam drives our economy, our industry, and our military.

    All fossil-fuel electrical generating plants are steam plants. All nuclear power plants are steam plants. Industrial plants make profound use of steam & steam power. Shipping and the Navy are steamers.

    Steam not only survives, but you and all the rest of us are utterly dependent upon it.

    True, piston steam engines are now rare. Steam trains are retired. But truth be told, it was perhaps more the horrendous belching clouds of wretched-filthy smoke coming from locomotives, than the inefficiency of piston-steam, that did them in. (Plus of course the general collapse of railroads.)

    Steam radiant heat no longer dominates in homes & buildings ... but stand by: you may once again hear the clanking of steam pipes, and park your butt on a nice radiator under the window.

    Steam is steam, and it's a good thing to know about.

  • House Subcommittee Considers Bill to Relax ORV Rules for Cape Hatteras National Seashore   6 years 2 weeks ago

    Powerful words by Mr. Clayton:

    Essentially, the ESA is used by NGOs to effect legislation through the courts that is properly enacted only through Congress. That's wrong, it's a problem, and it is recognized in Congress that steps should be taken to stop it.

    I have now seen this "lever" in action with my own eyes. It is most certainly a misappliaction of the original intent of the ESA. Its usage needs to be halted.

    It would be in the interests of environmentalists & the environment to modify how the ESA works (it allows NGOs to function as a virtual Fourth Branch of the Government) earlier and more-incrementally, rather than wait for the eventual loss of the political conditions that protect it today.

    DOW/AS/SELC are certainly acting as a fourth branch with respect to the CHNSRA. If left as-is, it will certainly be challenged. I also agree that the ESA will suffer far worse if changes are forced upon it rather than being brought about internally.

    I would ask that we all hold in mind that it is unlikely we will manage to 'save the environment' by the passage of laws alone. Without a consensus among the voting citizens that certain goals are important to us, it is unlikely that environmentalism-by-edict will stick. Credibility is important, and the ESA is not doing well with too many Americans.

    I think a growing majority of Americans are beginning to tire of having the will of "Large Special Interest Groups" shoved down their throats. Here's a list of at least 11,000 American Citizens who don't think the situation in CHNSRA is credible:

    http://www.gopetition.com/online/18790.html

    Also, the "RA" designation does indeed exist, and is quite important to this issue. Once again, proof submitted in this document, which was part of the enabling legislation:

    TITLE 16--CONSERVATION

    CHAPTER 1--NATIONAL PARKS, MILITARY PARKS, MONUMENTS, AND SEASHORES

    SUBCHAPTER LXIII--NATIONAL SEASHORE RECREATIONAL AREAS

    Sec. 459. Cape Hatteras National Seashore Recreational Area;
    conditional establishment; acquisition of lands

    When title to all the lands, except those within the limits of
    established villages, within boundaries to be designated by the
    Secretary of the Interior within the area of approximately one hundred
    square miles on the islands of Chicamacomico, Ocracoke, Bodie, Roanoke,
    and Collington, and the waters and the lands beneath the waters adjacent
    thereto shall have been vested in the United States, said area shall be,
    and is, established, dedicated, and set apart as a national seashore
    recreational area for the benefit and enjoyment of the people and shall
    be known as the Cape Hatteras National Seashore Recreational Area:
    Provided, That the United States shall not purchase by appropriation of
    public moneys any lands within the aforesaid area, but such lands shall
    be secured by the United States only by public or private donation.

  • Attendance Shortfalls at Steamtown National Historic Site Prompt Calls for Privatization   6 years 2 weeks ago

    Anon----you obviously didn't read my first comment earlier in this thread:

    "This federally sponsored disaster deserves to wither and die just like Fannie, Freddie and the crooked Lehman Brothers but, I'm afraid, will also receive more of our ill-gotten tax dollars before the inevitable forces of economic gravity drag it down into the black hole of bad ideas, that somehow manage to get Congressional funding, where it most deservedly belongs."

    I'm an equal opportunity enemy of government criminality and waste.

  • Attendance Shortfalls at Steamtown National Historic Site Prompt Calls for Privatization   6 years 2 weeks ago

    Hah! You could be describing the mortgage industry as well! Ironic that there's not much outcry over bailing about big banks who screw up but there is over relatively small things like Steamtown (then again, it's not like STEAM has much of an impact on the national economy)

  • Attendance Shortfalls at Steamtown National Historic Site Prompt Calls for Privatization   6 years 2 weeks ago

    The park opened to great fanfare in 1995, and things looked pretty good for a while. Now there is weeping and wailing. What went wrong?

    What went wrong? A really bad plan? Unrealistic expectations? Bureaucracy. Waste. At least when someone has a bad business plan and the business fails, the taxpayers don't have to pay . . . oh, wait a minute . . . Beamis is right on target on this one.

  • Attendance Shortfalls at Steamtown National Historic Site Prompt Calls for Privatization   6 years 2 weeks ago

    I've previously visited this Park, and while I enjoyed my experience here - I also felt like it missed the mark.

    Railroads have unquestionably had a profound effect on the history, culture, and development of this Nation. This story definitely seems like it should be told in part through the National Park System. However, unlike many other stories in this Nation's history, such as the story of Jazz in New Orleans, the Industrial Revolution in Lowell, or Lewis & Clark at Fort Clatsop - I don't know that there is any one "essential place" to this story.

    Where Steamtown misses the mark is that it tells the story of railroading in Scranton, Pennsylvania in exquisite detail - it is nevertheless the story of railroading in Scranton, Pennsylvania.... not exactly life-changing or Earth-shattering stuff.

    I think there is a proper role for a *true* "Railroading National Historic Site" in the National Park System, and I don't know that any place has a necessarily better claim to being the most-appropriate place for a Railroading NHS than Scranton does. O.k., maybe Promontory, Utah and the existing Golden Spike NHS - but if that place told the story of railroading in terms of Westward Expansion and the Trans-Continental Railroad and another place told the story of Railroading in the context of Urban Development on the Eastern Seabord, I don't think that would necessarily be overkill.

    Thus, I am somewhat sympathetic to the levied charge that the existing management of Steamtown NHS lacks imagination. I think it would only take a little imagination to extend the virtual boundaries of Steamtown beyond the story of Scranton, PA and tell a truly National story of railroading and the development of country - a story that might have much broader appeal.

  • Prime Location and Varied Habitat Help Make Point Reyes National Seashore a Biodiversity Treasure Trove   6 years 2 weeks ago

    Now if they could only keep the pot-growers out of Point Reyes...

  • Attendance Shortfalls at Steamtown National Historic Site Prompt Calls for Privatization   6 years 2 weeks ago

    Hey, you're looking at a new Vice President who was born in Scranton -- so don't expect that Steamtown will wither on the vine and die. Eight more years to get its act together...

  • Attendance Shortfalls at Steamtown National Historic Site Prompt Calls for Privatization   6 years 2 weeks ago

    Superheater;

    I have a considerable affiliation with your interest in historical steam and railroad operations, and empathy for the preservation effort you support. I cringe a bit, that so many aspects of our 'progress' 'discredit' formerly outstanding technologies.

    I know what a "superheater" is & does: I am a (turbine) steam plant operator ... and nuclear power plant operator, and submariner. The hull of my Thresher-class boat, the USS Drum SSN 677 lies tied in the Sacramento River at Mare Island (the now-closed Navy base, where I attended nuclear power school) awaiting funds to turn it into a museum and sole surviving example of the quiet machines that substantially enabled us to retire the Soviet Union. I imagine it's a forlorn project.

    I like that piston steam can run on a campfire. That valve-boxes can be fabricated with a hacksaw & file. At the remote resort where I live, we pulled a vertical boiler out of a septic tank: it now decorates the yard of the cabin next door. I grew up with the giant stumps logged by 5 or 10 horsepower steam donkeys. My grandfather stands with a crew of dozens on one.

    So ... yeah, I have a pretty good idea where you're coming from, why you do what you do, and what you get out of it.

    Unfortunately, it may well be that the US National Park System/Service was not really the organization that can best see to our steam railroad heritage. My operational suspicion is, we've saddled the laudable idea of natural-wonder & King's-forest Parks with too many follow-on functionalities, at which it is basically ill-suited.

    Right now, we are dancing around, anxious to restart the 19% of our national refinery capacity that was shut down as hurricane Ike passed over. This is likely a foretaste of an increasingly common predicament ... hoping we don't start seeing NO GAS signs cropping up, or (groan) prices breaking $5 ... etc.

    I'm not sticking my economic neck out anywhere these days, and I expect coming Presidents & Congress' are going to be following suit. In this climate, people with a passion such as yours will find their efforts complicated by stark economic realities.

    ... So if it's not going to be the NPS, how else might Steamtown hold it together?

  • Attendance Shortfalls at Steamtown National Historic Site Prompt Calls for Privatization   6 years 2 weeks ago

    So what you're saying is that it makes perfect sense to extract money from federal taxpayers across the nation to subsidize attractions in economically depressed areas? I don't know about its relative convenience but I never knew that any region or city "deserved" anything, especially the hard earned wealth of folks from other regions of the country.

    If manufacturers and employers have abandoned heavily unionized places like Pennsylvania and Michigan to set up shop in South Carolina and Sonora it is not the responsibility of the citizens of Arizona and Florida to cough up the dough to create half-baked tourist attractions in the Rust Belt. It was clear from the beginning that this was what the local Congressman had in mind and now the free market has responded. Steamtown and Scranton are duds! No offense but not every place can be Aspen or Martha's Vineyard. What was it I recently heard about putting lipstick on a pig? Oh, never mind.....

    Your logic just illustrates how deeply ingrained national socialism has become in our formerly great and grand republic.

    "Every election is a sort of advance auction sale of stolen goods." ------ H.L. Mencken

  • Attendance Shortfalls at Steamtown National Historic Site Prompt Calls for Privatization   6 years 2 weeks ago

    I didn't realize it was so bad. I visited there a couple of years ago, and didn't feel disappointed. Yes, I was disappointed there weren't more visitors, but I didn't visit during the peak season anyway.

    I do disagree with Beamis, however, that Scranton doesn't deserve an attraction simply because it's an economically depressed area. We shouldn't abandon parts of the country that aren't doing well simply because the money is elsewhere.

    Just because it's not convenient doesn't mean it's not important.

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    My travels through the National Park System: americaincontext.com