Recent comments

  • Plague Kills Many Prairie Dogs and Black-Footed Ferrets in Grasslands Near Badlands National Park   6 years 4 weeks ago

    Perhaps you didn't recognize the sarcasm! Everything bad gets blamed on global warming and my comments were intended to be tongue and cheek. In fact in VA they recently attributed the extended goldenrod season and resultant elevated allergies on global warming - egad! Actually, Bob wrote a pretty good article on the plague effecting the prairie dogs & ferrets and I should have left it at that. Sorry, Bob.

    "To what evidence do you attribute this lame-brained notion, that the sporadic / periodic appearance of virulent diseases is a man-made event, or a phenomenon with direct correlations to atmospheric conditions?"

  • Paying To Understand U.S. History in the National Park System   6 years 4 weeks ago

    As science fiction great Heinlen said, TANSTAFL, There ain't no such thing as a free lunch. I might accept that there is a compelling interest for the government to set aside area deemed special for historical, geological/ecological, or aesthetic reasons (although I'm not sure where the Constitution gives it authority to do so), but as a basic rule:

    People should pay for what they use. It makes no sense to charge a tax-payer who never goes to the parks for their upkeep.

    Mark

  • At Golden Gate National Recreation Area, the Presidio Trust Ponders Where to Put a New Art Museum   6 years 4 weeks ago

    On August 28 the Landmark Advisory Board declared the site on the parade ground of the Main Post "would not be compatible with the massing, size, scale, and architectural features of the historic Main Post buildings, and would therefore violate the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards." http://www.sanfranciscosentinel.com/?p=15876

  • Plague Kills Many Prairie Dogs and Black-Footed Ferrets in Grasslands Near Badlands National Park   6 years 4 weeks ago

    Lone Hiker, I'm a bit puzzled by that reference to "your dissertation." What makes you think that the (anonymous) person who made that statement has a doctorate or is working on one?

  • Is Technology Compatible With The National Park Wilderness Experience?   6 years 4 weeks ago

    I think it falls on each of us to determine what experience we want in the backcountry. I just don't want some do-gooder, thinking they know better than anyone else, pushing for a rule to prohibit us from taking along things I think will make the experience more enjoyable for me. Two weeks ago, while backpacking in the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park (up by Da Yoopers!), my wife took along her Creative Zen to listen to some music. She never turned it on all week. There is just too much to do, see, and hear. Besides, she probably couldn't hear it anyway above her breathing as we went uphill, downhill, etc.

    I do, however, draw a line where safety is concerned. We took along the PLB, a weather radio, GPS, compass, water filter, etc. We did take along a cell phone to use as an alarm clock and, if possible, make a call to the daughter to say "Guess where we are and you aren't?" But as expected, no signal.

    If I wanted to really rough it like they did in the old days, I would have joined my mom and dad when they attened their buckskinner encampments. In pre-tech days, there were fewer people and fewer rules. I would have taken a horse where horses are no longer allowed. I would have hunted along the trail for food where hunting is not allowed. I would have been able to drink from streams where I now need to filter the water.

    Noise from other campers is usually not a problem in the back country. Trees, hills, etc., really limit noise. But I expect to never hear music from another campsite and if I do, I may have to get my axe out of my pack and put on a hockey mask!

  • Glacier National Park Officials Plan to Scale Down Search for Missing Hiker   6 years 4 weeks ago

    Anonymous (Sept. 1);

    It seems to me that "risk" & "daring" are important parts of the overall formula that attracts many visitors to our Park venues.

    See for example the recently-revived Considering a Hike Up Half Dome? post, in which a fairly dramatic risk-component draws rather average tourists onto terrain one would think more suited to real (and well-equipped) mountain climbers.

    I expect many would balk, at any systematic & effective approach to risk-curtailment.

  • Plague Kills Many Prairie Dogs and Black-Footed Ferrets in Grasslands Near Badlands National Park   6 years 4 weeks ago

    Anonymous queries:

    "What dreadful man made act has caused this plague."
    The Wikipedia Misanthropy entry defines & describes it as:
    "... a general dislike, distrust, or hatred of the human species or a disposition to dislike and/or distrust other people. ... A misanthrope or misanthropist is a person who dislikes or distrusts humanity as a general rule."
    Our English word for it comes from the Greek civilization, over 2,000 years ago. Other cultures & languages have their own words for the same thing. The phenomenon of misanthropy has been plainly visible to & described by alert observers since the advent of organized societies.

    Green/Liberalism, environmental activists, and especially the concern for anthropogenic climate change have taken on increasingly dramatic & strident tones of misanthropy in recent years. In former decades, the preferred distinction of an environmentalist was to be a fine naturalist, but today it is considered more conventional & distinguished to style oneself as a warrior against humanity.

    The Judeo-Christian-Islamic tradition displays strong misanthropic themes. Mankind is fallen. Man is in sin. All must repent. Humankind must be punished. Environmentalism is not "religion", but is has increasingly taken on several of the peculiarities & liabilities of it.

    It is hard to explain the prevalence & persistence of misanthropy, considering that it is patently a psychological & emotional disability. In this sense, it resembles a less-debilitating analogy to schizophrenia, in that it is a very widespread & common mental infirmity, or disease, which we would expect to be reduced to a much-lower incidence, by naturalistic processes.

    Like other diseases, misanthropy ebbs & flows. There are times when it seems to have been in recession, while at other times we see it sweeping through the prairie dog colonies of human society, laying waste not so much to bodies & lives, but to the institutions that are the weave & warp of our culture.

    Fascinating natural phenomenon, misanthropy.

  • Plague Kills Many Prairie Dogs and Black-Footed Ferrets in Grasslands Near Badlands National Park   6 years 4 weeks ago

    It appears that the rampant global warming that we have caused by our abuses has bought some time forre the treatment process.

    If I had read this statement in your dissertation, your defense would have failed immediately and I would have ousted you from the program. To what evidence do you attribute this lame-brained notion, that the sporadic / periodic appearance of virulent diseases is a man-made event, or a phenomenon with direct correlations to atmospheric conditions? Does your philosophy simultaneously apply across the continents, also laying blame for the epidemics of Marburg and Ebola at the feet of "global warming"? Am I to assume that, since the disease didn't actually exist with any prevalence prior to the mid-60's, that the HIV epidemic is global warming in origin as well? As is mersa, no doubt. To which specific branch of biological sciences do you attribute your degree sir / madam, and might I ask, which distinguished and learned institution of higher education is responsible for fostering these notions within the confines of their programs? Your claims are not only baseless, they are outright laughable, as is the Tennessee lunatic who touts his beliefs above all mankind and preaches conservation while wasting more personally than a community can save annually. Go ahead, send Al the data, and let him produce another movie. Maybe the folks at Sundance will see fit to have it nominated for Best Amateur Comedy of the Year.

    Just when you think you've heard everything.

  • Creature Feature: The Red-Throated Loon   6 years 4 weeks ago

    It took me a bit to find your wonderful site! I too have been trying to find out which birds were habituating the lake my husband and I went camping at this year and last year. I was sure the two birds I have been seeing were loons, but the sounds they made and the red eyes and chest were what kept throwing me off. I am now glad to see that we were right in assuming they were loons. I just spent the 2nd to last week in August at the lake(Huston Lake, Vancouver Island, BC) and there were only the two loons. I was wondering if there should have been young or not with them. I did not see anymore than the two that were there. Great website!! Thankyou.
    Jeri-Anne

  • Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historical Site Commemorates a Great Achievement in Early Transportation   6 years 4 weeks ago

    Thanks for putting this article on your site. This is an interesting location to visit if you have not been there. Although not in a heavily traveled area, it is worth the stop to see the ingenuity employed at by the people at that time to solve the problem discussed in the article above. There is much other history in the area of Gallitzin and Altoona, including the the Railroader Museum in Altooona and the famous Horseshoe Curve built by the Pennsylvania RR and opened in 1854. That engineering feat was the reason the inclined plane system was no longer needed.

  • Glacier National Park Officials Plan to Scale Down Search for Missing Hiker   6 years 4 weeks ago

    In the future a hiker chould be required to carry a GPS unit that gives off a signal in case they need to be located. It could require a deposit with a refund upon return. This isn't really an invasion of privacy but a matter of safety for the hiker and those who come to the search and rescue effort.

  • Plague Kills Many Prairie Dogs and Black-Footed Ferrets in Grasslands Near Badlands National Park   6 years 4 weeks ago

    Calling plague a bad thing, or laying blame on humans for causing/worsening it, takes us into very tricky ground. Sylvatic plague -- called "sylvatic" because it infects wild animals, not domesticated ones -- is endemic in the prairies. Because this virulently infectious and relentlessly lethal disease is a natural phenomenon, not something that was introduced by human activities, we need to recognize that it has evolved and persisted because it serves a worthwhile purpose. (Ecologists know for dead certain that natural processes are very, very strongly disposed to rid the earth of species whose existence does not support other forms of life in some useful way.)

    It's plain to see what's going on here. Plague emerges in prairie dog towns periodically, kills nearly all of the susceptible animals it infects, and then subsides or goes dormant until prairie dogs and other vulnerable species become numerous enough to support another major outbreak. Viewed dispassionately, plague is simply one of nature's tools for pruning populations that grow too large and create too much ecosystem disorder (described as excessive disruptions in energy flow and matter exchange). It may be one hell of a mental stretch to say that "plague is our friend," but plague is unquestionably good for the prairie dog population (a high-biotic potential species whose numbers must be kept in check one way or another) and good for the biosphere that nurtures us.

    As for the rate at which the disease spreads, and the areas that may be impacted by plague, humans may indeed have something to do with that, though not necessarily what you think. If human activities have indeed contributed to global warming, as many scientists insist, prolonging the warm and dry conditions in the prairies may actually slow, not accelerate, the spread of sylvatic plague. Of course, if human activities somehow increase the duration of cooler and moister conditions, the opposite effect can be expected.

    It gets even more complicated than that. Insecticide spraying campaigns that target the fleas that spread the disease may dampen or even prevent the spread of the disease to new areas. This is bound to have some negative effects as well as positive ones. That's because killing disease-carrying fleas to protect black-footed ferrets prevents the plague from performing its prairie-dog culling role in areas that need it. Eventually, that kind of human interference with natural processes has a backlash effect (translation: dangerously too-large prairie dog populations).

    Humans can also contribute to the spread of sylvatic plague by accidentally or intentionally introducing the disease vector (animals harboring disease-bearing fleas) to new areas.

    When I consider all of these things, it's hard for me to conclude that there's anything dreadful going on here, but I'll freely admit that I do get a bit nervous about the unintended consequences of the insecticide spraying campaign we've initiated to protect black-footed ferrets. Let's hope that those in charge of this spraying program understand that its impacts should be kept to to the absolute minimum needed to protect those ferrets.

  • Plague Kills Many Prairie Dogs and Black-Footed Ferrets in Grasslands Near Badlands National Park   6 years 4 weeks ago

    What dreadful man made act has caused this plague. It appears that the rampant global warming that we have caused by our abuses has bought some time forre the treatment process. Please send former VP Gore the information so he can use it in his next movie.

  • Paying To Understand U.S. History in the National Park System   6 years 4 weeks ago

    Interesting that this post came up when it did. My wife and I are retired NPS with over 65 years of combined experience. Our children grew up in and love the parks. Yesterday, our son and his fiancee drove from Potomac, Maryland to Shenandoah NP to enjoy a dinner and a day on Skyline Drive. When they found out they had to pay $15 to enter the park, they went elsewhere to enjoy the scenery - there's plenty of it outside the park - and their dinner - probably $100 to $140. Trust me, they can more than afford a $15 entrance fee. In response to why they balked, my son said they visited in early spring this year and got in for free. Why pay in the summer when its so crowded? I think he has a point, and it illustrates just one of many issues regarding park fees. I'll make two points about them.

    First, I think the park and recreation fee program has become unnecessarily complex and confusing, partly because the NPS has done such a poor job of defining its core responsibilities. Perhaps the entrance station should be the point where we simply contact every visitor entering the park by handing them a brochure and a menu of services. Let them get inside for free, then pay for services as they are used. Certainly makes the park more accessible. Obviously, an entrance fee that funds all park operations is unrealistic. There are very few questions here that a thorough, professional, independent, multi-million dollar marketing analysis won't answer. It would be a great place to start.

    Marketing analysis lies at the heart of my second point. In 2008, and the current technological environment, any park that expects to "cover the costs" of a $102 million interpretive/resource management investment by charging $8 to see a 22 minute movie does not understand the tourism, recreation, and museum industries. If they paid for an analysis, it was seriously flawed. The NPS and its partners - state and local governments too - have a long and storied history of this egomania, then passing on the debt to taxpayers when the projects falter. I saw it in Washington early in my career when we literally raped Union Station to create a National Visitor Center, and later with the "audio-animatronic" museum at Chick-Chat. Western Maryland's Rocky Gap Resort (in a state park) is a prime example of a financial disaster for state taxpayers if it can't be rescued by hundreds of slot machines as a last resort - sorry 'bout that. There are many other examples in and outside the Service, as well as some close calls. Just Google "museums financial problems" if you would like see a list of major museums that are closing or threatened with closing.

    Friends, I don't even know all the questions, let alone the answers. What I do know is the NPS needs to do a much better job of understanding its guests, why they do and do not visit, and market mission-based experiences based on individual needs. In addition, the Service needs to understand that "build it and they will come" works only when it is verified by that thorough, professional. independent, expensive marketing analysis I mentioned earlier. Doing Choosing By Advantages and patting everybody on the back when you're done won't cut it.

  • Paying To Understand U.S. History in the National Park System   6 years 4 weeks ago

    Interesting that this post came up when it did. My wife and I are retired NPS with over 65 years of combined experience. Our children grew up in and love the parks. Yesterday, our son and his fiancee drove from Potomac, Maryland to Shenandoah NP to enjoy a dinner and a day on Skyline Drive. When they found out they had to pay $15 to enter the park, they went elsewhere to enjoy the scenery - there's plenty of it outside the park - and their dinner - probably $100 to $140. Trust me, they can more than afford a $15 entrance fee. In response to why they balked, my son said they visited in early spring this year and got in for free. Why pay in the summer when its so crowded? I think he has a point, and it illustrates just one of many issues regarding park fees. I'll make two points about them.

    First, I think the park and recreation fee program has become unnecessarily complex and confusing, partly because the NPS has done such a poor job of defining its core responsibilities. Perhaps the entrance station should be the point where we simply contact every visitor entering the park by handing them a brochure and a menu of services. Let them get inside for free, then pay for services as they are used. Certainly makes the park more accessible. Obviously, an entrance fee that funds all park operations is unrealistic. There are very few questions here that a thorough, professional, independent, multi-million dollar marketing analysis won't answer. It would be a great place to start.

    Marketing analysis lies at the heart of my second point. In 2008, and the current technological environment, any park that expects to "cover the costs" of a $102 million interpretive/resource management investment by charging $8 to see a 22 minute movie does not understand the tourism, recreation, and museum industries. If they paid for an analysis, it was seriously flawed. The NPS and its partners - state and local governments too - have a long and storied history of this egomania, then passing on the debt to taxpayers when the projects falter. I saw it in Washington early in my career when we literally raped Union Station to create a National Visitor Center, and later with the "audio-animatronic" museum at Chick-Chat. Western Maryland's Rocky Gap Resort (in a state park) is a prime example of a financial disaster for state taxpayers if it can't be rescued by hundreds of slot machines as a last resort - sorry 'bout that. There are many other examples in and outside the Service, as well as some close calls. Just Google "museums financial problems" if you would like see a list of major museums that are closing or threatened with closing.

    Friends, I don't even know all the questions, let alone the answers. What I do know is the NPS needs to do a much better job of understanding its guests, why they do and do not visit, and market mission-based experiences based on individual needs. In addition, the Service needs to understand that "build it and they will come" works only when it is verified by that thorough, professional. independent, expensive marketing analysis I mentioned earlier. Doing Choosing By Advantages and patting everybody on the back when you're done won't cut it.

  • Considering a Hike up Half Dome?   6 years 4 weeks ago

    The exclamation in the article about there having been climbers who are actually hiking in sandals is pretty ridiculous. Obviously the ascent to the top shouldn't be made in flip-flops or things like that. But after clicking on the link to see the hiker in sandals I saw that he was climbing in Chacos. A shoe that is specifically designed to hiking with the traction on the tread, toe and back straps, these sandals are sometimes better than shoes.

  • Bear Mauls Woman in Gates of the Arctic National Park   6 years 4 weeks ago

    I completely agree with the NPS, NFS, and others who stress LNT principles in the back country. I was not aware of them modifying food safety recommendations when in bear country. I spoke with a couple of friends who go hunting each fall in Alaska and they both said that when they are at their base camp set up they do their best to triangulate sleeping, eating and storing sites. Both have been doing the Alaska hunting trip for many years and as such have had some "wisdom" experiences concerning bears.

  • Is Technology Compatible With The National Park Wilderness Experience?   6 years 4 weeks ago

    Yesterday, my friend, who worked as a back country ranger with me, and I hiked to Devil's Rest via Wahkeena in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. He's preparing for a 4 to 5 day hike through Olympic National Park, and he mentioned that some of his buddies were bringing iPods, and suggested that he buy one to bring along.

    "Why would you want to do that to your wilderness experience?" he asked me. "Why would you want to take yourself out of the wilderness experience? You wouldn't be able to hear the breeze through the trees or hear those birds we heard along the trail. I don't understand why people would want to listen to music in the wilderness."

    He wasn't opposed to his friends taking and using them, though. "I won't be able to hear it, so it doesn't bother me."

    Today, I took him to the store to get his battery replaced on his watch, and I asked why he needed a watch in the wilderness. "It makes it easier to split up and meet again at a certain place at a certain time. That way, you can say, 'If I'm not at the pass by 5 pm, come looking for me.'"

    Ted is right: where do you draw the line on technology? Hiking boots, ski poles, altimeters, maps, GPS, polypropylene clothes, tents, ultra light burners, dehydrated food. It's all technology. It's an individual choice as to how much of it you want to haul into the wilderness, and thusly, the "wilderness experience" is highly individualized.

    The thing that CAN impact wilderness experience of others the most is not electronic technology; it's human speech, reproduced in ear-shattering, high-decibel shouting, shrieking, screaming, and blabbering.

    Oh, and coming across a campsite--complete with abandoned, unscathed chicken egg and Deschutes brewery bottle caps--after hiking 2500 up to Devil's Rest and discovering a Forest-Service-only access road only 100 yards from the trail. Kinda ruined our feeling of isolation more than GPS, iPods, or other tech devices would.

  • Is Technology Compatible With The National Park Wilderness Experience?   6 years 4 weeks ago

    Anti-technology sentiment is a game-token that will prove to be 'off the board'. It isn't in play, never was, and those who devise a plan that relies upon using it will lose points.

    Technology & humanity are two sides of the same coin. They are one entity. There is no daylight.

    Our body, our brain & mind - our most fundamental form & function is the expression & consequence of technology.

    We are what we are, because technology made us that way. Technology that we made. The two made each other.

    Already, families in deep-remote Alaska live fully plug-in to the cutting edge of society ... the Matrix.

    Isolation in the woods is strictly an optional exercise ... like doing curls with barbells, or running a few miles every couple days. It's good for you. But like calisthenics & aerobics, some will make the investment, and some won't.

    To ask whether 'tis right or wrong, good or bad, to have technology in the wilderness, is ask whether we should be male & female. It's just the way we are.

    I like the experience of isolation, myself. In a fantasy world, I would pay money to be dropped buck naked onto a primal, wild planet. But I also know the difference between fantasy & reality.

    [Off to bury an old friend. See ya'll later.]

  • Is Technology Compatible With The National Park Wilderness Experience?   6 years 4 weeks ago

    Aron Ralston; (n) 1) a foolish child; 2) an accident waiting to happen. An egotistical, ill-prepared adventurer, who over-estimated his ability and, without thorough and proper preparation or simple notification to friends or authorities, embarked on a wilderness trek alone, without adequate supply or sufficient local knowledge, miscalculated a relatively simple and common descending technique and became a human wedgie in a narrow crevasse, pinned literally between a rock and a hard place due to the loose and shifting nature of the local rock formations. Due to the above set of absolutely avoidable circumstances, was forced to choose between partial amputation of an appendage or hanging around indefinitely in hopes that the circling condors and vultures would sufficiently service as a distress signal to parties unknown. Choosing the former, a portion of the lower arm would be left as a marker to the exact point of foolishness, later to be retrieved for medical personnel who would later make a failed attempt to reattach the missing section of arm.

    The above mentioned character has to his credit, or resume, a long list of similar silliness in various NPS units, in a thinly veiled attempt to prove his machismo to anyone dumb enough to give a damn. People of this nature wouldn't avail themselves of the technological advances that might prove "handy", as it would be less than "manly" to call for aid and admit defeat. He is a poor example to all and I believe, not quite the reference for this article.

    There is NO substitution for proper preparation prior to a wilderness expedition. Technology, if it gets to the point where it becomes required in a life-or-death circumstance, probably won't be utilized until the damage is done, by which time the beacon serves as little more that a set of coordinates from which to extract the body, either in a state of dire medical need such as heat stroke, hypothermia, or dehydration, or in the other extreme, a place to deposit the body bag. How about if we make life easier for ALL parties concerned and take proper precautions instead of microelectronics on our next adventure?

  • Glacier National Park Officials Plan to Scale Down Search for Missing Hiker   6 years 4 weeks ago

    I'm praying for your safe return Yi-Jien Hwa.

  • Paying To Understand U.S. History in the National Park System   6 years 4 weeks ago

    And this is an exemplary point of why the entire NPS system should be removed from federal "management". If each individual unit is to function as a self-supporting entity, requiring each to be fiscally responsible (solvent) and able to independently support the activities, personnel and facilities within their boundaries, fees are not only mandatory, they are going to skyrocket with the ebb and flow of the fickle tourism industry, particularly across the spectrum of those more remote and lesser-traversed units. A sound financial management plan has yet to be enacted realizing and accounting for the depth and breadth of the system as a whole, as it appears that that these updating, historical restoration or historically "significant" projects always manage to catch the service by surprise, while the coffers have been prematurely emptied on other more immediate concerns.

    I support your sentiments, in general, Kurt. However you choose to view it though, some manner of "commercialism" is going to the be most immediate and certain salvation of the parks as a whole, and a naive belief in the political system riding in on a white horse at the 11th hour is not a practical approach. A quick review of the recent history of Washington's voting record, which is all that really matters, shows a critical lack of bi-partisan support with the pen, only with the mouth. This current administration, hell, the past 50 years of administrations have all had more than ample opportunity to salvage the network, but when push came to shove they ALL showed their true lobbyist-backed colors and refused to support the wishes of their constituents. Hence the situation as it exists today, which cannot be allowed to continue into the future without a definitive endpoint. Supporting the independent operation of the entire service as a for-profit entity with strict limitations (or caps if you prefer) on overall margins, monies that are guaranteed to be returned to the operating budget of the overall system, supported equally be ALL Americans such that none would bear an unreasonable financial burden is the most sensible way to attack the issues as they are currently constructed. As it stands today, there is too much variability in annual allocation of funds from the "me first" mind-set that is our federal government. I, for one, am tired of waiting for the moment when we can "afford" to spend monies internally. I cannot accept that we are unable to allocate the proper level of funding for our own benefit when we are perfectly willing to pee away billions of dollars in the international communities of people who could care less if we live or die. I'm quite aware, as many of you should be, that thousands of my countrymen died in SE Asia, fighting to "maintain our national security and preserve democracy" in a conflict that cost this country more money that will be allocated to the NPS over the next 100 years, and for what? Over 50,000 dead, ten times as many mentally scarred for life, billions and billions of US dollars frittered away, to what end? The country fell, "democracy" was laid to waste, the "evil Red empire" took over, and my national security to date hasn't been diminished ONE IOTA. The identical BS is currently being shoved down the public's throats in an attempt to mask Georgie-boys "gotta maintain the family honor" war, and people are still dumb enough to believe the rhetoric and pandering that is directed at them from their alleged representation in Washington? How much faith in this flawed political system and how much patience is it going to take before people see the system for what it is.......a self-serving, elitist group concerned with the business of personal next-feathering, power mongering and maintaining the separation of classes within the citizens of our nation. You express a fear of the NPS becoming a country club but I submit to you sir, the group in control of the salvation which you seek is currently structured as just such the organization you fear the parks will become. I submit that the sooner we take control of programs that the incompetents in Washington have demonstrated an unwillingness and inability to manage, the better off we'll all be, including the geography that encompasses the area "from sea to shining sea".

  • Paying To Understand U.S. History in the National Park System   6 years 4 weeks ago

    You pay to ride the buses in Denali, which is the only way to access the park after the 15 mile mark. You pay to access the Channel Islands by boat, or Kenai Fjords by boat, again the only access to most parts of the park. You pay for the tours at Mesa Verde to see most of the cliff dwellings, no tour, no access. We can't pretend that this Gettysburg thing is something new.

  • Paying To Understand U.S. History in the National Park System   6 years 4 weeks ago

    I agree with Ted that park service facilities are part and parcel of the tourist trap cycle whether or not the agency would deign to accept that description. I worked at a very busy visitor center for a lot of years and my fellow rangers and I were all keenly aware that our role was mostly to keep the masses moving by pointing out where the rest rooms were, how far it was to the next popular "attraction", where to find motel rooms and whether decent food could be obtained at moderate prices.

    We had a piece of paper on a clipboard that was used to record actual inquiries about "natural history". It was a rare occurrence and we were always excited when someone would approach the desk and inquire about geology or local fauna & flora.

    Our managers were oblivious to the true functions our visitor center served and did not bother to train us in the actual questions that we routinely answered. When I suggested that we devote some time in seasonal training to all of the tourism related questions we daily received I was bluntly told that we "were not Disney employees" and this was not in the "official" scope of knowledge or skills required for the job. Their distance from the on the ground reality of what we did and how the VC actually functioned was truly amazing.

    Proclaiming that you're NOT in the tourist business seems to be a standard operating procedure of most NPS managers. They're much more comfortable with lofty agency-speak concerning "engaging people in building enduring connections with America’s special places" or becoming the nation's environmental educator without ever asking the public if that is what it expects or even wants.

    I remember one day a lady approached the desk to pay for some books and we pointed her towards the natural history association cashier across the room. She took a good long look at our uniforms and said, "oh I see, you're just rangers". Indeed.

  • Paying To Understand U.S. History in the National Park System   6 years 4 weeks ago

    Point made, Barky. But don't you run the risk of alienating more potential park advocates by constantly raising the fees to this truly American attraction?

    The parks I don't think should be equated with a commercial business (and that's what seems to be happening at Gettysburg and elsewhere in the system). Once that's done, they head down the elitist highway.

    I'd like to think national parks exist to enrich every one of us through the nature, history, and culture they conserve/preserve and explain. We the people should have the desire and feel the obligation to support the National Park System for everyone, regardless of their ability to pay for a tour or simply to drive through the entrance gate. And that needs to be impressed on Congress and the next administration.

    Now, I realize that's a very idealistic view that likely will be criticized in some sectors. But I think the day the national parks become off-limits to anyone who wishes to enter them will be a sad day indeed.

    If these are to be self-supporting concerns, then turn them over to the highest bidder now. If they're not, if they truly are to be conserved for the enjoyment of future generations, then I'd suggest superintendents start shutting down facilities they can't afford. That'd drive a message to Congress.