Recent comments

  • Are There Really 391 Units in the National Park System? You Won’t Think So After You Read This!   6 years 4 weeks ago

    None of these non-NPS administered National Monuments are counted in the National Park System 391-tally, of course. Still, the administrative ambiguity does add an additional layer of confusion. Traveler is going to take up the topic of designation confusion in a future article. In this one we tried to stay focused on the count per se.

  • Are There Really 391 Units in the National Park System? You Won’t Think So After You Read This!   6 years 4 weeks ago

    And don't forget the 'National Monuments' that aren't administered by the National Park Service. The BLM administers fifteen 'national monuments' in eight western states, and according the the BLM website, there are 'national monuments' that are administered by the Forest Service and the Fish & Wildlife Service as well.

    For me, this just adds to the confusion surrounding just how many 'national parks' (general term) there are.

  • Uranium Exploratory Drilling Near Grand Canyon National Park is Halted Pending a Full Environmental Review   6 years 4 weeks ago

    Finally, a clear win for proceeding the correct way, that is, performing due diligence environmental and public reviews before allowing potentially damaging and irreversible activities. Hats off to the organizations and individuals who took the legal action required to prevent the Forest Service from doing as they please. It's a shame that legal action is often necessary to force government agencies to follow standard procedure yet, thankfully, when won, these actions (typically and) ultimately benefit the general public and future generations. I, for one, am confident that this country will do just fine without exploiting such beautiful and sensitive lands.

  • Are There Really 391 Units in the National Park System? You Won’t Think So After You Read This!   6 years 4 weeks ago

    Interesting about Charles Pinckney. From the day they first opened the place to the public in the early 90's, that park has been a staple of the local high school history class field trip circuit. On my first trip there, probably back in 1993, the then-undeveloped park was conducting an extensive archaeological dig on the grounds of Snee Farm, and we got a bit of an education on sweetgrass basket weaving from an old woman in a rocking chair. To my uneducated eyes at the time, it was a fascinating experience that certainly stands out as one of the more memorable field trips we took in high school. Having visited there in recent years, I've been much less impressed because the whole enterprise seemed rather pointless for a lack of "tangible history," so to speak. The Charleston area is awash in "tangible" history, all of it worth more than one visit, but Charles Pinckney NHS never seemed to live up to the standard.

  • Grand Canyon Railway May Expand Rail Service to the South Rim at Grand Canyon National Park   6 years 4 weeks ago

    We took the train at the end of June (2008). It was wonderful. My 82 year old Aunt, her niece and myself loved coming back to the Grand Canyon area via the
    train (instead of by car the first time we saw the canyon). It was clean, on time and a pleasure to ride. The live entertainment (wild west show before, singing cowboys on the way to the rim and the "robbery"
    by Cowboy Bandits on the way back) was a favorite of all.

    I agree about the quality of the employee - our guide - came to visit the area and decided to stay. She was perfect. Warm, caring and fun. Very knowledgeable
    and kept us focused (especially not to miss our departure time).

    Not sure of the above post about the loss of the steam locomotives. When we went, they used the diesel one due to mechanical problems that had pulled the
    steam locomotive just the week before.

    I hope their recent experiment with the recent September Sunset Limited was a great success. It provided evening guests with live Jazz Music, appetizers, room to dance
    and a party at the rim. And then, they brought you back the same evening.

    For families - don't forget they offer a Polar Express Run all through the Holidays. Hear the story, see the village, meet Santa and get a gift! Great fun for everyone!

    Packages are always available to ride one train in, stay at Rim and then return on whatever day you decide to return. As a resident and worker in nearby Sedona, AZ, I
    am always letting people know of the treasure 90 minutes north of us!

  • Are There Really 391 Units in the National Park System? You Won’t Think So After You Read This!   6 years 4 weeks ago

    All those decisions made sense at one time - at least for those who took them. The National Park System is not constructed, it grew to the way it is now. The ideas about individual parks and the system as such became entangled into what can only be described as Gordian knot. Maybe a sharp sword would be a useful tool for the next administration.

  • Heavy Rains and Flooding from Hurricane Ike Remnants Left a Mess at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore   6 years 4 weeks ago

    Cooperation between the NPS and State authorities is possible. Probably the best example is Redwood National and States Parks in California. There three State parks (dedicated in the 1910s) were connected by Redwood National park in 1968. In 1984 the administration was put together and now the Parks are led by a superintendent from the NPS under shared jurisdiction. It could be done elsewhere as well.

  • Are There Really 391 Units in the National Park System? You Won’t Think So After You Read This!   6 years 4 weeks ago

    Not much to see at Snee Farm, dapster. The Charles Pinckney NHS has been described as a sham (I find it hard to disagree) because it has so little to do with Charles Pinckney and has NO Pinckney era structures. This park would be very high on my list of parks to abolish the first chance we get. How that park ever got established in the first place is still something of a mystery to me. As for Pinckney Castle in Charleston harbor, well, it was abandoned and forlorn before being abolished as a national monument (1951), transferred to the Corps of Engineers, and finally declared surplus federal property (1956) and transferred to the state of South Carolina (which let the Sons of Confederate Veterans manage it for a while). The state of South Carolina owns the island at the moment, and I don't know if you can access the property without special permission. Maybe somebody can enlighten us.

  • Are There Really 391 Units in the National Park System? You Won’t Think So After You Read This!   6 years 4 weeks ago

    To really understand this issue you have to really understand how the National Park Service operates: not like a single government bureau, but like a fast food franchise. Each unit is part of a larger organization that sets basic standards and practices. Beyond that, each franchise manager (park superintendent) interprets the corporate programs to fit local conditions. While ever Social Security office may operate the same, every national park unit does not. Hence, the idea of how many units there are is inherently impossible to determine: there are too many variables. Witness the dozens of titles used for park designations and the haphazard manner in which they are assigned or altered over time. Hence, Congress has never designated what is and is not a park, it has designated the National Park System.

  • Are There Really 391 Units in the National Park System? You Won’t Think So After You Read This!   6 years 4 weeks ago

    Bob, Thanks for the clarification.

    Charles Pinckney National Historic Site is not in Charleston harbor; it's well north of Charleston just off US-17 and not far from Boone Hall Plantation.

    I had mixed the two up. I've been to Boone Hall, and seem to remember signs about "Snee Farm" as well. We stay in the KOA there in Mt. Pleasant whenever we got to Charleston. Might just have to check out Snee Farms next time down there!

    Exactly why did "Castle Pinckney" get delisted? Can one enter the sight now? I plan to vacation in Charleston next summer, and will be boating the Cooper and Ashley daily.

  • Winter Storm Uncovers 19th Century Shipwreck at Cape Cod National Seashore   6 years 4 weeks ago

    Nice written post.

    It is really hard to imagine things.

    We had a same incident near SBL.

  • How Far Should National Park Rangers Go To Safeguard Your Life?   6 years 4 weeks ago

    I think a distinction needs to be made between Seashores and Lakeshores that are isolated from urban areas, and NPS areas like Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore that is an urban park. the Indiana Dunes area has been attracting users for well over a century, primarily from the greater Chicagoland area, all seeking the beautiful beaches, and swimming in Lake Michigan. Management needs of certain parks change with time. Why wasn't INDU established as a recreation area?

    While he never mentioned this desire in the many sound bites he issued during this summer's drownings' press coverage, Superintendent Dillon needs an increase in visitation, because that means an increase in operational budget for sure (which could pay for increased lifeguard coverage). He rightly mentions preserving and protecting the natural resources, yet what is the main resource of this park? The beaches. When do the majority of visitors come to this park? The summer months. So why isn't more money going into the primary visitor experience: beach use, and the resultant obligatory safety personnel needed to protect and educate the visitors?

  • Heavy Rains and Flooding from Hurricane Ike Remnants Left a Mess at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore   6 years 4 weeks ago

    I just read your articles concerning the confusing counting methods of the NPS, and the Hurricane Ike damage at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. I thought I would share some thoughts and information with you.

    The City of Portage will in fact be managing the Portage Lakefront and Riverwalk portion of INDU. The NPS purchased and developed this property, probably the last available portion of Indiana shoreline (unless the steel mills in the area sell off more land...). BUT it is in partnership with the City of Portage: Portage will be mainly responsible for staffing and managing this piece of land. This is indeed a unique partnership, for the similar partnerships would have the NPS managing land purchased by a state or municipality.
    SO, it sits on NPS owned land, but the NPS has given management over to the town in which the land sits. Confusing to say the least.

    Most visitors from within the state of Indiana assume the entire park area is part of the Indiana Dunes State Park, established in the 1920's. Most visitors from outside of Indiana assume the entire park is part of the National Lakeshore, established in the 1960's. While the two parks share very similar names, no real partnership actually exists between the NPS and the Indiana DNR. Most Illinois/ Chicago visitors see the beaches only, not realizing that the beaches are attached to state and national parkland. Then you throw the local tourism marketing concerns into the mix and the confusion gets even worse.

    The new Dorothy Buell Memorial Visitor Center is actually a tourist information distribution center that sits on a state highway outside of the INDU boundaries. The facility is shared by the NPS (somewhat), the Indiana State Department of Natural Resources (barely), and a Porter County, IN tourism marketing organization. While most NPS park visitors that seek out this visitor center assume it is an NPS facility, the NPS only rents office space from the building's actual owners, the Porter County Convention, Recreation, and Visitor Commission. Another "partnership" of sorts, but one that only really benefits the PCCRVC. Walk into this visitor center and you are overwhelmed by county tourism brochures and propaganda; NPS and DNR literature is hidden away in a corner.

    Talk about confusing! Trying to establish an identity that satisfies all of the area concerns will be impossible.

  • Musings From Yellowstone National Park   6 years 4 weeks ago

    I want to see more "white" rangers at the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site in Atlanta. I visited this NPS unit recently and there was nary a honky on the staff to be found. Doesn't diversity cut both ways?

  • Trigger-happy Man Shoots Another Rustling in the Brush   6 years 4 weeks ago

    To follow-up on the analogy of licensed vehicle drivers to CHL holders, one of my major concerns is the fact that in many states it is much easier to obtain permit to carry a concealed deadly weapon than a driver's license. I wonder what the effect would be on vehicle accident rates if we allowed individuals to simply mail in an application, wait a few weeks for a basic background check, and then be mailed a drivers license - without any need to show if they knew anything about the rules of the road, had the ability to safely operate a vehicle, or could even see the road ahead!

    Unfortunately, that's the case in states such as Alabama and Georgia, which have no requirements that individuals packing weapons show they know anything at all about basic laws governing the use of deadly force - or have the ability to hit their intended target instead of an innocent bystander if they decide to use that weapon. Indiana goes a step further - an Indiana CHL can be obtained that's good for the rest of the individual's life - with absolutely no training or demonstration of qualifications. Ol' Joe may be 98 now and blind as the proverbial stone wall - but his CHL is still good for as long as he's alive. If you want to "concealed carry" in Alaska or Vermont, no problem - they don't require a permit at all for a concealed handgun, so the question of either training or even a background check are moot in those states.

    Many states that do have minimal training requirements unfortunately simply give lip-service to the question. Did you ever serve in the military – even 50 years ago? No matter if you haven't touched a gun since then. In Wyoming, that's all that's required to "demonstrate familiarity with a firearm" and qualify for a CHL. In states including Florida, Idaho and Montana, you can qualify for a CHL merely on the basis of "completion of a hunter education or safety course."

    Such courses are a great idea, but they do little to ensure that a person carrying a handgun has even minimal ability to hit his intended target. In some states, such "training" can be conducted via the Internet, followed by as little as four hours of contact with a live instructor - and no requirement that the student ever fire a handgun. The "live firing" portion of some such courses requires a grand total of 12 shots with a .22 rifle - or even an airgun! When something goes bump in the night in the campground, do you want a guy in the site next to you grabbing his semi-automatic pistol on the basis of that "training"? I sure don't!

    Even in states like Texas, which thankfully requires some training for a CHL permit, the requirements are so minimal that they have limited practical value in determining if CHL holders are capable of hitting their intended target during the stress of a crisis situation. I base that observation on nearly 30 years of carrying a firearm as a law enforcement officer - and first-hand knowledge of the amount of time required on a firing range on a regular basis to keep skills at anything approaching an acceptable level. The stringent Texas requirement for hands-on training? One visit to the firing range every 10 years.

    I know some readers will dismiss my opinion, so here are two others from acknowledged gun experts. Massad F. Ayoob, who is widely known in pro-gun circles as a prolific writer and firearms and self-defense instructor, is quoted as follows: "It is reasonable to assume that there will be bystanders present when a defense handgun must be used in public…Your competency with the weapon you carry must be such that you will not fire an accidental or panicky shot into a group of bystanders.... What frightens me most about civilians with guns is that so many of them are incredibly rotten pistol shots...."

    Dave Lauck is a certified armorer and frequent author in firearms and shooting publications. He notes in Tactical Shooter magazine: "A person who buys a handgun in America today is on his own when it comes to learning how to safely use it….No federal law, and very few state or local laws, require that a handgun owner show any competence in how to safely handle, store, or use the gun….Unfortunately, many new shooters are unaware of basic firearms safety, and many trained shooters become complacent in their application."

    Lest some readers take comfort in the fact they live in one of the states that does require at least basic training in use of a handgun - no so fast. Most states honor permits issued by other states under reciprocal agreements. Here's one example: websites of several companies tout the easy availability of Utah CHL's with pitches like these: "Available to residents of ANY state!" "One low-cost permit valid in 27 to 30 states!" "High-energy, 4 to 5-hour class available in many different cities!" (A 4 to 5-hour class - now there's some serious training for you.) And, best of all, "Awesome for those that can't get a permit from their home state!" Isn't it nice to know that some of those folks are probably "carrying concealed" in your state, based on those stringent Utah requirements.

    Yes, some CHL holders are skilled shooters - but in the absence of legal requirements for credible training, there is also an unknown and likely large number of people at the other end of the scale. In short, unlike a driver's license, there is no correlation between possession of a CHL and the proven ability to use a firearm safely.

    This lack of adequate training requirements unnecessarily increases the risks to innocent bystanders if weapons are fired in crowded areas such as campgrounds by nervous urbanites who hear something "rustling in the brush." A Google search will easily find that innocent victims of errant shots fired each year from legally carried handguns greatly outnumber victims of crime in national parks. The trade-off in safety of visitors to our parks by "arming" the general public against the very low risk of crime in those locations simply doesn't withstand analysis.

    A previous poster and I do agree on one point – I wouldn't promote the virtues of anyplace being as "safe as Houston." Recent FBI crime stats show that despite rapid increases in the number of CHL's in Texas, more serious crime occurs in Houston in a typical week than in the entire national park system in a whole year!

  • Are There Really 391 Units in the National Park System? You Won’t Think So After You Read This!   6 years 4 weeks ago

    Thank you, Mr. Janiskee, for this relevant article!

    Your findings reveal the truth behind the federal management of national park areas; indeed the inmates have taken charge of the asylum. The weight of all that bureaucracy dulls--crushes!--reason and logic. Whatever the real answer (how many parks do you think are in the system?), the rhetorical answer is "too many!" Consider that the administration of the entire system costs more than the operation of the 58 "national park" in-name units (the very same bureaucracy that can't provide a realistic or accurate count of actual units under its purview), and you'll realize the system has grown unwieldy.

    Of course, one solution would be to kick the "inmates" out and shut down the "asylum". Each park should be able to stand on its own and provide its own definition of how many units it is (one).

  • Are There Really 391 Units in the National Park System? You Won’t Think So After You Read This!   6 years 4 weeks ago

    Thanks for a good article on a pet peeve topic. I had to put a disclaimer on my own blog because I couldn't figure out where the 391 unit count comes from.

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

    My travels through the National Park System: americaincontext.com

  • A Florida Keys National Park? Good Conservation or Florida Bail-out?   6 years 4 weeks ago

    Ooof, a tough issue. Of course, I'm sure no one in Florida is trying to profit off a real estate scheme. That's soooo unlike South Floridians :dripping with overwhelming sarcasm:.

    Realistically, not many of these islands can sustain much development. That's just a simple fact. Not that there aren't Americans living in unsustainable places....

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

    My travels through the National Park System: americaincontext.com

  • Are There Really 391 Units in the National Park System? You Won’t Think So After You Read This!   6 years 4 weeks ago

    Charles Pinckney National Historic Site is not in Charleston harbor; it's well north of Charleston just off US-17 and not far from Boone Hall Plantation. The park's main physical entity is Snee Farm (a remnant of the original plantation that doesn't have a single Pinckney-era structure on it!). That little island in Charleston harbor is Castle Pinckney, which was once a National Monument, but got delisted.

  • Trigger-happy Man Shoots Another Rustling in the Brush   6 years 4 weeks ago

    Guns and booze don't mix well anywhere.... Nor do cars and booze.

    Bashing CHL holders for this incident makes about as much sense as bashing licensed drivers everytime a drunk unlicensed driver hurts someone.

  • Are There Really 391 Units in the National Park System? You Won’t Think So After You Read This!   6 years 4 weeks ago

    SaltSage is correct:

    By the way, Charles Pinckney NHS is also administered by Fort Sumter, but there's no sign anywhere announcing that it's a unit of any other park.

    One would never know the site was more than a dredge island, as the "Castle" is covered by growth. A brief mention of it is made whilst passing by on the ferry to Sumter. Really sad! I tried once to access it on my own boat, but was turned back by "No trespassing" signs.

    Plenty of locals could be seen playing frisbee, flying kites, having picnics and running on the beach.

    There is a really nice beach area in the shadow of the redoubts. I still think Moultrie is quite deserving of its own designation, due to its historical importance and state of preservation. Perhaps it would receive more tourism if only people knew about it!

  • Are There Really 391 Units in the National Park System? You Won’t Think So After You Read This!   6 years 4 weeks ago

    About Fort Moultrie:
    Fort Sumter gets all the tourist traffic and Fort Moultrie sees a lot of locals. Indeed, Fort Moultrie is both a park and a very significant historic site. While I was in college, I used to take breaks from classes with a drive out to Fort Moultrie to study on its green grass lawn within earshot of crashing waves on the Sullivan's Island beach. Plenty of locals could be seen playing frisbee, flying kites, having picnics and running on the beach. Conversely, while I lived in Charleston, where I was born and raised, I didn't know any other local who had been to Fort Sumter more than once or twice. I've been there only once. You really have to go out of your way to drop the money on the boat ride there and take quite a bit of time to pay Fort Sumter a visit. Tourism drives the Charleston metro economy for the most part, and it's no wonder the high-stature Fort Sumter might get more funding allocated to it than the elder Fort Moultrie.

  • Are There Really 391 Units in the National Park System? You Won’t Think So After You Read This!   6 years 4 weeks ago

    The National Park Service isn't the only agency guilty of toying with the public's perception of what is and what isn't an agency's unit and merrily confusing people. Here in Colorado, we have a variety of national forests that are combined for administrative purposes, and are referred to by the agencies as their cumbersome, combined names: The Grand Mesa-Uncompahgre-Gunnision National Forests, commonly referred to by the feds as "the GMUG," for example. We also have the Arapaho-Roosevelt National Forests, the Summit County portion of which is administered by and labeled White River National Forest even though it's called "Arapaho National Forest" on USFS maps. So confused are these forests that the popular Benchmark atlas of Colorado doesn't distinguish among the individual forests and just refers to them by their combined administrative names.

    Similarly, on the NPS side, we have Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks, two separate units administered as one, but are almost always referred to by the NPS as a single unit even though they count as two.

    I'd bet that in Charleston, SC, where I grew up, that most people don't even know what the Fort Moultrie designation really is because nowhere does it say that it's a national monument by itself, but only a unit of Fort Sumter, whose headquarters are at Fort Moultrie. Charlestonians think of Fort Moultrie and Fort Sumter as two separate places managed by the same entity. Does it really matter to them that one is an administrative unit of the other? By the way, Charles Pinckney NHS is also administered by Fort Sumter, but there's no sign anywhere announcing that it's a unit of any other park.

    I don't think the public really cares a bit about what these units' administrative idiosynchracies are. They don't care if three separate national forests or two national parks are administered as one. They want to know which unit they're actually in and, unless visitors are delving into park or forest management issues, little else matters. When I go to Grand Mesa, I'm going to Grand Mesa National Forest, not someplace cumbersomely titled "the GMUG." When I go to Kings Canyon, I'm in Kings Canyon National Park, not Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks. The feds should stop confusing people and confusing congressionally-designated units. The public might gain a little more respect for these agencies and and do a little less head scratching if they did.

  • Are There Really 391 Units in the National Park System? You Won’t Think So After You Read This!   6 years 4 weeks ago

    Interesting article. Just goes to show how absolutely confusing the whole system has become.

    I know of one misplaced "Recreational Area" designation in the whole works, but anyone who has read my past posts knows my stance on that....

    I find this one the most curious, since I've been there on several occasions:

    (10) a, b, c, and d - Fort Moultrie National Monument (near Charleston, SC) is part of Fort Sumter National Monument. Even though Congress designated Fort Moultrie a national monument, and the National Park Service administers it, Fort Moultrie National Monument is not counted as a unit of the National Park System.

    These 2 units are literally across a body of water from one another, and the two even exchanged fire during the civil war. Moultrie predates Sumter by something like 100 years! Moultrie's action in the revolutionary war actually gave South Carolina both its State Flag and the moniker "Palmetto State", as the orignial fort was made of stacked palmetto logs, and suprisingly deflected British canon ordinance due to its flexible characteristics. Moultrie sadly lacks the tourist numbers that Sumter enjoys, although tremendously more intact. Moultrie in many cases looks terribly neglected compared to other like parks.

    In my mind, the two couldn't be more different, and should have equal and seperate status.

    dap

  • National Park Quiz 5: Biggest This or That   6 years 4 weeks ago

    Fascinating stuff, love reading these quizzes!

    If you're into NP trivia, visit the county highpoints website, and click on the National Parks and National Monuments sub-pages.

    www.cohp.org

    I'm through about a dozen of Nevada Barr's books. Love 'em. The one about Dry Tortugas is a must-read prior to visiting there. The first ISRO book is good, haven't seen the second one yet. My least favorites are the two set at Natchez Trace. That may be a bit of prejudice coming through, in that that is the only place she has written about I haven't visited. (yet)

    I've stood in 52 of the 58 National Parks, and been to the highest point in 44 of those.

    Dave C

    Denver, CO