Recent comments

  • What Suggestions Do You Have For the National Park Service?   6 years 6 weeks ago

    After my recent visit to Mount Rainier National Park, I have the following two very specific suggestions:

    First, have hand soap in the campground bathrooms. It seems to me that MORA is trying to save money by not having soap in the campground bathrooms. This seems to pose a public health risk. When talking to the seasonal maintenance staff, they said management told them they didn't have soap because campers would bring their own soap. I suppose this has some logic to it, but it's kind of inconvenient to go number 2 and then, discovering there is no soap, to have to open the door with unclean hands and walk back to camp and dig through everything with contaminated hands to find some bar soap and then walk back to the bathroom to wash one's hands. Perhaps the NPS could divert money SEKI is spending on a Rae Lakes eHike, done to make the parks' web content more "hip". In my opinion soap, clean bathrooms, and toilet paper are more important and more relevant to ACTUAL park visitors than hip web content. The NPS could cut any number of social engineering projects and divert that tax money to providing high-quality basic visitor services.

    Secondly, hire quality seasonal interpretive rangers who have proven teaching experience and talent rather than hiring people from certain ethnic groups to "diversify the staff". I sat through the worst evening program in my life at Mount Rainier last week. The NPS has moved from Kodak slide projectors in favor of PowerPoint, but newer technology alone cannot guarantee a higher quality visitor experience. The interpretive ranger had PowerPoint slides with far too much text, including grammatical and spelling errors. Each slide stayed up for several minutes as the ranger droned on and on and on without a solid theme. Her public speaking skills were atrocious, and she mispronounced and misspoke numerous words. Small maps on slides were too hard to read. The program was just horrible. I had to apologize to my wife, who had never seen an evening program. I told her about the amazing programs I saw over the last 22 years and how special they were and how you just had this magical feeling at a campfire program. How did this person get hired? Well, she is an ethnic minority, and the NPS has an unofficial policy of preferring "underrepresented" minorities to "diversify" the staff rather than hiring people based on talent and experience alone. No amount of technology can mask incompetence.

  • How is Cape Hatteras National Seashore Faring Under Travel Restrictions?   6 years 6 weeks ago

    Here we go with our beloved Congress again: they'll look at the economic downturn as an excuse to ramrod their own peeves through to legality. "Oh, the economy is bad, it must be because we aren't letting people tear up the beach with their ORVs." Forget that we have an oil crisis and food costs are going up. These things are keeping people home, not rules on beach usage.

    But Congress, being Congress, will use this downturn to trod on the law to the benefit of their friends.


    My travels through the National Park System:

  • How is Cape Hatteras National Seashore Faring Under Travel Restrictions?   6 years 6 weeks ago

    the negative response to the consent decree seems to be overstated and without sufficient basis. I have seen signs that indicate that the government is trying to "close Hatteras." I can only conclude that these signs are intended to misinform the public and to sway public opinion through a campaign of misinformation. I walked the beach along the cape shore this morning (8/5/08) and the ORV's clearly still have sufficient access to the beach and prime fishing areas. The restricted areas seem to be confined to what is reasonably necessary to protect wildlife and, at the same time, allow access for beach driving. The restrictions are limited in time and scope. The park service has clearly provided a throughway for vehicles to pass through the areas restricted for protection of wildlife so that people who want to fish in the surf in more remote areas can continue to do so. I am in Salvo for a 2 week vacation (spending limited personal income for this vacation) and the limited restrictions are in no way a disincentive for my visit. To the contrary, I am pleased that the park service is working towards protecting the valuable and pristine natural resources, including wildlife, on these outer banks, which resources are clearly a draw to tourism. I am not personally or professionally involved in this dispute or litigation but wanted to offer my observations and view of the situation based on my experience as a visitor and someone who enjoys both state and national parks.

  • Odes to the National Park Rangers Who Wear the Grey and Green   6 years 6 weeks ago

    This is a fine piece to be sure, but not all NPS rangers wear the green and grey. Indeed, many of us wear green polo shirts and khaki pants since we are Centennial employees and Congress didn't fund our uniforms, and due to this many visitors don't see us as park employees. Perhaps a better title would be "Odes to the National Park Rangers Who Wear the Arrowhead".

  • Oklahoma City National Memorial is a Fine Memorial, But It's Not a National Park   6 years 6 weeks ago

    I agree that the OCNM is not a national park, however, because it is a very importnant piece of American History, that is a popular place of interest, and this may be one of the reason's that it is listed on the NPS's website (besides the reason(s) given in the article). Unless one has visited the site in person they will not fully understand the impact OCNM has on every person who visits (I know, I was one who did). There are plenty of Memorials across the nation that are not parks, but I assume that they are probably also listed somewhere on the NPS site and have the same FAQs indicating that they're not an actual park, but an affiliate, and therefor listed with NPS as park like.
    Example: Cemeteries are not Parks, but goto and search for "Arlington National Cemetery" and you can find ANC listed on "" because it is a park ( ) "Park Information"
    "Arlington House, The Robert E. Lee Memorial is part of the National Park System and is a unit of the George Washington Memorial Parkway, a 7600-acre national park area protecting the landscape, native habitat and cultural history of the Potomac River shoreline. " (Last Updated: 20 October 2006, 7:40 AM by Keith Drews).
    Notice right in the opening page quote that it reads "part of the NPS" I believe the reason ANC is listed as a park is because of every man and woman that served this country to defend our rights for the "pursuit of Life, Liberty, and Happiness" w/o the guarantees of absolutely receiving them.
    As Janiskee points out it is all about the "know" of what you are looking for and how much research you are willing to put forth in the truth of your information and passing there onto.

  • What Suggestions Do You Have For the National Park Service?   6 years 7 weeks ago

    These suggestions are aimed at Congress for the management of NPS and its units:
    1) NPS units should never -- ever-- be designated solely to boost tourism revenue for nearby towns. National Parks should exist to educate and celebrate and preserve ecosystems, landscapes, landmarks and our natural and cultural history.
    2) Ditch the entrance fees. The importance of our national parks and the education and enlightenment visitors receive there should be entirely taxayer-funded. No potential visitor should ever have to question whether he or she can afford to enter a park after spending a fortune to get there.
    3) Maintain the no pets rule. NPS should never be in the business of managing dogs and cats and their excrement. Park resources are too precious for their managers to be distracted by pets and their testy owners.
    4) Put resource protection above infrastructure improvements -- period. Controversial, I know, but the sleekness and extravagance of a visitor center (the new Arches NP monstrosity is a perfect example) is far less important than protecting the very resources the parks were presumably designated for in the first place. That said, when infrastructure must take priority, do it right. New visitor centers should be humble, accessible and artful, following the tradition of the best and least gaudy Mission 66 and previous projects while not being extravagant and grandiose. Economical aesthetic value is important: When Arches erected new roadsigns last year, they lacked the traditional (albeit scant) NPS aesthetic value, looking like boring instutional block-letter highway signs. Please show the least bit of artfulness.
    5) All new structures and infrastructure should fit the landscape and should employ "green," energy efficient architecture.
    6) The goverment should attempt to purchase land around national parks that can serve as buffer zones between development and the parks themselves, each acting as a transition between the developed environment and that of the protected park setting.
    7) Congress and the NPS should vigorously oppose any and all energy development surrounding national parks. Canyonlands NP last year had a giant drilling rig set up within view of the Island in the Sky entrance station, while flaring oil wells can be seen at night from Arches National Park's Windows section. Such development (most of it on public land) degrades our parks and their air quality. Congress should pass a moratorium on any resource extraction on public lands within 10 miles or or within view of a national park boundary regardless what anti-park locals have to say about it.
    8) It should go without saying that pumping tax dollars into our parks is an investment in our heritage, national identity and future. Neglecting parks and the resources they protect is an affront to all Americans. What we choose to protect and celebrate is a telling commentary on who we are as a nation and a people. Don't squander this opportunity.

  • What Suggestions Do You Have For the National Park Service?   6 years 7 weeks ago

    I have been visiting National Parks since a baby here in Utah and have gained so much more in life because of it. Any extra cost is worth it, if a person can pay $40 for ONE DAY at a Six Flags I think we can manage $80 for a year worth of National Parks and the additional parking fees. However, the parks should notify patrons of the parking fees or supply a list of parks that charge these fees.
    I also have another recommendation: Free Days. In Ogden, Utah there is a program called R.A.M.P that charges a tax in order to have the local museums offer a day free. This allows people of lower income or people who would normally not pay to go to local parks/museums a free day to try it. This program has led to me buying multiple season pases to local museums, because I did not realize what they had to offer. National Parks should offer this to build up visitation, thus lowering costs or just to allow people the chance to view.

  • What Suggestions Do You Have For the National Park Service?   6 years 7 weeks ago

    As touched on briefly above, I don't want my "national" parks to be in the business of supporting overseas interests. I don't need "Native American" artifacts made in China, clothing stitched in Cambodia, DVD's produced in Mexico, and disposable cameras from Japan. Have we as a country descended down the path of ineptness to the depths that we are no longer capable of manufacturing products in this country that until recently, were accepted by the world as the benchmark of quality? Has outsourcing become such an accepted way of doing business, centered solely around the corporate bottom line, that we've grown too lazy to do it ourselves, even when we are the ones who stand to directly reap the benefits of our labors? What better forum to display OUR ability and genius than in OUR national treasures? Unless we, as a nation, have no national pride and insist on being the doormat for every international refugee what comes along, to the point of "not wanting to insult or denigrate their heritage by demanding they conform to our society" as the quote goes. What about OUR heritage? Or have we completely lost track of what pathetic little history we've created within the bounds of these shores?

    Maybe due to the fact that I maintain a much earlier schedule that do most of you, I've never found parking to be an issue, per se. Finding a convenient spot is one thing, paying an additional fee is indeed totally unacceptable. If there is any justification for the collection of additional access fees it would most assuredly be to recoup the costs incurred from providing a regular, reliable and convenient shuttle service. Until the shuttles are provided and available system-wide as the norm rather than the exception, I find fee collection and the associated congestion and pollution issues to be an abomination within the NPS. You don't have to be of superior intellect to institute routing for each park. But the initial influx of revenue to purchase the equipment and erect the infrastructure is awaiting Congressional approval. Or more accurately, awaiting Congressional interest, of which there exists precious little in Washington. It's a shame and a sham how politicians are allowed to ruin public lands while protecting the interests of pathetic little maggots such as oil barons and foreign investors. But since that manner of person invests heavily in purchasing puppets who wear the label of Senator and Congressman, what more should "we the People" expect from our representatives, who only pay lip-service to OUR interests during election year campaign speeches, which as anyone should be able to diagnose, as nothing short of a large, stinking pile of crap aimed solely at the mindless American once-in-a great-while voter?

    The best suggestion I have for the NPS is to free itself from the political toilet that is our "democracy" and create its own federal entity, unbeholden to the garbage that currently is responsible for allocating funding, and function as a self-sufficient "federal business". Become the land managers, preservationists, environmentalists, wildlife managers and ecologists that you were trained to be; exercise and develop those skills that you have not been encouraged or allowed to demonstrate due to constrictions placed on you under the guise of "federal guidelines" enacted by the subservient jesters of special interest "America", your political representatives and mine. Grasp the reigns of a runaway system away from those who have proven they have neither the education nor inclination to "manage" our unique national treasures. Only then, with internally managed allocation of resources, could we expect the see the "right things" done: rebuilding existing and expanding the required infrastructure, improvements to trail access for ALL, oversight of concessionaires on a system-wide basis, in short......less political influence and more of a focus on national pride. We're alleged to be a "first world" nation. It's time we demonstrated to the world that our commitment to every other nation's real estate extends to our own shores as well.

  • Cape Hatteras National Seashore Settlement Won't Ban ORV Use, But Will Restrict Travel   6 years 7 weeks ago

    Frisco Fran - based on your observations, I nominate the ORV people for sainthood

  • Hidden Hall of Records at Mount Rushmore   6 years 7 weeks ago

    So essentially it's a very elaborate time capsule? Could he not have used a shoebox like the rest of us?

  • What Suggestions Do You Have For the National Park Service?   6 years 7 weeks ago

    Beamis, let me interject two important points of clarification. First, Mather and Albright didn't birth the National Park Service. Congress did that in 1916 with the Organic Act. Mather and Albright were administrators. While they were given limited authority to make rules and regulations, they were never given authority to designate or proclaim national parks. Secondly, even before Mather and Albright were hired (in 1917), Congress had made it clear that nationally significant historic sites -- that is, sites commemorating human events or the works of humans -- had a place in the National Park System. Those things said, I share your concern about the politics surrounding the designation and management of our national parks.

  • What Suggestions Do You Have For the National Park Service?   6 years 7 weeks ago

    Yes, the problems with the National Park Service are not problems of the National Park Service, they are the problems of Congress and the Executive Branch. They simply do not care enough about the parks to adequately fund them.

    Without a Congress that cares enough to adequately fund the parks, the NPS doesn't have a chance of doing any improvements.


    My travels through the National Park System:

  • What Suggestions Do You Have For the National Park Service?   6 years 7 weeks ago

    amen to you anon and your four suggestions.....scary thing is --it would work!

  • What Suggestions Do You Have For the National Park Service?   6 years 7 weeks ago

    Find a way to prevent Congress from saddling the agency with pork laden redevelopment projects that commemorate such things as the copper smelting heritage of upper Michigan and the industrial legacy of Patterson, New Jersey. This is NOT what the founders of the NPS had in mind for the agency when it was birthed by Mather and Albright early in the 20th century.

    The national parks have become little more than political footballs in the postmodern era for the likes of Nancy Pelosi and Ted Stevens to kick around on the field of play known as Capitol Hill.

    John Muir is surely spinning in his grave.

  • What Suggestions Do You Have For the National Park Service?   6 years 7 weeks ago

    I'd like to see more of the hiking areas opened up to allow leashed dogs. I am disabled, and thus, cannot climb up, say Clingman's Dome, with my husband. One of the first dreams he had after we got our (very well behaved) Golden Retreiver/Lab mix was that finally he would have someone to climb Clingman's with him. I can't tell you how disappointed he was when we went online to research it and found that dogs aren't allowed on the trails. It seems to me that the responsible pet owners who keep their animals in control and pick up their "deposits" are being punished for the idiots who don't do these things. These are probably the same people who let their children run amuck screaming at the top of the lungs and weaving back and forth at full speed as they run up and down the trails, regardless of the people they run into or knock over. Maybe the next step is to ban kids from the parks, eh??

  • What Suggestions Do You Have For the National Park Service?   6 years 7 weeks ago

    The focus on park fees takes this question to perhaps its lowest level. My suggestions are...

    First, fire everyone, from the top of the NPS on down, who has been hired or promoted for any reason other than simple seniority since the third week in January of 2001. Rehire those who seem to truly understand and believe in the NPS ideal instead of the failed ideology of selfishness that we have had stuffed into us over the last eight years.

    Second, close all the parks in the system until the NPS budget, by park, has been reinstated to what it was, adjusted for inflation, in 1976. Let the gateway towns and visitors scream; the aerobic benefit of the hyperventilation will do them all a world of good; and it is way past time that we take a stand for the parks themselves, the park ideal, and the resources that they are there to protect.

    Third, set the following priorities for the use of the newly restored funds: 1) do the necessary repair, rebuilding, restoration, and modernization of the infrastructure with special attention to those structures, protected though neglected within the parks, that are truly national treasures; 2) hire back the naturalists, zoologists, biologists, botanists, geologists, historians, and other resource specialists that used to be the first line of welcome and educational interface with the public (in 1976, there were, as I read it, as many of these people at Canyon alone as there are in all of Yellowstone today); 3) fund the projects needed to protect and preserve the natural resources, including a shift to mass transit if needed; and 4) hire the law enforcement personnel needed to deal with what so many among us have let themselves become.

    Finally, place the resources first. Eliminate any use or activity that goes against long-term resource protection, the dignity of the parks, or the highest embodiment of the park ideal. Again, if the rednecks squeal, let them. Our parks were created to protect and preserve the most precious treasures of our civilization and not as base camps to support the codependent enabling of those among us who choose to wallow their way down the lowest road they can find.

    Implement these suggestions and you can quintuple my entrance fees without any protest from me.

  • What Suggestions Do You Have For the National Park Service?   6 years 7 weeks ago

    I am a real fan of the national park system and, unfortunately, I am handicapped. I found it almost impossible to make it to the Arch in St. Louis - there are no provisions for the disabled and a really long walk from parking to the base of the Arch (the entrance). I had few problems at Yellowstone and some problems at Denali (I agree that the tour busses need to be updated and, I agree that what is sold in the parks should be Made in the USA.) but I think the parks are a bargain! I know there are hidden fees but my only complaint is that they are hidden, the national park system is one of the best values in America and every one I have been to has been educational, interesting and just plain FUN.

  • Battling Invasive Species in Arches National Park   6 years 7 weeks ago

    You're right Kurt, invasive species are a huge problem facing our national parks. A system-wide review ( of the condition of America’s national parks by the National Parks Conservation Association found that invasive species are a limited concern in 90 percent of the parks evaluated, and are considered a widespread or chronic concern in 38 percent. Eighty-two percent of assessed parks have experienced the extirpation of one or more species, while 40 percent of sampled parks have lost a key species or top predator.

    NPCA also just recently released an assessment of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park ( and ranked natural resources of the park in "poor" condition, scoring an overall 60 out of 100 points, primarily because the park battles non-native plants and animals that threaten to overtake native species, many of which are found nowhere else in the world.

    Hawaii Volcanoes has among the highest number (54) of threatened and endangered plants and animals in the National Park System, largely due to non-native species, which the National Park Service is working aggressively to eradicate. But because of a lack of funding, the park can only actively monitor and protect four (out of 54) species that it identifies as flagship species: the hawksbill turtle, Hawaiian petrel, Hawaiian goose, and Mauna Loa silversword plant.

  • Did the NRA Infiltrate Groups Opposed to Overhauling Gun Regulations for the National Parks?   6 years 7 weeks ago

    For once the gunnies got a good one in. More of this needs to happen.

    At least in California, the Bradyites have attempted to (sometimes with success) infiltrate local 2nd Amendment groups and regional NRA councils. So the "We're so shocked!" attitude by the antis, Bradys, etc. is much like the mutterings of a soccer mom suddenly found doing the day shift in a massage parlor.

    In addition the antigunners often have government types in essence working for them. The Deputy AG for our Calif. Bureau of Firearms, Alison Merrilees, frequently communicates with/receives marching orders from Bryan Siebel of the Brady Campaign.
    We were able to see how deeply she was involved by PRARing (roughly, the Calif version of FOIA) her communications. She's been able to use her legal status to (so far unsuccessfully) entangle CA firearms-politics websites like Calguns.

    And for those worrying about "security" in National Parks, shouldn't you really be worried about the extensive illegal-alien-run methlabs and methheads out in the sticks with some lonely little wildlife-mgmt biology graduate forest ranger trying to keep a lid on things with something like a 50 sq mi coverage area?

    Frankly, National parks are unsafe enough no one should visit them *without* a firearm handy.

    Bill Wiese
    San Jose CA

  • What Suggestions Do You Have For the National Park Service?   6 years 7 weeks ago

    The Park Rangers do a nice job of keeping visitors on the well beaten path and restricting access within the park, especially Yellowstone. These actions do help to preserve and defend the National Parks from destruction. However, if we do not figure out a way to reduce initiation of manmade forest fires and then control them once started, visitation will go way down to a trickle of travelers on loud motorcycles and noisy diesel trucks who want to see burned out forests from the highway. When it is all burned up, there will not be much to protect. The firefighters on the line do the best they can with the given resources but I say we need to do a better job in responding with more people and/or technology. How about a forest "surge" when it is needed. Heck, I pay inflated foreign oil surcharges for everything to get to the park, why not charge a surcharge for firefighting?

  • What Suggestions Do You Have For the National Park Service?   6 years 7 weeks ago

    The strong and common restrictions against dogs are annoying. I understand that there are reasns for the restrictions (mostly irresponsible owners who let dogs off leash and don't dispose of waste), but it seems like the park service should make accommodations. Yellowstone, for example, is the size of a county and quite far from a town where a dog could be boarded. For large and remote parks like that, I would like to see the Park Service maintain local kennels, even for a small fee.

  • What Suggestions Do You Have For the National Park Service?   6 years 7 weeks ago

    Here are some suggestions:

    A. Either get rid of all the hidden fees or lower the parks pass back to $50
    B. Create a Senior Citizens and Student Pass for half price (or some relevant discount)
    C. Create an extended parks pass, that lasts up to 5 years (at a cheaper per-year rate than is currently offered)

  • What Suggestions Do You Have For the National Park Service?   6 years 7 weeks ago

    I feel these are America's parks, yet they are visited more by vistors from other countries. Perhaps because large familes and retirees can not afford all the fees. Maybe there should be a discount put in place for all Americans who wish to enjoy their parks.

  • Yelllowstone National Park Firefighter "Roughed Up" By Grizzly   6 years 7 weeks ago

    Pleasantly surprised that this bear encounter - the firefighter was treated and released, according to KIFI in Idaho - has been buried in the news release and wasn't picked up in any significant way by local media. This sort of thing is usually sensationalized and all over the national press (though what happened last month to the guy just outside the park being attacked in his tent while he slept was a kind of sensational story).

    It would be good to know what happened with the bear, but we are led to believe that the bear is fine (except being "frightened").

    There are other fires in the area - notably the Gunbarrel Fire, between Cody and the East Entrance, that's up to 22,000 acres. Although some have been evacuated, this fire also is moving toward the north and the east, mostly through beetle-infested forests that probably need a good burning. It's still creeping a bit to the south. There are a couple small fires in the Absaroka wilderness. To the south, there's a fire in the Bridger-Teton forest. Still, all roads are open.

    Pictures are starting to come out of the LeHardy Fire - there's a very interesting set a blogger put out yesterday - check out the one with the bison.

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

  • What Suggestions Do You Have For the National Park Service?   6 years 7 weeks ago

    I visited the Smoky Mountains in June. I didn't have to pay to park or pay to get in. Free to get in is part of the parks history. I had a great time. The only thing that I didn't like was when I went the the gift shop (yes, the parks) to get some post cards to send back home. I picked out the ones that I liked. Then I turned them over to read the back, and there it was MADE IN CHINA?????????????? WHAT????? What a disgrace!!!!!