Recent comments

  • National Park System Quiz 13: Mountains   6 years 7 weeks ago

    ...with Virginia's Mt. Rogers in an NRA. You're right about the high points. I wouldn't expect a slight rise in western Kansas or a little bump in Florida to be a national park. I just would have thought states like MT, ID, CO, AZ, NM, SD, OR, NV, UT, etc. would have more of their high points just by chance fall into an NPS area.

    Technically, the summit of Whitney isn't in Sequoia NP - as per number 10 above, so California doesn't even count. I had NC in my original count because for some reason I was putting Mt. Mitchell in GSMNP.

  • Telegraph Fire Closing in On Yosemite National Park   6 years 7 weeks ago

    The Telegraph Fire started on Friday afternoon. By about 6pm on Saturday, the smoke was pouring over the Sierra Crest into the Hoover Wilderness, 50 trail-miles northeast of Tuolumne Meadows. It looked like a storm coming in, except for the orange sunlight. By 10pm, I was awakened in my backcountry campsite, just outside of the northeast boundary of the park, by smoky air that made it difficult to breath, or to sleep.

    Late on Monday (July 28) I drove through Yosemite Valley. I couldn't see the top of El Cap from Tunnel View. I could barely make out the outline of Half Dome from the Camp Curry parking lot. It appeared that the entire DNC concession operation was running off of diesel generators (which didn't help the air quality any). We drove back to the Bay Are via. Highway 120 rather than risk being turned around by a road closure on 140.
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  • Should the National Park Service Drain the Capitol Reflecting Pool to Save Birds?   6 years 7 weeks ago

    Come on, that's D.C. - facts are overrated, just give it the right spin.

    How about a press release "National Park Services provides free botox" Washington, 07/30/2008 The National Park Service provides the residents and visitors of the National Capital with a new service: Get botox for free. Just pick up a dead duck or dig in the mud on the Reflection Pool and extract the valuable botulinum."

  • Should the National Park Service Drain the Capitol Reflecting Pool to Save Birds?   6 years 7 weeks ago

    I think it is a no brainer - drain the pool! Then find a way to recycle the water. I can't believe there is no recycler already. Everyone who has a pool knows that you need to recycle or aerate the water to keep it from becoming stagnant and a breeding ground for mosquitos and bacteria! Here in the Phoenix, AZ area you can be fined for having standing, stagnant water due to the diseases born by mosquitos, like West Nile Disease.

  • National Park System Quiz 13: Mountains   6 years 7 weeks ago

    I also counted five contained in the national parks themselves: TX, CA, WA, TN and AK. Not totally surprising considering many state high points are just that - high points - and not true mountains or significant features.

  • Why Stop At Golden Gate National Recreation Area? What Other NRAs, Monuments, Etc., Should Be Renamed?   6 years 7 weeks ago

    Dear Rangertoo

    Let's not use "authority" as evidence of the value of our opinion. I think I have had as much, or probably a bit more involvement with more park designations and interactions with congressional staff than John -- don't know in comparison with you -- but I don't think that in itself makes me right and John wrong. I was not saying there is no politics in name designation, I was objecting to the absolutist simplicity of saying the names 'are not . . . . ANYTHING OTHER [emphasis added] than the political whim of the Congress when designated.' Again, I ask you, go down the list of all the parks, and see if ALL the names are so whimsical and debased, or if only a few examples are.

    The Coke point IS interesting. But it was not about "The Coca Cola Company" it was about the specific product, Coke. When the company tried to introduce new coke, the brand or the corporate name could not save it.

    There is always the danger when executives, or experienced senior managers of the NPS, appear to the public to be making the issue about themselves or their works, than the tangible thing-itself the public does care about, that the public will drive a wedge between their identity of the resource and their identity of the agents/leaders.

    It may be possible to re-name ALL national parklands 'national parks,' but it is particularly silly to start with Golden Gate. Golden Gate is a collection, it is not one unit with a resource-based identity. And, I disagree that Mesa Verde is mis-named. It is a landscape of coherance and clear identity.

    I agree with you that all sites are equally significant.

    As this search for identity continues on, the USA will also need to keep in mind the nternational issues associated with naming. John will remember the outburst from Parks Canada when his group tried to include sport hunting within the 'national parks' in Alaska. Canada said it and the World had followed NPS leadership on names and established national policy, and the USA should not so "whimsically" throw away that understanding. I am not saying this by itself should prohibit us making changes to help public understanding, but we should be thoughtful and fair if we take these steps.

    Lone Hiker, I have been impressed by the insight and authenticity of your many posts, but you are just wrong about Congress and elected officials. More than 3 out of 4 of all proposals to establish new parks are either thrown out or radically restructured to better match the need and character of the resource, and the viability of the preservation, management and interpretation strategy. It is true, I regret however, that the quality of the congressional committees of authorization, their leadership and their staff has deteriorated. This is across the board. Congress in recent years has pullied away from large vision and new legislation since the high-water mark under FDR. At the same time, we should be careful about how we describe areas of significance to some, but perhaps not to you or to others. I remember when James Watt started to reconsider all the parks established under the influence of M. Udall and Phil Burton. Many of them told the story of African American Heritage or women's empowerment or real cultural significance, and the people who opposed them were either people who only knew what they already knew, or who deliberately were trying to divide those park people who were seeking more resource preservation from those park people who were struggling to manage what they had.

    Senator Scoop Jackson in 1976 tried to recognize the need to protect significant resources everywhere through his National Land Us Planning legislation. This was really the last gasp of comprehensive environmental legislation, and it was stopped cold by a coalition of fear and reaction that assumed that environmental legislation will destroy rights to land and person. More recently, national heritage areas seem to be an alternative way, bottoms up, of uniting the buisness and environmental sectors locally around strategies to protect large landscapes that have distinct character. I have heard the former head of planning in Philadelphia/NPS, Glenn Eugster, say his goal would be for heritage areas to replace Jackson's as the strategy to allow Americans to protect what they care about nationwide. It makes sense to recognize the broad value of many places as opposed to trying to divide preservation by trying to say one place is good and the other one not. Look at the examples of Italy and Britain that have struggled successfully to maintain the special character of many landscapes throughout their countries, to the delight of international travelers.

    Finally, Lone Hiker, it seems to me while politics may be messy, it is really a good idea for Members of Congress to be pushed by their voters to try to protect important places. This is democracy, not pork. Back in the day when barons ruled all landscapes, no one's opinion mattered. The only places set aside where those where the elite deigned to create an environment that the elite thought pleasurable to them or edifying to the commoners. It seems to me it is a great idea for congress-people to compete to be conservationists. A diversion from attacking the motives of other countries, threatening war, building dams or give-aways to corporations or treating corporations as if they had the rights of individuals.

    And when such politicians find a resource that can command a public constituency that really cares about what that resource is and what story it tells, then the task of Congress and the NPS and the rest of us is to try to provide for it the right management framework, and with a name that conveys meaning.

    This is the kind of politics America needs.

  • Should the National Park Service Drain the Capitol Reflecting Pool to Save Birds?   6 years 7 weeks ago

    No doubt an easy choice - you can have a pool with dead birds and tourists getting sick from sticking their hands in the pool, making the pool an ugly sight - or you can have an ugly empty pool but no one getting sick.

    On the other hand, maybe it would give the Capitol Police something better to do than harass people.

    Any word on why the pool is so polluted? Does it have anything to do with the fact that a freeway (I-395) runs under it?

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

  • NPS Director Bomar Extends Freeze on Fee Increases at National Parks   6 years 7 weeks ago

    Kudos to Director Bomar for a good decision. American families struggling with gas prices and the credit crunch aren't likely to be willing to pay increased rates for something as discretionary as visiting a National Park. In fact, at $25, Parks like Grand Canyon are already overpriced - and that doesn't include your backcountry permit! If the Parks are priced so high that working families don't go, then the NPS loses its constituency and base of support, which is a terrible loss for all concerned. The Parks should be reducing entrance fees, not just freezing them, although that is a good first step. And Congress should get busy passing Senate bill S.2438 The Fee Repeal and Expanded Access Act, which would eliminate layered fees for backcountry access and interpretive programs even after an entrance fee has been paid. The sense of ownership Americans feel in their public lands is diminished every time you have to pay yet another fee to visit them.

  • National Park System Quiz 13: Mountains   6 years 7 weeks ago

    The question about Mt. Whitney's western slope being in a park got me thinking about how many actual state high points are within national parks. Seems like a surprisingly low number. I count six, with five in national parks and one in a national recreation area. Anyone want to see if I'm correct? I had to have missed a couple.

  • National Park System Quiz 13: Mountains   6 years 7 weeks ago

    Finally, I get to rest on my laurels - 9 of 10 (but missed both bonuses). I was about to enroll in GEOG 370 after the last several quizzes.

  • At Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area, Things are Not Always as They Seem   6 years 7 weeks ago

    Are you kidding?

    Misuse of firearms is dangerous.

    The purpose of a firearm is not to kill everything in sight.

    The AK-47 is not inherently evil.

    All weapons were originally in the hands of warriors. When civilization was settled, and nomads became farmers, not everyone needed a weapon.

    Now, in modern times, if you, or anyone else for that matter, decides who gets to and who doesn't get to carry a weapon, firearm or edged weapon alike, you are stricly a fascist.

  • Why Stop At Golden Gate National Recreation Area? What Other NRAs, Monuments, Etc., Should Be Renamed?   6 years 7 weeks ago

    I believe the idea that National Park units were "something special" was tied directly to the public's perception centered around those first units, which included Yosemite and Yellowstone, which at the time of their designation were located in areas of the country that were traversed by few save the hearty; those who explored the "wild" country on vacation, and the mystique that grew out of the photographs, paintings, writings and the "lore of the old West" did indeed make these places "special". As government officials dipped their hands into the process, mostly revolving around an effort to bring pork to the local constituents, the whole process began a steady but undeniable downward spiral, diluting the meaning associated with the term "National Park" and the system as a whole, until every piddly nook and cranny qualified in someone's eyes as a "preserve" of some manner or other. Funding issues aside, now virtually every conservation group, be they historical, environmental, or whatever manner you care to mention lays claim to some portion of the country in the context of "significant", and while many of those claims are justifiable, no one has had the "stones" to confront the issue and draw the line as to what is and isn't "significant" or “special”, to the point where now virtually any tract of land qualifies in one way, shape or form. Shorelines, beaches, farmland, forest, barrier island, tundra, volcano, riverway, you name it; if someone's political purse can benefit from the designation, it'll find its way onto agenda eventually.

  • Why Stop At Golden Gate National Recreation Area? What Other NRAs, Monuments, Etc., Should Be Renamed?   6 years 7 weeks ago

    Lepanto - Well, seeing as John Reynolds and I have both been in senior management of the NPS and have been involved in the writing of bills and negotiation of designations with Congressional staff, I would have to counter that we are right in our assertion that the names are not as studiously determined as you may imagine. Your perspective that the public is less aware of the governing agency of the park is right - and that is exactly my point. We should WANT them to understand who the governing agency is and when a park is part of the National Park System. That is how we will gain support and funding for the NPS. We cannot depend upon locals doing the work for nearby parks. Americans must care about parks they have never seen and may never visit if we are to maintain the integrity of a national system. Coke stopped making Tab soda because no one associated it with Coke. They were not getting the benefit of the Coke name or the massive advertising dollars spent on Coke. Diet Coke solved the problem. The NPS should be thought of as the same. Get people to understand national park means any site in the National Park System and they will see their collective value.

    How did we ever get the idea that national "park" was something special anyway? There was no hesitation in naming Hot Springs a national park and it predates almost all the big natural areas that came later. Nor was they hesitation in naming Mesa Verde a national park and it is primarily a cultural area. It seems this notion that the title "park" is somehow something special to be horded and handed out only to certain worthy areas is a rather new concept - and not one that can be easily defended without having to allow the "exceptions" such as Mesa Verde, Hot Spring, Cuyahoga Valley, and Congaree. The exceptions render the defense of the "park" title unsustainable.

    Next year, Ken Burns series on national parks will be on PBS. It will cover only 53 "national parks." That will be unfortunate because it will continue to feed public misperceptions and will not encourage visitation, preservation, or protection of the other 338 units.

  • Man Bitten at Saguaro National Park by Gila Monster   6 years 7 weeks ago

    My Mom was one of the park volunteers. The bitten gentleman was taken to her house. She called 911 for the ambulance. The man indeed was not "all quite there", but then again he had already been bitten and was severely dehydrated. Mental illness or not, how foolish to fling any creature around your neck like that.

    Who should REALLY be getting the attention here is the NICE guy who stopped to assist this "homeless-looking" man on the side of the road. In our society today, I would venture to say most of us would drive-on by: myself included. Kudos to this nice guy who stopped, you might have saved this man's life!!! May we all be willing to take such a risk.

  • Rookie Firefighter from Olympic National Park Killed by Falling Tree in California   6 years 7 weeks ago

    I think your headline would be more powerful if it had one less word. Andrew Palmer was a firefighter, not a "rookie." Identifying him as a rookie highlights his inexperience and makes his loss seem understandable or even expected. Fire crews do have a dangerous job; they deserve our respect in addition to our thanks and support.

  • What's Going On With the Plumbing Of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park?   6 years 7 weeks ago

    How cool! I was a teenager the last time I went to Hawaii and the volcano was not nearly as active as it is right now. What a great show for those lucky enough to be able to vacation there right now!

  • Delaware Can Relax; The New National Parks Quarter Dollar Coin Series Will Celebrate “National Sites” Too   6 years 7 weeks ago

    It's ironic that H.R. 6184 was introduced by Michael Castle of Delaware, the only state without a national park.

  • Delaware Can Relax; The New National Parks Quarter Dollar Coin Series Will Celebrate “National Sites” Too   6 years 7 weeks ago

    I believe that every state should have at least one National Park, and by the way anyone know of any areas in Delaware not yet a state or other type of federally park land that could become a great National Park

  • Lightning Strike Kills Park Visitor at a Sandy Hook Beach in Gateway National Recreation Area   6 years 7 weeks ago

    Over hear on Long Island it was pretty bad. Twelve people got struck by lighting. It down poored like their was no tomorrow. Lighting blasted every minute, it was scary if you were out. I got stuck at Ikea. Where were you during that stormy mess. [Ed: The three people struck by lightning on that beach at Sandy Hook are included in the regional 12-count.]

  • Mountain Bikers to Seek Access Through Listening Sessions   6 years 7 weeks ago

    I think that this is a great success story. I believe that it is long overdue for the Park Service to realize that hikers and equestrians are not the only valid trail users in the parks. What many of those who would like to lump cyclists in with ORV users do not realize is that there is a much clearer distinction between motorized and non-motorized recreation, rather than mechanized versus non-mechanized. It was stated in the above article that “most hard-core hikers are bikers, anyway,” yet I would flip this around to say that most mountain bikers are hikers and understand well the need to co-exist on the trails together. Those of us who like to ride on trails do so primarily to visit our favorite places and enjoy the scenery and natural elements that are found there, albeit via our bicycles.

  • Mountain Bikers to Seek Access Through Listening Sessions   6 years 7 weeks ago

    Thought you might like the follow-up on your "dodging bikes" comment at Big South Fork. I hate to disappoint you, but mountain biking was apparently a success:

    Shared-use Big South Fork trail deemed a success

    By Morgan Simmons (Contact)
    Sunday, October 7, 2007

    An experiment to permit mountain biking on a trail in the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area previously designated as hiking-only has come to a close, and the result is good news for mountain bikers.

    For the past year, the National Park Service has used the Grand Gap Loop Trail to test a shared-use management strategy that allows mountain biking and hiking during the week, and only hiking on weekends.

    Big South Fork spokesman Steve Seven said the pilot project brought no negative comments from hikers, and that the only complaint from mountain bikers was that the trail was closed to them on weekends.

    “Based on the feedback we received from hikers and mountain bikers, we made the decision that the testing phase was over, and that the project was successful,” Seven said.

    The Grand Gap Loop Trail, in the heart of the 125,000-acre park, is seven miles long and features numerous dramatic overlooks into the main river gorge. The trail is single-track, and rated moderately difficult for mountain biking. Some sections of the Grand Gap Look trail skirt the edge of the bluff line, while others pass through boulder gardens and rock shelters carved out of sandstone.

    While “user-sharing” trails are not new — the Tsali Trail system along North Carolina’s Fontana Lake designates alternate days for mountain biking and horseback riding — this is the first time the Big South Fork has put the concept to the test.

    Now that Grand Gap Loop has passed the experimental phase, managers at Big South Fork can designate more trails as shared use between mountain bikers and hikers as directed in the park’s new general management plan.

    One candidate for inclusion into the time-share system is an extension off the Grand Gap Loop that leads to Station Camp, along the Big South Fork River. When this trail opens, the seven-mile Grand Gap would expand into a 16-mile loop, with 13 miles of that being single-track.

    The park’s general management plan also calls for portions of the John Muir Trail and the Rock Creek Trail to be opened to hiking and mountain biking on a time-share basis.

    Big South Fork is one of the few national park units that allow mountain biking. Congress authorized the park in 1974 to protect the Big South Fork and its tributaries and to provide a variety of recreation opportunities ranging from hunting and fishing to hiking and horseback riding.

    A key player in promoting mountain biking at Big South Fork is the Big South Fork Mountain Bike Club. In addition to building and maintaining mountain bike trails, the club patrols the park to aid and assist mountain bikers. The Big South Fork has about 400 miles of trail overall — 130 miles for hiking, and about 160 miles of multiple-use trails that allow horseback riding, hiking and mountain biking.

    In addition, the park has three dedicated mountain-biking trails (open to mountain bikers and hikers but not horseback riders) near the Bandy Creek Visitors Center. These are the Collier Ridge Trail, West Bandy Trail and the Duncan Hollow Loop.

    The park’s new management plan calls for the mountain-biking trail system to expand from eight to 24 miles, with the potential for more trails in the future.

    Joe Cross, president of the Big South Fork Mountain Bike Club, said he is not surprised that the Grand Gap Loop experimental project received such positive feedback from mountain bikers and hikers alike.

    “Most hard-core hikers are bikers, anyway,” Cross said.

    Morgan Simmons may be reached at 865-342-6321.

  • National Park Service Agrees, Conditionally, to Keep Yellowstone's Sylvan Pass Open For Snowmobiling   6 years 7 weeks ago

    Gettin' my sled ready!

  • Rookie Firefighter from Olympic National Park Killed by Falling Tree in California   6 years 7 weeks ago

    I went to Port Townsend High School with Andy, he was a really good kid. I pray for his family and for everyone close to him.

  • Rookie Firefighter from Olympic National Park Killed by Falling Tree in California   6 years 7 weeks ago

    A tragic loss - and a reminder that the men and women who serve on fire crews day after day all across the country have a dangerous and difficult job. They all deserve our thanks and support.

  • National Park Service Agrees, Conditionally, to Keep Yellowstone's Sylvan Pass Open For Snowmobiling   6 years 7 weeks ago

    Irregardless of the actual costs to keep this route open for winter travel, it's a shame that much or all of a badly needed budget increase for the park will be diverted to this one project.

    Here's a key to the bottom line: A 2008 Wyoming travel guide has a full page color ad on the back cover. The "headline" for the ad reads, "Cody has a nice city park. It's called Yellowstone."

    It's all well and good for local communities to receive economic benefits from the spending by visitors to nearby national parks, but when local economic benefits become the driving force for decisions on park operations, park resources and values often suffer.