Recent comments

  • Attendance Shortfalls at Steamtown National Historic Site Prompt Calls for Privatization   6 years 13 weeks ago

    As a Steamtown volunteer, I posted the following comment to the article in the Scranton Times:

    Mr. Singleton:

    It was some days ago that I learned of your article on Steamtown through an announcement of its impending publication posted on a website devoted to the railroad preservation community interests, Rypn.org by Ross Rowland, one of the “critics” airing their views in the article. I expected that if Mr. Rowland was “hyping” the article in advance, its tenor or conclusions would match his well known negative attitude toward Steamtown.

    Whatever the conclusions, I would have expected that you would have vetted your sources better. Unfortunately, you did not. Unlike those critics, I have been an active volunteer at Steamtown since 1995 in various capacities, but primarily in train and engine service. From that lasting affiliation, I know Steamtown very well, and both its positive and negative attributes. Because of that, I think we should examine a few positive aspects of Steamtown and the motivations and qualifications of its critics.

    First, let consider three positive aspects of Steamtown.

    First, Steamtown is still operating long distance excursions when others, most notably the Grand Canyon Railroad (who just shut down their steam operations this month) and the Ohio Central have given up on regularly scheduled steam excursions. The only exception to this rule has been the new excursions on the nearby Reading and Northern Railroad, who returned their No. 425 to service this year. In a testament to the difficulties of operating Steam, the 425 was inactive for over a decade and they have announced no plans to restore their other and larger locomotive- the Reading 2102 (a sister to Steamtown’s 2124) to service.

    Secondly, Steamtown is currently and successfully operating excursions on the Canadian Pacific Railroad, no small accomplishment. Most large, publicly owned railroads want nothing to do with public excursions (especially steam), as they perceive enormous operational and legal risks in order to be associated with passengers and older equipment. These concerns have sidelined numerous locomotives in recent years and caused the end of the Norfolk Southern’s steam program in 1994.

    Third, Steamtown has managed to attract and retain one of the most active, vigorous and dedicated volunteer groups in the country. Some volunteers now have over twenty years of service and one provided over 10,000 hours of volunteer service.

    Finally let’s examine the qualifications of two of your “critics”, Mr. Donald L. Pevsner and Ross Rowland.

    Mr. Pevsner is indeed a “transportation lawyer” but his legal background appears to be confined to commercial aviation. There is no suggestion that he has any special knowledge of railroading in general, or heritage operations in particular other than as an author of opinion pieces. It’s quite a different matter to fly an aircraft in the public airspace than it is to operate a train over privately owned rights-of-way.

    Secondly, while Ross Rowland has operated showcase operations such as the American Freedom train, inside the preservation community and in the railroad industry in general, he is something of a pariah. I have personally spoken to a retired railroad manager who was a trainmaster on a railroad Ross operated on in the 1960’s who expressed concerns over Ross’ ability to subordinate his showmanship to the “prime directive” of railroading-safety.

    With the possible exception of some limited success in the late 1960’s, (now a lifetime ago) Ross has never been able to operate steam on a sustained basis. Typical of his operations were trips run in the late 1990’s on New Jersey Transit from Port Jervis to Hoboken. The trips were run until the locomotive; former C&O No. 614 needed the heavy mechanical work all steam engines require. Unable to fund that rehabilitation, he had the locomotive taken to the Reading & Northern’s Port Clinton headquarters where it remains today parked and cold in an inoperative condition.

    I suspect part of his campaign against Steamtown is in part due to his inability to reach an agreement to move that locomotive to Steamtown. It’s also clear that he regards Steamtown more as an amusement park than a government operated historic site and doesn’t seem to understand that there are mission-driven constraints on the nature and extent of the operation.

  • Bear #399, And Other Grizzlies, Are On the Prowl In Grand Teton National Park   6 years 13 weeks ago

    We saw 399 and one of her cubs this past week around Pacific Creek area - it was so special. We saw the cub first, foraging for berries on the bank above the road, and then a few days later saw 399 herself digging up grubs etc. Both attracted a small but respectful audience with 399 being kept an eye on by a ranger - who told us she had been out of sight for a couple of months. I just hope she is still around for us to see again next fall, she really seemed very special once we knew her story.

  • Greening the National Parks: Environmental Achievement Awards Highlight Sustainable Design, Energy-Efficiency, and Recycling   6 years 14 weeks ago

    Most of the greening-initiatives mentioned in this post seem like commendable recognition for doing what's basically only right, but certainly will benefit from the encouragement & reinforcement.

    (At my logging camp on the reknown black bear haven of Kuiu Island of Southeast Alaska, there was strenuous competition for the duty of taking garbage to the informal dump - an operation straight out of the Yellowstone bear-feeding playbook. Throughout the Far North, open dumps conditioned bears to seek out home trash-cans, incinerator-barrels, compost-piles and even fertilized garden-plots - often leading to destructive and sometimes dangerous bear-visitation at folks' homes. They knew dump-feeding led to bear-invasions, but it took a long time - and 'intervention' - for northern communities to finally break the bear-dump link.)

    What did raise questions for me, is the citation of somebody called Xanterra, for building a power-generating plant in(?) Death Valley Park. I tried Xanterra's own website, but it's for somebody with broadband to check out. However, the Wikipedia entry about the company provides a good first pass on their background.

    While photovoltaic electrical power generation is a good step forward (once it becomes economical on meaningful scales - which escalating fossil-fuel prices bring closer!), I have to think it would still be preferable not to site such facilities within National Parks. I furthermore have the hunch that if it were I or you who wanted to erect some technological activity within a Park, nobody would even talk to us. What does Xanterra have going here, that their power plant construction project gets sited in the Park? Wouldn't it be 'greener' to put it outside the Park?

    On the whole, though, I agree: our National Parks have a natural role in promoting the generalized 'green ethic'. Sorting garbage, solar heating, fuel-efficient vehicles and more can & should be showcased, and rewarded with public kudos.

  • The Essential Olympic   6 years 14 weeks ago

    “.. one can recall that “rain is only water and the skin is waterproof” and go walking in the forest, and find that after completing the initial process of getting soaking wet, all the way to the skin, there is no more pain remaining in the rain, or the water-heavy brush, or even knee-deep streams, and one can then proceed pleasurably through the water wilderness with a sort of swimming motion, winking the excess rain out of the eyes, blowing drips from the upper lip, and lulled by the rhythmic squish in the boots.”
    - Harvey Manning -

  • Prime Location and Varied Habitat Help Make Point Reyes National Seashore a Biodiversity Treasure Trove   6 years 14 weeks ago

    Grasslands and "open scrublands" that have been grazed for several centuries are anything but natural. To get the best grazing for cattle, you artificially hold the ecosystem in the early, fast-growing stage of ecological succession that many call the "weedy" stage. My guess is that, if all the cattle were removed, the grassy/scrubby vegetation would be replaced eventually with a more richly diversified ecosystem with fewer grasses and more shrubs and trees. You'd have to ask an ecologist or botanist about that, and I'm not one of those. As for getting to the shore, there are some good places to get to beaches, if that's what you want. Drakes Beach (sand and muddy sand) is a popular, easy to get to spot. McClures Beach is gorgeous (sea stacks). There are others (check the PORE website).

  • Prime Location and Varied Habitat Help Make Point Reyes National Seashore a Biodiversity Treasure Trove   6 years 14 weeks ago

    Very nice background, Bob - thanks!

    I have not determined - is the 'open-scrub' ecology there a natural feature? That's what drew the original Spanish settlers - 'open fields' they could see from the water?

    Are the majority of the shoreline contexts open to visitors - I wanted to go down the rough bluffs to the tantalizing beaches, but had others along and stuck to the upland trails. We did not visit working dairy farms, but did see & inspect historic barns etc. (I too, Barky, have dairy-background from the grandparents farm.)

    Yes, it is called a "Seashore", not (mostly) "wilderness" ... but I remain curious about the natural heritage of the 'uplands', whether the original flora-complex survived & recovered ... or is what we see growing just the 'weeds' that took over by default?

    (I noted similar but much smaller patches of open terrain along the Lost Coast/Kings Range, to the north - and they appear to be "grasslands".)

  • Prime Location and Varied Habitat Help Make Point Reyes National Seashore a Biodiversity Treasure Trove   6 years 14 weeks ago

    Here is some background for the comments that Barky and Ted made. I hope you'll find them useful. Bear in mind that this national seashore is a 111-square mile area, only part of which is occupied by dairy farms. Also recall that the article I wrote focused on biodiversity, not scenic values or recreation opportunities, per se. Point Reyes is a marvelous place by any reasonable measure. It has long been, and will remain, one of my favorite national parks.

    The Point Reyes peninsula has been used for cattle grazing since the Spanish colonial era. During Spanish rule, three “Lords of Point Reyes” -- James Berry, Rafael Garcia, and Antonio Osio – operated ranches on the peninsula under authority of Spanish land grants. Later, a single family -- the Shafters and their in-laws, the Howards -- owned the entire peninsula.

    When the park was created nearly a half-century ago, the enabling legislation ensured the continuation of pastoral activities by providing that ranchers who sold their property to the federal government would be given renewable leases. The areas and structures used for grazing activities comprise the park’s Pastoral Zone.

    Today, there are about 30 private beef and dairy cattle operations in the Pastoral Zone. These livestock operations operate under the terms of leases and related agreements with the Park Service.

    Point Reyes National Seashore has many interesting historic structures related to cattle ranching. Many of the structures related to the grazing industry are historically significant. The historic Pierce Ranch dates back to the time of the Spanish land grants, and many buildings in the ranch complex were constructed in the 1860s. The Historic C Ranch was established in 1859.

  • Prime Location and Varied Habitat Help Make Point Reyes National Seashore a Biodiversity Treasure Trove   6 years 14 weeks ago

    Thank you, Barky - I was going to be 'nice'! ;-)

    The entire Point Reyes area is a run-down & then abandoned dairy farm complex. It was given over for recreational purposes only after the main portion of the commercial operation was no longer profitable. (Pt. Reyes hauled milk products for many decades to San Fransisco, on the water - a serious competitive angle. With better-developed land-transportation, better-resourced inland dairy districts out-hussled them and they (largely, not entirely) tossed in the towel.)

    Pt. Reyes is a very charming area, especially if you like open farm-land (which I do!).

    ... But wilderness?! My achin' hind quarter! ;-)

  • Lake Mead National Recreation Area Hosts 150,000 Weekenders and a Hells Angels Poker Run   6 years 14 weeks ago

    Beamis quoted Dylan:

    "To live outside the law you must be honest."
    ... And to that I will add the comparable observation:
    "An armed society is a polite society."
    .

  • Prime Location and Varied Habitat Help Make Point Reyes National Seashore a Biodiversity Treasure Trove   6 years 14 weeks ago

    Oh my God, are you completely kidding me?

    When I went to Point Reyes, all I could think of was "what a ruddy sh*thole!"

    Sure, maybe there is some tidal pool goodness, but the island itself is an over-farmed mess. I was completely appalled at the bad farming practices as I drove through it. I did stop to see the elk, and walked to the lighthouse, but I cancelled my planned hike on the southern tip of the island and left.

    I don't know if the NPS should encourage sustainable dairy practices on the island, but the farmers in question should learn anyway. I grew up around dairy farms, and know such places can be run a LOT better. I couldn't wait to get out of the place.

    It was one of the most appalling things I've ever seen on my trips through the National Park System.

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

    My travels through the National Park System: americaincontext.com

  • Lake Mead National Recreation Area Hosts 150,000 Weekenders and a Hells Angels Poker Run   6 years 14 weeks ago

    I hope law enforcement personnel wrote thank-you letters to the Hells Angels and their events promoter !

    The thank-you is appreciation for giving them "job security" and probably "overtime pay." Law enforcement hired to assist at Lake Mead over Labor Day weekend should include thanking the Hells Angels for providing colorful and quality material to work with!

    Ride on...

    Schoolteacher

  • Management Shuffle Yields New Superintendent for Shenandoah National Park   6 years 14 weeks ago

    Wow what a great story. I would like to hear more stories about our Park Supers. This is my first time to this site. I live near Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore

  • Great Smoky Mountains National Park Celebrates the 75th Anniversary of the Civilian Conservation Corps   6 years 14 weeks ago

    I ran into an interesting film the other day regarding the CCC in the Smoky Mountains. The film was produced by the U.S. Department of Interior back in 1936 and appears to be a newsreel type production. In addition to a few scenic shots, the film shows CCC corp men building the Newfound Gap Road and a couple of trail bridges. It also has a little bit of footage on the CCC camps.

    Here's the link for anyone interested: http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-276263724055074977&q=owner%3Anara+type%3Aparks&total=24&start=0&num=10&so=0&type=search&plindex=6

    Jeff
    www.HikingintheSmokys.com

  • House Subcommittee Considers Bill to Relax ORV Rules for Cape Hatteras National Seashore   6 years 14 weeks ago

    Anonymous (Sept 13) references:

    "The General Authorities Act of 1974 says all NPS units regardless of designation will be managed the same... "
    Actually, however, there are wide, dramatic & diverse variations in how the resources of many NPS units are handled.

    Perhaps the GAA '74 intends a narrower ('technical') application of its language than 'general usage' would suggest. Certainly, there are indeed 'radical' differences in how the various NPS units are regulated. They are obviously not all handled "the same".

    One of our recent Presidents had an industrial pallet load of Regulations hauled out for public display, to dramatize the pickle we've gotten ourselves into, 'dog-piling' ever more rules into an increasingly incomprehensible heap.

    There is nothing to exempt our Parks from the 'disease' of run-away rule-making. Bottom line: We have laws to serve the needs of the Country & Citizens, and when they become such a mess that folks of ordinary mental means don't know or can't agree what they do or don't mean, they may no longer be capable of filling their intended role, and are not of benefit to either the Country or the Citizens.

    Or, they may be used to fill roles for which they were not intended.

  • Visitation Decline at Great Smoky Mountains National Park Has Area Businesses, Residents, and Governments Worried   6 years 14 weeks ago

    I agree that the Alaska fall colors map is not very helpful, but you just can't show much detail on small scale maps like this. The colors peak at different times in various parts of this huge and climatically variegated state. About the best you can do is indicate that peaks throughout Alaska tend to come "early" by Lower 48 standards. Fall colors in some areas of Alaska, including parts of Denali NP, can be expected to begin peaking by mid-August.

  • House Subcommittee Considers Bill to Relax ORV Rules for Cape Hatteras National Seashore   6 years 14 weeks ago

    It doesn't matter if you call it Cape Hatteras NSRA (a NPS designation that doesn't exist) or NS. The General Authorities Act of 1974 says all NPS units regardless of designation will be managed the same, responsible to the same management policies, and will still have to obey all federal law including the NPS Organic Act, ESA, Migratory Bird Treaty Act, NEPA, etc. So, you can call it a recreation area, call it a purple planet, whatever, as long as it in the NPS system, the NPS will still have to manage for these resources just the same; they can't ignore it because the public chooses to call the Park by a different name.

  • Black Bear Attacks Child at Great Smoky Mountains National Park   6 years 14 weeks ago

    Anonymous Sept 12 laments:

    "I don't understand why there are so many black bear attacks these days."
    This is happening, because mama bears are no longer teaching their cubs that humans are to be feared & avoided.

    Mama bears no longer know that humans are dangerous, because they are no longer hunted.

    Smart environmentalists ought to consider how controlled hunting can best be reestablish & managed, to promote their own preferred outcome. Otherwise, we may see the situation with large carnivores deteriorate to a point where the resolution of the problem no longer includes environmentalists or their preferences.

    Specifically, if bears within a region begin to actively hunt humans (this is where the changes in bear-behavior are headed), then wildlife management professionals & agencies will probably have to completely eradicate the bear-population from the entire region.

    Do keep a close eye on your 6-year-old. The situation is not getting better - it's getting worse. Consider getting a 'good' dog. You don't need a 'kill-dog', but you don't want a 'silly' dog either. Dogs are great for scenting & hearing animals off in the brush, and react especially well toward bears. A good fence is a big help, too, though costly. Many 6-year-olds love dogs.

    Lastly, I would recommend buying a rifle and taking Hunting & Firearms training (which is readily available to you), even if you have no intention of hunting. That way, you are knowledgeable and have the tools to do what needs to be done, in an emergency.

    Good luck & stay safe. :-)

  • National Park Quiz 19: Trails   6 years 14 weeks ago

    Eight's not bad. The Freedom Trail was dedicated in 1958 (see [http://www.thefreedomtrail.org/]this site[/url]). It's not just us Olde Pharze who are unable to handle simple trails. Obesity has become a prime factor. More and more Americans these days have bad knees, sore ankles, poor circulation, breathing problems, and other debilitating conditions that can be traced to packing way too much weight for good health. I'm not saying that overweight people can't be reasonably fit, just that far too many aren't.

  • It’s Good to be the President When You Visit Gettysburg National Military Park   6 years 14 weeks ago

    Sorry, but I have to agree with the other commenters who have pointed out that this post reads more like a political hack job than a satire... after all a satire is at least supposed to be a *little* funny....

    But, let me try and tackle some of the underlying points of this post.

    Should the President have been able to visit the new Gettysburg facilities before they opened to the Public? And should the President have been charged admission fees before his visit?

    Well, it is worth pointing out that the President of the United States sits atop the organizational structure of the National Park Service. From Park Ranger to superintendent to Regional Office to NPS Director to Secretary of the Interior to President of the United States. So should the boss be charged to visit the Park? Should Robert Iger have to pay to get into Disney World?

    Its also worth noting that since this was a media event, the Presidential visit also generates free publicity for the grand opening of the new Gettysburg facilities - which benefits the Park to a degree as well...

    Maybe if it was Leonardo Di Caprio or some other getting this treatment this post would have rang truer...

  • Visitation Decline at Great Smoky Mountains National Park Has Area Businesses, Residents, and Governments Worried   6 years 14 weeks ago

    I was disappointed to see that Alaska got the same color on the leaf-color map as South Florida. I"m guessing that's because Alaska's leaf color peaks even before Late September - but surely they could have had their own color for that!

  • National Park Quiz 19: Trails   6 years 14 weeks ago

    Only 8 right this week.... I guess the Freedom Trail was constructed some time other than the 1930's.

    I think that the 50% too infirm for the trails figure comes from the fact that so many retirees spend their summers (if not their years) going around visiting National Parks, and so boosting their share of the overall visitation numbers.

  • The 9/11 Anniversary Draws Attention to the Flight 93 National Memorial, an Extraordinary Work in Progress   6 years 14 weeks ago

    I don't remember the exact details, but its also my understanding that the NPS normally recommends that a minimum period of time (5 years?) elapse before a National Park is set aside related to a particular event - but the NPS made a special exception in this case in recommending that the Somerset site was clearly deserving of National Park Status.

    Sabattis

    P.S. Its good to be back... ;-)

  • At Big Thicket National Preserve, a Combative Drug Dealer Changes His Mind When Ranger Stafford Shows Him His Taser   6 years 14 weeks ago

    I don't think legalizing marijuana will make problems go away any more than currently legal alcohol has reduced drunk driving deaths and alcoholism.

    Also, there is a difference between an officer tossing some kid's joint into the creek, and letting 5 individuals with large amounts of weed and pills waltz off into the woods to live happily ever after.

  • Lakota Gather Peacefully at Mount Rushmore National Memorial, But Still Insist that the Black Hills Belong to Them   6 years 14 weeks ago

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    Information below tells how President Lincoln and Minnesota Governor Alexander Ramsey set out to exterminate Indians from their home land.

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    America's racist history was about more than water fountains and bath rooms or where you sat on a bus.

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    THE BUREAU OF WHITE AFFAIRS

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    NATIVE AMERICAN HERITAGE DAY ACT 2007
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    National Holiday For Native Americans Petition:
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    Mike Graham, Citizen Oklahoma Cherokee Nation
    Founder United Native America www.UnitedNativeAmerica.com

    ACTION ALERT ON H.R. 2824 !!
    http://capwiz.com/cherokee/issues/alert/?alertid=10443441

    H.R. 2824 was introduced June 21, 2007 by Congresswoman Diane Watson. This bill proposes "to sever the United States' government relations with the Cherokee Nation" because of the tribe's recent constitutional amendment to limit citizenship to those who descend from Indians listed on the U.S. census of 1906 known as the Dawes Roll.

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    **********************************
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  • Black Bear Attacks Child at Great Smoky Mountains National Park   6 years 14 weeks ago

    I don't understand why there are so many black bear attacks these days. There are bears in my area in CT and I won't let my 6 year old play outdoors because of recent sightings. CT does not allow bear hunting like our neighboring state, Massachusettes and although I have always felt that wildlife should be left alone, I am starting to have another opinion. Predatory Black bears who are not afraid of humans are a threat to our physical and emotional stability. Relocation doesn't seem to work because the bears make their way back all too soon. In my state an 83 year old man is in jail because he shot a bear who was in his back yard. He is old and was terrified because despite making noise to shu the bear away, the bear stood his ground and would not leave thus the man resorted to his primal instinct for survival. I am starting to wonder which animal has more rights and why.