Recent comments

  • Padre Island Interpretive Program Simply Succeeds   6 years 30 weeks ago

    Usually formal interpretation programs get axed due to reduction in seasonal staff. Seasonal staff do the bulk of interpretation. I worked at the same park Beamis referenced above, and in this park and others, the seasonal interp jobs are the first cuts made.

    How many seasonal interpreters (and therefore seasonal programs) could be funded with money slotted for a GS-14 and a GS-13? Assuming both are step 1--and not counting big benefits packages which seasonal employees don't get--that adds up to about 150k. If both are step 10, that'd add up to a whopping 190k. A GS-05 can expect to make about $13k in a six-month season. So, those two positions could fund between 11 and 15 seasonal interpreters.

    Those upset about reduction in interpretive programs should demand that the NPS--instead of cutting seasonal interpretive positions--cut bloated management budgets and reallocate those funds to the interpretive base.

    Until that happens, expect to see more iPod "rangers" and fewer real people speaking passionately and knowledgeably about the lands we cherish.

    And I have to quote Beamis because it's worth repeating:

    Just like in the teaching profession, until front line interpreters are given the respect, pay and opportunity for advancement by being encouraged to do what they do best, park naturalists will continue to take the only safe career path of upward mobility which is away from what they love best. The parks definitely suffer as a consequence.

    Amen brother.

  • Vietnam Veterans Memorial Vandalized   6 years 30 weeks ago

    I don't know if it's a good thing or a bad thing, but there are lots of idiots out there documenting their blatant disdain for park regulations and general stupidity on YouTube. Hopefully it will do more to contribute to them being caught rather than encourage more idiots to come out of the woodwork to try to out-do them.

  • Padre Island Interpretive Program Simply Succeeds   6 years 30 weeks ago

    This ranger latched on to the fact that this kid had an interest in Peregrines and went with it. Bully for her, as TR would say. She could have easily recited the usual blah blah swearing in ceremony for the kid and then re-parked her butt back behind the desk and pasted on a smile waiting for the next "Where's the bathroom?" question to come along. My kids do Junior Ranger booklets everywhere we go and sometimes you can't even find a ranger around to talk to them, then you get the bookstore cashier reading some script or even worse, just handing the kid a plastic badge with maybe a "congratulations". I have my kids do these not only to learn about the park but to get that minute or two of interaction with the ranger, questioning what they found, sharing their experiences. There are not enough rangers nor do they usually have enough time to interact one-on-one with kids. The formal interp programs have been scaled back so much you can hardly find anything offered outside of summer these days. So, yeah, unfortunately this video shows the way it ought to be and increasingly the way it "used to be". To say she only did this because she had the time is pretty darn cynical. It's obvious to me she cared enough that the kid left with a memorable, positive experience in the hopes that someday he will do the same for others. Caring is contagious, and an electronic gizmo doesn't care a lick.

  • Padre Island Interpretive Program Simply Succeeds   6 years 30 weeks ago

    Haunter Hiker and Beamis - thanks very much for weighing in.

    H.H. - I agree with you, there isn't anything extraordinary about that video, which I think is great! To me, it represents what "business as normal" ought to be in the National Park Service. The video is nothing more than an interpreter (I presume) doing her job. And, I agree, there are NPS Law Enforcement rangers which provide the same level of dedication and passion for the job and for the visitor.

    And, I agree with you that there is nothing wrong with non-personal interpretation, like that found in visitor center exhibits, orientation movies, the web, and podcasts -- this is the stuff I'm payed to produce (my real job), so believe me, I really find nothing wrong with it. What bothers me, is when it is suggested that non-personal interpretation can be a substitute for intrapersonal interpretation (like suggesting the MacIntosh is just as tasty as the Granny Smith is raw). I've been sent in email about new devices described as "GPS Rangers". The title of the article is "Gadgetry to lure 'iPod' generation to California's Death Valley". Says the salesman of this device, "Look at Americans -- they don't read that many books. Why fight it? Join it!"

    The point I'm hoping to make with this article, and the attached video in the comments section, is that the person to person interpretation can be much more powerful tool at resource protection than a gadget can. The pessimist (or is it realist) in me says the NPS may be turning to these electronic gadgets because they can produce a tangible return on investment (in rental dollars) where as people interpreters cost too much money to maintain (income, housing, etc) and produce a result which is hard to measure.

  • Padre Island Interpretive Program Simply Succeeds   6 years 30 weeks ago

    Yeah. What Beamis said.

    And I don't see what is so extraordinary about the interaction bewteen the ranger and the little boy in the video. Other than that the visitor center was staffed enough that the ranger had enough free time to give this one boy. If the opportunity allows, park rangers are having exchanges like this one with park visitors everyday. And Gasp! some of those rangers are even gun toters!

    On that note, comparing this videotaped interaction with internet based interpretation is like comparing a Granny Smith to a MacIntosh. Ya know, one's best raw the other makes excellent pies. That's why the stores sell both of them.

  • Dry Conditions Blamed For Bear Problems in Grand Teton, Yosemite   6 years 30 weeks ago

    [b]I would like to know about what may have happened to the missing hiker in Wrangell-St. Elias National Preserve.They say they found his gear near the airstrip where he was to be picked up, & some footprints that possibly are his near the Russell Glacier. Can anyone tell me if there are a lot of bears around there, & what type of terrain it is. It seemed foolish to me to hike alone at this time of year for multiple days even if you are expierienced.Can someone clue me in on this territory & wildlife? I live in Ga. & our mountains are anthills compared to out west. Thanks!! Also, great website!! Blatz_rox

  • Judge Orders Cross Removed from Mojave National Preserve   6 years 30 weeks ago

    Have we forgotten that this country was founded on christianity? God has always been a big part of our country.I`m offended by those who are trying to take God out of our country.The worst thing we can do is allow these people to remove religion from our government. I feel very sorry for our young people in this country.I would hate to see what our politions would be like if they didn`t feel they had God to answer to.

  • Vietnam Veterans Memorial Vandalized   6 years 30 weeks ago

    These are the same kind of young adults that knock over grave stones,spray paint on private property,hurt animals,and steal from our elderly. When they catch them,they need to be put to work cleaning up instead of putting them in jail. Just think of how clean our towns would be if the judges made people like this work to clean up their towns instead of putting them in jail and making us feed and room them. Maybe it`ll give them a sense of pride,and it might make them think twice about messing up something if they are the ones who have to clean it up.

  • Padre Island Interpretive Program Simply Succeeds   6 years 30 weeks ago

    The problem is that Interpretation is too top heavy with management and doesn't reward the truly good front line practitioners who have the most impact on the visiting public. The successful interpretive career path in the NPS usually means NOT doing interpretation, but instead getting involved in publications, supervision or training. People who are really effective interpreters are not encouraged to remain as such due to the lack of career advancement. In fact, I've met supervisors who deem going out and giving a program or working a shift at the information desk to be beneath the advanced stage that they have achieved in their GS pay level.

    At one park, that I am intimately familiar with, they are always screaming poverty and cutting back on activities and programs but have two highly paid managers, a GS-14 and GS-13 (Chief and Asst. Chief of Interpretation), who do NO interpretation whatsoever, while the lion's share of the budget goes to pay their bloated salaries. They also have below them lead supervisory rangers who also do NO interpretation and are quite proud of the fact that they don't. In fact, one of these managers, was quoted as saying that they didn't want to supervise an employee who was still doing interpretation, because it was beneath their status as an upper manager. After all it just wouldn't look good on their SF-171.

    Just like in the teaching profession, until front line interpreters are given the respect, pay and opportunity for advancement by being encouraged to do what they do best, park naturalists will continue to take the only safe career path of upward mobility which is away from what they love best. The parks definitely suffer as a consequence.

    The NPS pays lip service to interpretive excellence but is not set up to actually make it a reality.

  • Off the Wall: Death in Yosemite   6 years 30 weeks ago

    I've met Butch and hiked with him on the Mist Trail last spring. He's a great low-key guy. The book is huge....nearly 600 pages and with no photos. A kind of War and Peace read. I use it for reference. For example, turns out the man who fell off the Half Dome cables in June was the first and only hiker to die while using the cables when they were up for summer hiking. First since 1919 when they were erected. (He reportedly had on tennis shoes and an oversized backpack.) I also learned in the book that no one has ever been killed by a bear in the history of the park - since 1851. Grizzley or black bear! The only death from wildlife was a 7 yr old boy who was gored by a male deer.


  • How Would YOU Fix the Statue of Liberty?   6 years 30 weeks ago

    Hi Nancy...
    In fact, I think the model for the historic lantern tour at Jewel Cave would work well here. Reservations a must. Sign on the dotted line. Narrow passages and steep climbs, claustrophobics -- you've been warned. Kids must be able to walk it all on their own (no carried kids).


  • How Would YOU Fix the Statue of Liberty?   6 years 30 weeks ago

    I am very fortunate to have made the climb to the top- twice- once before she was refurbished and I think I still have a jacket with the rust stains to prove it! and again, once she was refurbished. I have also visited every one of the 391 park units in the US park system, so I draw on some experience. The statue is history, art and a symbol. She should not be defaced or deformed in order to accomodate "new" one size fits all ideas. She does not fit all and not everyone will be able to climb the arduous climb, and not everyone will be fortunate enough to be accepted for the climb and not everyone will want the claustrophobic experience with the lack of safety factors considered. I think she should be open to those who want the experience, but limited to the numbers per day the park service feels can safely do it. I also feel that persons who have health problems, or are too young ( probably under 12) should not be allowed to attempt this. I think the park service should be able to come up with a release of liability for anyone who does attempt this. That should cover the slowness to evacuate in times of crisis or problems. I think a simple reservation system should work- those who really want the experience can plan way ahead in order to find an open slot. They would have to sign the appropriate release form. They already have to plan ahead for ferry tickets or brave a very long line. They already have to clear security screening and they already have to check all bags, purses, backpacks, etc before just attaining the pedestal. What does one more thing they would have to do in order to experience this represent? Nothing. Before you jump at me for discrimating against children, let me point out they can experience all the wonder of the statue from the pedestal level to which they can now go. To go to the crown simply provides a more sublime experience (which is totally lost on young children ) and a little better view than the lower one- Older children might be able to much more appreciate the experience. This is not designed for families because it is arduous and stuffy and tight quarters in which you couldn't carry a child unable to climb it on their own. It is now and should remain one of those inaccesssilbe places. Again, I point out that the experience of visiting the lady can be now done to the pedestal level via elevator. To deface a work of art to comply to accessible rules would be a shame- I would rather she remain off limits to everyone.
    And before I hear from the disabled, let me point out that due to a badly broken foot, I have now joined your ranks and would not be a candidate for the climb if she would be again opened to public visitation to the crown.. As to groups, the number of visitations per day would be too small to accomodate groups other than small families- remember not all your children can / should be doing this!

  • Amusing Looking Sign on Blue Ridge Parkway   6 years 30 weeks ago

    This one is in Idaho Fall, ID:

    or (same image)

  • Vietnam Veterans Memorial Vandalized   6 years 30 weeks ago

    Merryman, I have seen most of this pathetic action that you relate so well. In some of the parks that I did managed, I've seen mean sick kids (and parents) breaking glass and hiding the broken pieces in playground sand pits. Teenages breaking beer bottles on public beachs, and obviously (if your in bare feet) you can figure what happens next. Always a first aid kit at hand and tweezers. I can still hear the screams of pain!

  • Arches and Canyonlands In the Fall: Rock Architecture and Dwindling Crowds   6 years 30 weeks ago

    You are absolutely right in praising Arches and Canyonlands NP. They are spectacular places. And you are so right in recommending a tour to the fiery furnace in Arches NP. I was there some years ago and told everyone who traveled the region not to miss either the parks nor this specific area.

    Unfortunately you did not mention, that these ranger led tours now come for a fee of $10 per adult. And even if you walk into the fiery furnace area without a guide on a short or day hike they want a special backcountry fee.

    And regarding the season: Fall probably is a wonderful time of the year, but I can really recommend mid May for the same region. The temperatures are moderate and the scenery is a bit greener. Last not least, the La Sal Mountains are still snow capped and the contrast between the bizarre stone formations and the desert in the foreground against the white peaked mountains in the background looks great in any pictures made in eastern direction.

  • Padre Island Interpretive Program Simply Succeeds   6 years 30 weeks ago

    Thanks very much for adding that video. It demonstrates exactly my thoughts regarding this article. For all the talk about "reaching out to the iPod generation", I think something very important is being missed. People want to talk with people, they want to connect with someone at the park, kids included. There are lessons to be learned in that short video.

  • Arches and Canyonlands In the Fall: Rock Architecture and Dwindling Crowds   6 years 30 weeks ago

    There are 10 BLM campgrounds along Highway 128, the Colorado River Road, just north of Moab. We stayed at Goose Island just over a year ago and really like the quiet. And it was a very short drive to Arches. There was no water available, but then I wasn't paying the price for a luxury lodge!

  • Padre Island Interpretive Program Simply Succeeds   6 years 30 weeks ago

    I'd like to see anyone replace this ranger or this kid's experience with an ipod...

  • Is There Any Better Time to Visit Yellowstone and Grand Teton Than Fall?   6 years 30 weeks ago

    Yellowstone has got to be one of the most picturesque parks in the world. It has so much variety to offer any type of traveler. Definitely a number one place to visit. Great article. Enjoyable reading.

    William Masek

  • Vietnam Veterans Memorial Vandalized   6 years 30 weeks ago

    Walked by the Memorial today with my daughter. Didn't see the evidence -- perhaps they've cleaned it up already.

    However, it doesn't surprise me a bit. There are so many morons packed into this little world of ours. Every park in the country has something equivalent or worse than this act. People feeding or abusing wildlife, taking a dump on Mammoth Hot Springs (my favorite memory from this summer's trips), tossing trash from their moving vehicles, carving their initials on 2000-year-old trees, burning their names onto cave ceilings, or even worse -- burning down entire historic structures. When I worked at Grand Canyon someone dumped a garbage bag with three sheepdog puppies on the side of the road. Humans are capable of so much, yet disappoint us more often than not. We're a flawed species, to be sure.

  • How Would YOU Fix the Statue of Liberty?   6 years 30 weeks ago

    I think it is still under, take it down, send it back to France for the fix

  • Vietnam Veterans Memorial Vandalized   6 years 31 weeks ago

    This in inexorably sad.

  • How Would YOU Fix the Statue of Liberty?   6 years 31 weeks ago

    Yes, we are the best "dam" country. So many dams on our rivers...

    On a related note to the story, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. The statue isn't the problem; the problem is too many visitors.

  • Vietnam Veterans Memorial Vandalized   6 years 31 weeks ago

    I guess I really don't understand what would motivate someone to do this. It's an odd act of vandalism.

    The beauty of the Vietnam war memorial is that it touches deeply to the core of every visitor, regardless of their political affiliation or their feelings about the war. I've seen stanch supporters of the Vietnam war weep at the bold listing of each name and I've seen Vietnam protestors weep at the austerity and anguish the wall represents.

    It seems to me a grave unfortunate act of vandalism and I hope for future generations (and for the sake of those the memorial honors and their families) that the Park Service can find the means of mitigating the damage.

  • Hidden Hall of Records at Mount Rushmore   6 years 31 weeks ago

    When I first visited Mt. Rushmore in 1975, the video shown to visitors at the park included a segment about the "Hall of Records" and the original intent of its creator, Gutzon Borglum. As I recall (now more than 30 years later), Gutzon wanted to make this a grand and glorious hall housing all of the original key documents of this country (i.e., the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, the U.S. Constitution) where people could view them.

    Some 20 years later, when I visited Mt. Rushmore with my family, I was surprised to see that the National Park Service had removed the segment of the video talking about the "Hall of Records".

    I'm certain that the new movie, National Treasure, will stir up renewed interest in the hall and its creator.

    JP - Thousand Oaks, CA