Recent comments

  • St Louis Wants to Develop Land under Gateway Arch   6 years 31 weeks ago

    The whole don't build in a flood plain argument doesn't hold water. If humans didn't build where floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, volcanoes, earthquakes, tsunamis, forest fires, drought, and other natural disasters occur, then humans wouldn't be able to build or live virtually anywhere on the planet. People are attracted to water, and it's not really others' business to say, "Tsk, tsk. All you people should move." It's just another red herring to divert from the real issue: Local people should have local control of their resources.

    Oh, and by the way, the feds already built a parking garage and an UNDERGROUND museum at the arch. Talk about waiting for a bailout from a flood...

  • St Louis Wants to Develop Land under Gateway Arch   6 years 31 weeks ago

    Of course, East St. Louis is in Illinois, and there is a vested interest from the East St. Louis perspective in having the Arch area not be cluttered; it's an amazing view across the river. However, East St. Louis is one of the most depressed cities in the entire country - just an utter mess, and the view from the Arch toward East St. Louis already offers a view into the sadness of life in that poor, dismal town. An East St. Louis rep may have been the one who introduced the legislation, but the town across the river from the Arch hasn't received any of the benefit.

    I don't really have an opinion on this matter. When I'm there, I get all kinds of negative feelings - from seeing the courthouse where the Dred Scott decision was made to the underground museum of westward expansion. The official name of the Arch park is a symbol of an imperialism that makes me sick. I can see something symbolic in removing the Arch from the national parks system; if it were framed as a step in renouncing the romanticism of westward expansion and genocide (the museum does a halfway decent job of telling that story - but only as much as a government museum telling its own malicious misadventure can), then it would be completely worthwhile.

    For me, I like to visit the Arch in the way I like to visit graveyards - they are vivid reminders of all the sorrow in our world, allowing us to remember and re-connect with past people. It's why I like to go to the Battle of Little Bighorn, Antietam, or Gettysburg. The Arch, whether locally controlled or nationally controlled, for me is a very sad place - whether it's seeing East St. Louis and being reminded of poverty and racism in our society, turning west and seeing the courthouse of the Dred Scott decision and being reminded of how the rule of law can be used to support great injustice, or looking further west with all the mixed feelings of beauty and wonder mixed with expansion and genocide. Our national park system will always be based on ill gotten gains. It is perhaps most appropriate that the Arch is in that system, and perhaps most appropriate that it is a prime candidate to leave that system.

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

  • St Louis Wants to Develop Land under Gateway Arch   6 years 31 weeks ago

    I was born and raised in St. Louis and I think the Arch should stay just the way it is. It is close to Union station , the Law library and City Hall, and Laclead's Landing. If Senator Danforth wants to develope something then he can spend money on Laclead's Landing. What Sentor Danforth has forgotten the property the Arch sits on has repeatly flooded over the years. As a child I remember them closing the Arch so they could pump water out of it's legs. It belongs to the NPS and should stay that way. The City of St. Louis local government has been known in the past for not spending their money prudently what a waste if the Arch was to fall in disrepare. As far as an aquariam is concerned it should be placed in Forrest Park where the Zoo, Science Museum, and Art Museum are. There is still plenty of space in and around Forrest Park.

  • St Louis Wants to Develop Land under Gateway Arch   6 years 31 weeks ago

    And then 5 years from now after a week of rain somewhere upstream they'll claim it's a federal disaster area and beg for emergency relief dollars to bail out the karaoke bars, souvenir shops, parking garages, and Hooter-Rock Cafe restaurant chains... no thanks.

  • St Louis Wants to Develop Land under Gateway Arch   6 years 31 weeks ago

    So I say let St. Louis have its own case of amnesia and build a NickDonald's in a floodplain if that's what it wants. It is really not something of vital national interest that calls for the meddlers in DC to decide upon.

    The land should never have been taken by the Feds in the first place. I've been there and agree, something a little more developed than what they currently have would be a boon for the area and the citizens of St. Louis.

    The St. Louis Arch is a well known unit for NPS employees to get there first crack at a permanent job and, hopefully, find work at better park and leave after less than a year. This is a tourist attraction that could easily be run by a multiplicity of other entities, take your pick, rather than the Dept. of Interior. Currently it is nothing more than an NPS career turnstile.

  • St Louis Wants to Develop Land under Gateway Arch   6 years 31 weeks ago

    Great, another NickDonald's... haven't we learned over and over and over what happens when you build in the floodplain? Collective amnesia at its finest.

  • St Louis Wants to Develop Land under Gateway Arch   6 years 31 weeks ago

    I think it is a great idea. I lived in St. Louis for 7 years up until July and I went to the Arch once. I would love to see better use of the area and have it more accessible from downtown. The Arch is cool, but it is a one time deal for most people. To develop that area with other things in additon to the Arch would be awesome in my opinion and would draw people down there once and bring them back again. An aquarium in St. Louis would be an amazing addition to the city and would be such a great use of the river front. I have always thought St. Louis never made very good use out of the river front anywhere and it is about time they do. Laclede's Landing is nothing but a party zone and provides places for drinking and gambling, it does not provide any entertainment for families.

  • St Louis Wants to Develop Land under Gateway Arch   6 years 31 weeks ago

    And before anyone jumps on me for that last statement, consider the following from the Administrative History of JEFF:

    March 15, 1983 Rep. Melvin Price introduces a bill to authorize the Secretary of the Interior to enlarge JEFF. The NPS opposes the bill due to a perceived "lack of national significance" and high costs.

    And who was Rep. Melvin Price? He was a Congressional representative, you may have guessed, from East Saint Louis.

    Pork, I tell you, pork. The expansion of JEFF is yet another example of an elected representative sending pork home so he can get re-elected.

  • St Louis Wants to Develop Land under Gateway Arch   6 years 31 weeks ago

    Reading this post reminded me of something my mentor, Gary Hathaway, wrote upon leaving his less-than-fulfilling job at JEFF: "Happiness is seeing the Gateway Arch in your rearview mirror."

    Gateway Arch has become a symbol of St. Louis, and in my opinion, it should belong to the people of St. Louis; it's their city, and they are the ones who see it daily. Why should I--or anyone living thousands of miles away--presume to dictate what the citizens of St. Louis should or shouldn't do in their own city?

    The land in question (100 acres) was grabbed by the feds in 1984, decades after the arch's completion. This is another case of Washington overstepping its bounds and ignoring local needs out of some imagined sense of national significance.

  • St Louis Wants to Develop Land under Gateway Arch   6 years 31 weeks ago

    Just north of the Gateway Arch is Laclede's Landing. It's a former warehouse area of old distinctive brick buildings with some bars and restaurants but it is underutilized and would be the perfect area for more restaurants, an aquarium, etc. etc. Laclede's Landing is walking distance to the Gateway Arch and its museum. There's no reason to use land anywhere under the Gateway Arch.

  • Off the Wall: Death in Yosemite   6 years 31 weeks ago

    Excellent!
    I was there that night in 1959, when my buddy Lloyd Bradshaw wrecked in front of me at Bridelveil Falls Parking exit... t.

  • Centennial Projects: Mountain Biking in Big Bend National Park   6 years 31 weeks ago

    All ready there is 150+ miles of trails and 260+ miles of roads stuffed into 801,163 acres,
    and they are going to slash a brand new trail through the park!?!
    How is this preserving nature for future generations?

  • If You Have to Ask the Price, The Ahwahnee And Jenny Lake Lodge Are Probably Out of Reach   6 years 31 weeks ago

    I had the privelege (not the right) to spend about 30 days camping in the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone when I was about 12 years old. My dad and mom took me there (from Cheyenne, FE Warren AFB) and it was what I talk about over 50 years later to my grandchildren. I am also lucky enough to have some old black and white browney pictures to show them. I plan on returning to take them there.
    Please - Please - take care of "GODS COUNTRY"

  • Centennial Projects: Mountain Biking in Big Bend National Park   6 years 31 weeks ago

    I like Grand Canyon where some of the paved roads are closed to vehicular traffic in the high volume months but allow bikes to share the road with the occasional bus -- that's more akin to "safe, family-friendly biking" where sightseeing while riding is possible without a huge risk of killing yourself. I enjoy both the road and trail. I'd prefer to see USFS, BLM, and NRA lands be the focus for trail riding (plenty of scenery to go around) and keep the National Park bike trails on the paved, gravel, and dirt roads. "Providing for the enjoyment" of the public doesn't mean every type of enjoyment you can dream up. Perhaps places like the Blue Ridge Parkway could close to vehicular traffic one or two weekends during the year rather than attempt to add new trails. One of my most memorable park experiences was riding through Teddy Roosevelt National Park's Scenic Loop Drive on my bike -- on the paved road. People enjoy offroad vehicular travel too, but like I said, we don't need to accommodate every form of entertainment or recreation in the National Parks.

  • Centennial Projects: Mountain Biking in Big Bend National Park   6 years 31 weeks ago

    While I can't comment on what the Park Service has actually written regarding cutting new singletrack, trails 5 feet in width are far wider than most singletrack utilized by mountain bikers.

    As an avid backpacker and mountain biker, and as someone who has hundreds of hours under his belt building multi-use hiking and biking trails in and around Texas, it is more than possible to build a multi-use trail that would make far less impact than those referenced by this article, and would be quite sustainable. Whether or not the Park chooses to take advantage of that knowledge is the real issue.

    As for complaints about bike erosion, it can be an issue, but if trails are closed when they're wet (definitely possible in a park setting where the trail originates near Panther Junction), it becomes a relative non-factor if the trails were built properly. This does require proper planning and would fly in the face of many trails I've found in national parks that were built directly up a fall line, had an inslope cut, etc. Guadalupe Mountains National Park comes to mind here. Again, in my experience, horse trails have far more impact than mountain bike or hiking trails combined, and Big Bend already has a multitude of Equestrian trails.

    Not all mountain bike trails have to bomb directly down a steep slope, and a majority of mountain bikers in that region of Texas look for smooth sweeping narrow singletrack such as that found in Terlingua and Lajitas right outside the park (but on private land, hence the desire for public trails).

  • Centennial Projects: Mountain Biking in Big Bend National Park   6 years 31 weeks ago

    I disagree with the last two posters. Mountain biking can be a wonderful addition to other methods of self propelled travel in national parks.

    I did a 5 day "bike-packing" trip in Big Bend in Spring 2006. I biked the Old Ore Road and the Maverick Road carrying all my food and gear with me. Big Bend, like many desert areas, is a landscape that is very appropriate to mountain biking. And I expect that Bike-Packing activity will continue to increase. It's a wonderful way to travel in areas where water stops are few and far between. You guys shouldn't knock it until you've tried it.

    Mr. Williams is utterly wrong. Sometimes mountain biking IS the same as a "family pedaling their Schwins from view to view." Sure, there are mountain bikers who focus on technical challenges but the majority are no more than what I call "hikers on bikes" who just enjoy another method of self-propelled sight-seeing. Also he is wrong that mountain biking has done great damage to the resource. Mountian biking has done no more damage to the resource as any other form of travel such as hiking, camping, trout fishing, river running, or stock use. Certainly, I could make an argument that well-managed mountain biking is less damaging than these other uses.

    Also Anonymous II should know that tubing with "coolers of beer" is allowed in many National Parks, such as Yosemite, Zion, and Chattahoochee. The bottom line is this: Mountain biking is and will continue to be one of many different uses that visitors will expect the NPS to allow them to participate in. Choosing a location where the use is appropriate is what the Big Bend Supt is trying to do. Bravo to him.

  • If You Have to Ask the Price, The Ahwahnee And Jenny Lake Lodge Are Probably Out of Reach   6 years 31 weeks ago

    Let's be a little clear hear. In the parks where companies like Xanterra and Delaware North are running concessions, they are already to that extent privatized - regulated, in many cases monopolized (in Yellowstone, there is some competition for some services between those two concessions, for instance), but raked in by a corporation. When Mather and Albright ran the parks, their policy was to monopolize concessions to the greatest extent possible for a lot of reasons, too many to go into right now. What's interesting, though, is that this arrangement actually comes much closer to the true meaning of fascism than most of the popular uses. Mussolini himself defined fascism as corporatism, which by that he meant the melding together of government and corporate interests. While we see this to a much greater degree in the military industrial complex (coined by a conservative - Eisenhower), it's just as prevalent in the National Park System. Perhaps, that's why those ranger uniforms actually tend to give me the creeps (but maybe I just don't have that fetish).

    However, is the answer to open up competition, like say the competition that exists in the gateway communities outside of parks? On the one hand, I'm sure people don't want Jenny Lake to look anything at all like West Yellowstone or Jackson or Gatlinburg. (And guess what! Jenny Lake used to look like that! - which is in large part why Rockefeller and Albright worked in collusion to scam people out of their land in Jackson Hole and then give it eventually over to the Park Service). Competition for gas does make it cheaper outside of Yellowstone than inside (see http://www.yellowstone-notebook.com/news.html). I no doubt can find cheaper rooms and a wider variety outside of the park than inside of it. I may or may not be able to find a cheaper campground. Certainly, I can find cheaper food, better food, and a whole host of other amenities outside the park than inside. People I used to work with thought nothing of driving 70 miles to the K-Mart in Jackson because it was sometimes worth it to them to get things they needed.

    And, yet, I don't know that many people that wanted Grant Village to look anything like Jackson. If anything, people felt that these areas were already over-developed. No one expected life to be easier as a worker outside of the parks than inside of them.

    All of this would seem to argue not really toward opening up competition in the parks - there's an assumption that would lead to more construction (more buildings for more competing services, leading to more workers, leading to more infrastructure needed to support those workers). It would seem to argue for socializing the parks and having the government take over services with mandated price controls that are taxpayer subsidized. But, from fascism, we slip into a kind of socialism. Yet, if equitable, fair, affordable, while maintaining the other values that this conversation is so far missing (environmental integrity, unimpaired landscapes, something different from the gateway towns) is what you want, then how do you get it with the current concessions system? With this systme, profit will still be the main motive driving services, no matter the amount of regulation (since presumably, you need a reason to attract contractors and those who will take leases on concessions).

    Yet, in a country that's becoming increasingly centralized around the power of the federal government, where branches of government are threatening to use things like the Real ID, to control access to public lands, where the government is strapped for money in large part because of the rising costs of maintaining its global economic empire, the use of the government to control public lands is also quite dangerous and comes with peril. We see that repeatedly in the discussions around the parks, around public lands, around anything that the government has a stake in (roads and bridges come to mind).

    Thus, I think at most, a government takeover of amenities at parks where concessionaires control those things could never be an ideal or a permanent solution, only a better one than turning the parks into the gateway towns no one wants them to be. Or, worse, private fiefdoms that arise as the competition system fails - private communities, or exclusive towns. However, all of this again calls for seeing nothing but doom if we continue to view issues through the continuum of government control of property versus private control of property (and its various hybrids). If we don't escape that way of viewing things and challenge the fundamental premises, we won't have a way of dealing with the fouled up and lousy choices that are before us, choices that are only getting worse as we crumble under the weight of our economic and political system. Again, we are dealing at a grain size that is too fine for us to make a difference dependent on too many other considerations. Isn't that what ecosystem science has taught people? That, you can't simply tinker atomistically with complex systems? Yet, we think if we adjust the private v. public continuum like we adjust pH balances, that we can somehow find a happy equilibrium. Ummm...come on! Can't we see that neither the emperor nor the billionaire is actually wearing any clothes (and neither are we thanks to them!)

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

  • This Just In : Fort Hancock STILL a Mess   6 years 31 weeks ago

    Make a decision NPS -- are the buildings worth keeping or not? Privatization and for-profit means that someone somewhere is thinking the thought "is it more cost effective and/or profitable to just tear these buildings down and build anew than to follow historical guildelines and attempt to preserve these buildings?" At some point in the future, greed (or need) will outweigh the desire to maintain these buildings. And then not only has the line been crossed, it's been completely moved and new precedents have been set. Why is it that "business" has to drive the funding of our kids sports teams, our kids' education, national parks, and everything else that we hold dearly? When I have to pay three dollars for a Junior Ranger book at Park XYZ, I expect there NOT to be some company's name or logo on the inside cover of it. Somebody somewhere has a hand in both of my pockets, and I don't appreciate it.

  • This Just In : Fort Hancock STILL a Mess   6 years 31 weeks ago

    I repeat my thoughts on the Presidio of San Francisco: If you believe modern, commercial uses of large, multi-building areas are inconsistent with the purpose of a unit in the National Park system, then take them out of the System and give them to the BLM or create a new agency to manage federal property of this kind.

    But I can't believe anyone would prefer those areas to rot and and fall into decay. There simply is nothing better to do with a former army fort then development and bringing back life. Make sure that one building is set aside as a museum, ensure access of the public to beaches or other attractive places, but use the place. With modern sustainable purposes. If this is not the job of NPS, well give it to someone else.

  • If You Have to Ask the Price, The Ahwahnee And Jenny Lake Lodge Are Probably Out of Reach   6 years 31 weeks ago

    I have deep concerns about privatizing the amminites of the NPS. The next maybe a company from Spain gains the bid for these concessions. Then the 80% of the profits are not even invested in the US. Also once this profit making system is estiblished what next? Will they start to place private security forces in place of forest rangers. We're doing that to fight our wars. To me the land of the free and the home of the brave is forgetting it's first priority- the land! Perhaps it's beneith us, it's more important to deal with lease agrements.

  • If You Have to Ask the Price, The Ahwahnee And Jenny Lake Lodge Are Probably Out of Reach   6 years 31 weeks ago

    I do remember this kind of fiasco with the MCA Corporation. They actively and shewedly screwed the NPS with there Yosemite Concessions and made millions, while kicking in a measly 2% to the Parks coffers! MCA is gone, but talk about a sweetheart deal with back room corruption. This trend still continues till this day! I'm deeply set against any privatization in the National Parks..."give them an inch, they will take a foot"!

  • If You Have to Ask the Price, The Ahwahnee And Jenny Lake Lodge Are Probably Out of Reach   6 years 31 weeks ago

    But the repair is not to allow more competition to start crying out for more ammenities, more recreational use, more conferences, more day-use buses.

    My argument was not for competition to ask for more. My argument was that competition should be allowed. For instance, why should Xanterra be granted an exclusive contract at Crater Lake to operate the lodge, the lodge restaurant, the gift shop, the gift shop snack bar, Mazama campground, the campground store, the campground restaurant/giftshop, and the chalet-style cabins at the campground?

    The idea that fair market competition would lower prices in Yosemite or any other park is absolutely absurd.

    Maybe for lodging, maybe not. But if the campground store sells beer for over $10 a six-pack (which they did in '99 in the summer) and the Rim Village store (operated by another company) had to compete with a different company for customers, they might sell beer for $9 a six pack.


    The repair is for the NPS to get some friggin' teeth and clamp down on the concessions.

    This will never happen in a politicized system in which interest groups pressure government to keep the slop coming to the trough. There are too many parasites in the system, each clamoring for their share of the pie, that keep the NPS's teeth dull and brittle.

  • If You Have to Ask the Price, The Ahwahnee And Jenny Lake Lodge Are Probably Out of Reach   6 years 31 weeks ago

    I agree, Beamis. They are not.

  • If You Have to Ask the Price, The Ahwahnee And Jenny Lake Lodge Are Probably Out of Reach   6 years 31 weeks ago

    $25 entrance fees aren't exactly egalitarian.

  • If You Have to Ask the Price, The Ahwahnee And Jenny Lake Lodge Are Probably Out of Reach   6 years 31 weeks ago

    The idea that fair market competition would lower prices in Yosemite or any other park is absolutely absurd. Where in the rest of the world does that happen? Resort industries have a monopoly by their very presence in the valued place so prices only go up up up. Competition would increase prices, increase pressure on the resource and also increase the pressures on an already over-pressured NPS to submit to the "will of the market."

    Stephen Mather set up the (yes, very imperfect) concession system so that the NPS could regulate the costs and quality of the visitor ammenities in the park. It is certainly a system that needs repaired. But the repair is not to allow more competition to start crying out for more ammenities, more recreational use, more conferences, more day-use buses. The repair is for the NPS to get some friggin' teeth and clamp down on the concessions.

    The prices in the parks are obscene. Middle class families can't afford $100/night rooms. And lower class families are shut out entirely. What are we saying about the park experience when we shut the greater portion of our populace out of that experience? If the parks become only for the wealthy, they become private, elite parks and not parks for the people.

    Owen has done us a great service to send us this shameful review of the "best" places to stay. The Park Service should be embarrased.