Recent comments

  • Key Concessions Contracts Up At Yosemite National Park, Along Blue Ridge Parkway   2 weeks 5 hours ago

    Agreed, Zebulon. (The parallel to the parks is indeed getting a bit obscure here. But fortunately, there are plenty of state universities that provide much better educations at a far lower cost than their private counterparts.--Not sure how that situation translates analogously to the parks.)

  • Key Concessions Contracts Up At Yosemite National Park, Along Blue Ridge Parkway   2 weeks 5 hours ago

    Complaining about the cost of Yosemite accomodations is a bit ironic, when a few months ago, we had an article on the NPT complaining about the overcrowding of Yosemite. :) Apparently, campsites get all booked in a matter of days, it not hours (I would not know, I can't stand camping). The Ahwanee is exhorbitantly priced, but then again, there's only one, and they don't seem to have any issue selling out. For fun, I just tried to make a reservation. Well, there's a room available this w-e and then there are only 3 nights (on separate days) available for all of August.

    The above is telling me that the Awhanee could probably charge even more, and that camping is totally underpriced based on current demand.

    Frankly, I'd rather see the parks charge prices that reflect the seasonal demand. Use the extra funds to take care of the maintenance backlog.

    As for the cost of higher education, I agree that this has become completely ridiculous. If we start pricing the middle class out of the one great equalizer in our society, we're in for a lot of trouble, but this is no longer about the parks. :)

  • Key Concessions Contracts Up At Yosemite National Park, Along Blue Ridge Parkway   2 weeks 5 hours ago

    I have never seen the football program fund a history position

    And I have never seen a history department fund the football team. So what. Your initial suggestion was that the football coach was getting paid so much money and drawing it away from educational expenditures. The fact is, its not. It is self funded and funds many other sports activities as well. If you have a lousy coach because you don't pay him enough, you won't fund those other activities and the football program may be a drain rather than a contributor.

    The day when the football program starts funding any faculty position is the day when I will sit down and shut up.

    Then you should be silent. How many of your history students that DO pay for the history department come to your school, at least partially, because it has a strong football team. The number isn't zero.

  • Key Concessions Contracts Up At Yosemite National Park, Along Blue Ridge Parkway   2 weeks 6 hours ago

    A very good dialogue, but I think we have exhausted it. Oh, heck, why shouldn't I get the last word? Yes, the university football program is a net contributor--to itself and other sports. I have never seen the football program fund a history position, or for that matter someone in the medical school right across the street. The day when the football program starts funding any faculty position is the day when I will sit down and shut up. Then it will indeed be a net contributor to the university instead of the monopoly it is now. Finally, I like the foreign kids in our national parks--always have and always will. I just don't like the assertion that American kids are substandard hires because they need to return to school. That is where they should be--and the foreign kids, as well, if not at a university then in a first-class trade school that will teach them productive lifetime skills.

  • Key Concessions Contracts Up At Yosemite National Park, Along Blue Ridge Parkway   2 weeks 8 hours ago

    their "slave labor" status

    M13- Please report the names of these people to the Justice department. I am sure they would like to know that people are being forced to work against their will.

    Kind of interesting the complaints here about aliens that have come into the country legally through our visa system. I'd wager many of those complaining are giddy over our open borders and potential amnesty for criminal aliens.

  • Key Concessions Contracts Up At Yosemite National Park, Along Blue Ridge Parkway   2 weeks 8 hours ago

    How do 18,000 administrators "improve" higher education at the University of Washington.

    Never said they improve education. I just made the point that if the money isn't coming out of the students' pockets, they have no incentive to resist rising costs. Its that indifference that lets this public entity pad its payroll and bloat its bureaucracy. The removal of market forces is precisely what is causing the balooning cost. Its the same factor that will doom Obamacare.

    BTW - The football program - even after paying the coach - is a net contributor.

  • Key Concessions Contracts Up At Yosemite National Park, Along Blue Ridge Parkway   2 weeks 8 hours ago

    When I worked for Xanterra in 2003 at Yellowstone, my roomate was a university student from Bulgaria. The internationals that work for Xanterra in Yellowstone(there were over 500 from 27 countries in 2013) are students with J-1 or F-1 visas.

    The Girl Scout camp I worked at one summer during college also used one of these J-1 visa companies to hire international staff. About 20% of the staff that summer(1992) were from half a dozen foreign countries.

    http://www.yellowstonejobs.com/international-j-1-visas-7591.html

    http://www.yellowstonejobs.com/UserFiles/October%20Grizzly%20Gazette.pdf

  • Key Concessions Contracts Up At Yosemite National Park, Along Blue Ridge Parkway   2 weeks 8 hours ago

    Dr. Runte,

    Your point about the rising costs for a basic university education creating

    sizeable student loan debts is well taken since "student debtors' prison" prevents

    many young couples from qualifying for a house mortgage, not to mention a

    family visit to a national park especially those where the NPS has allowed Xanterra

    to upscale the entire experience for the "high end" earners. When we use to visit

    Crater Lake Lodge with an elderhostel group, lodge management became furious

    that these elders dare sit inside the Great Hall (out of the cold wind) with their box

    lunches. Many of these elders could easily afford the high priced dining room, but

    they had learned frugality long ago and managed their assets well to avoid debt.

    At times, one even had to bring their own toilet paper for use in the Lodge public

    restrooms because Xanterra maintenance was poor at best. The young people

    serving guests in the dining room often are from other countries and just beginning to

    understand American Cultures, so they would not dare provide any negative input about

    Xanterra in their "slave labor" status. The original Crater Lake Lodge with all its

    maintenance issues did weather 75 winters with little maintenance, but was far

    more affordable for families. So, by rebuilding the Lodge, the historians who

    "saved the lodge" from upper NPS management (NPS decided to remove it in 1989)

    allowed the "high end" to gain entry vs the middle class. Rebuilding was accomplished

    through Oregon's Senior Senator Mark Hatfield. So, when the Pacific Crest Trail Hikers

    arrive this month from their trek beginning near the Mexican border, some lodge guests

    perceive these visitors arriving on foot to be "homeless tramps" invading their "Private

    Reserve." Again, on the issues of rising university expenses driving

    student debt burden, one University of Idaho Administration priority is focused on

    spending a few million dollars from the University Foundation to rebuild a mansion

    for the next University President who will probably be treated like royality with little

    effective concern about rising student debt. So, the future dwindling middle class

    families will not be able to afford visits to national parks, and given their children focused

    on digital devices indoors will not be learning and discovering the Beauty of the Creation

    found in the parks' forests and wildlife.

  • Key Concessions Contracts Up At Yosemite National Park, Along Blue Ridge Parkway   2 weeks 8 hours ago

    I talked with some young ladies from Russia, Korea(?), and Ukraine(?) in Yellowstone a couple of years ago. There are some companies in those countries that work like temp hiring companies in the U.S. Those companies make travel arrangements, obtain visas and whatever else is needed to get them over here. I didn't ask who pays for that.

    Companies of various kinds in the U.S. then may contract for employees through them. The McDonalds in West Yellowstain was almost completely staffed by Russians. Canyon's snack bar was full of Koreans (Asians of some sort, if not Korean). Every one I talked to was thrilled to be here. It was the experience of a lifetime for them. All had been learning English since they started primary school, and now they had a chance to actually use it and to experience the nation everyone in the world looks to as either the Greatest Place or the Greatest Satan depending . . . .

    One store owner in West commented that these foreign kids are "not as particular as Americans" and so don't expect wages or working conditions to be as good as their American counterparts have come to expect. (Translated into English that means: "We can work these kids six days a week at minimum wage, charge them a bundle for board and room, and the won't complain -- at least not very loudly.)

    But another thing that struck me was the fact that these young kids, who apparently were having some mighty good experiences among us, were going to go home in the fall. What kind of stories would they tell friends, family and neighbors? Is this international exchange an opportunity to develop some good friends who might be willing to try to stand with us when we need it some day in the future? Or will they realize that they have been used as cheap labor and have simply been taken as suckers?

    Is this another aspect of the Great American Entitlement Mentaility at work? Are employers entitled to use and abuse their workers, regardless of where they may have come from? Are we not only cheating American young people, but perhaps risking loss of a chance to make friends from abroad?

  • Key Concessions Contracts Up At Yosemite National Park, Along Blue Ridge Parkway   2 weeks 9 hours ago

    Okay, EC. Then tell me this. How do 18,000 administrators "improve" higher education at the University of Washington. That is 400 for every 1,000 students. At that ratio, the students should be taking a cruise. The increasing cost of higher education is explained by those bureaucrats--all of whom draw above $50,000 a year. The highest paid, our new football coach, makes $6.5 million a year. The university protests that is the "market price" for football coaches, then makes the faculty 37 percent part-time. Part-time faculty and full-time salary pigs explain the demise of higher education in the United States. Scholarships? Yes, we have them, but they pay barely 20 percent of the costs. Who gets the full-time scholarships? Of course, the football players. Another market-driven cost, as we say. I know young people and I know universities, and I know how many students are struggling just to get by. I struggled some in the 1960s, but not like these kids have to struggle if one of their parents has died.

    Rick brings up another good point. The concessionaires are increasly hiring abroad. Why? Because the park seasons have lengthened into shoulder seasons that summertime vacations can no longer supply. Often when the job holder is needed most, he or she needs to return to college. More than one lodge manager has asked me not to "recommend" a student unless that student can drop out for at least six months. Some do, taking six or seven years to finish college, when most of us easily finished in the standard four.

    It's a mess, and the mess could easily be solved, again, if we would stop arguing that everything must serve "the market." I love it when Bill Gates says we need better college graduates, then asks to hire what he needs abroad. Get a good education and go to the back of the line. Why? Because he wants to pay his employees less. It's a scam, and we need to end it. Now, where were we on the national parks?

  • Key Concessions Contracts Up At Yosemite National Park, Along Blue Ridge Parkway   2 weeks 9 hours ago

    Dr. Runte--

    Have you noticed what I have in my last couple visits to parks? Many of the concession employees come from other countries. I am not sure how visas etc. are arranged by companies such as Delaware North, but they must have a good friend at the State Department. It certainly is a lot different than when I worked. Most concession employees then were, as you point out, college students.

  • Key Concessions Contracts Up At Yosemite National Park, Along Blue Ridge Parkway   2 weeks 11 hours ago

    Why should the National Park Service "farm out" any of its mission to others, thereby escalating the going price?

    Because if they didn't, the price would likely escalate more. The private sector has consistently provided cheaper and higher quality services than the government.

    BTW - You do realize the reason that the cost of college has gone up is because many don't pay at all (scholarships) or get access to "cheap" loans which some now want to be totally forgiven. The further you remove the recipient of education from the funder - the more the demand - and price - will go up.

    Oh and while I could afford the suite, I much prefer the tent.

  • Key Concessions Contracts Up At Yosemite National Park, Along Blue Ridge Parkway   2 weeks 12 hours ago

    May I have the Rollaway?!! I think we all understand the problem, including EC. He's right that $20 by itself should not prohibit anyone from visiting the national parks. It's just that everything else keeps adding up, too. Here's another wrinkle in the story. Graduating college in 1969, I treated myself to six weeks in Grand Teton National Park. I would have stayed longer but my draft board had other ideas. . . The point is: I put myself entirely through college at a state university that cost no more than $500 a year, that is, for tuition, books, and fees. Adjusted for inflation, that is still but a fraction of what college students are paying today. How can they afford "gifting" themselves a trip to the national parks? They can't even afford to work there anymore, since the expense of getting there takes the biggest chunk of their summer income. Indeed, have you noticed that most of the people working in the national parks are year-round employees of the major companies, in Zion, for example, people with 10 years experience plus who live in neaby St. George, Hurricane, La Verkin, and other towns?

    The price of college, let alone the national parks, is changing the entire face of America. High-salaried bureaucrats forget what these institutions mean--should mean to the country. At the colleges where I used to teach, administrators now outnumber the faculty ten to one. It all starts with the argument that market forces should prevail. But just who is determining the market? Why should the National Park Service "farm out" any of its mission to others, thereby escalating the going price?

    It all adds up to a different face for our national parks, and perhaps not the face we want. I think we all want for the rest of America what we had as young people ourselves. In that case, there may need to be some pulling back from America's perennial argument that price should dictate the experience every time. So again, I'll take the Rollaway, provided EC buys the suite!

  • Key Concessions Contracts Up At Yosemite National Park, Along Blue Ridge Parkway   2 weeks 13 hours ago

    These are the current approved rates for the Ahwahnee:

    Featured Room Year Round $437.96

    Classic Room Year Round $412.95

    Standard Room Year Round $387.95

    Parlor Room Year Round $488.34

    Specialty Room Year Round $488.34

    http://concessions.nps.gov/docs/Prospectus/YOSE004-16/Appendix%20Files/Y...

    These are the rates for the Ahwahnee in a 2007 NPT article:

    Ahwahnee Rooms $426

    Ahwahnee Cottages $426

    Jr. Suite $499

    Suites $893

    Tresider Suite with Library Parlor $984

    Additional Adult in same room-per night $21

    Additional Rollaway in same room-per night $11

    http://www.nationalparkstraveler.com/2007/09/if-you-have-ask-price-ahwah...

    A LA Times article from April 2010 has Ahwahnee room rates thru Oct 2 of that year starting at $443. So it looks like between 2007 and 2010 prices rose 4% and between 2010 and 2014 prices rose roughly 10%.

  • Key Concessions Contracts Up At Yosemite National Park, Along Blue Ridge Parkway   2 weeks 14 hours ago

    It does seem to be a complex issue, Alfred Runte. I don't know how much park fees should be, or what precisely is un/affordable for whom. But I do appreciate the gist of your statement; the goal should be to make the parks as affordable as possible, especially given the additional costs, which go well beyond simply an entrance or campsite fee, such as travel to and from the parks, which are in so many cases in pretty remote locations.

    I'm not sure cost is what is limiting visitation, though. (Although you might very well be right.) Of the people I talk to who travel extensively, including to the national parks, most haven't heard of even half the national parks I've visited. And when I go into details about one of these parks--say, Lassen Volcanic, Congaree, or Isle Royale--they are pretty shocked they haven't heard of them. I think the parks are--somehow--wildly underpublicized.

  • Key Concessions Contracts Up At Yosemite National Park, Along Blue Ridge Parkway   2 weeks 14 hours ago

    ec, you really need to read the article.

    It's not about $20 campsites.

    But it is about $110 a night for a cruddy cabin and motel rooms run by a monopoly.

    And what made this country the greatest on earth was our willingness to work together, each helping to shoulder the burden despite the best efforts of those who felt entitled to snag all the profits they could from the hard work of others.

    Unfortunately, that still happens. Fortunately, there are still people willing to sweat to boost us all -- even boosting the leaches at the top of the heap who have figured out how to abuse the system for their exclusive benefit.

    If parks and public lands are supposed to be free of cost, shouldn't the motels and hotels and tent cabins be free, too?

  • Key Concessions Contracts Up At Yosemite National Park, Along Blue Ridge Parkway   2 weeks 14 hours ago

    I will repeat. $20 for a campsite is hardly pricing someone out of the market.

  • Key Concessions Contracts Up At Yosemite National Park, Along Blue Ridge Parkway   2 weeks 15 hours ago

    Kurt is right about how we got luxury accommodations in the parks. A century ago, only the rich could afford to see the West; a railroad ticket was the equivalent of an upscale cruise today. Thus in 1915 only 51,000 people came to Yellowstone, 44,000 of those having come by rail.

    What concerns me is entirely different. In 1959 my mother spent $600 taking my brother and me across the country. That would probably be $5,000 today. Her income was $222 a month from Social Securty (survivor's benefits), my father having died the previous year. She had a ninth grade education (Depression interrupted) and obviously needed to go back to school. But what if she hadn't made that trip? Every day, the Park Service rings its hands about minority participation in the national park idea. Practically nothing else these days is said. Well, we were that minority back in 1959, unless only color makes for minorities. You want minorities to visit the national parks? Then don't price them out of the experience. It is not will preventing them from visiting; it is price. Mom made the sacrifice, and even then it was a sacrifice. Fortunately, the campgrounds were dirt cheap or free, and still first-come, first served. There was no reservations bureaucracy standing between us and a cheap campsite. Now there usually is.

    Look at the "campgrounds" and look at the "campers." Yeah, right! Even the backpackers start off at REI. It all makes for a "vision" of the parks that is offputting to poorer people, but you will never hear our Park Service saying that. Mom felt at home among the Chevy and Ford station wagons. Many of those campers were poorer, too. Granted, it was a different age, but that itself is what we should be looking at. The Park Service repeatedly spits out reports about "inclusiveness," then ignores the fundamental cause of the lack of inclusiveness, which still is price.

    As for the higher end, I still think that a night in a lodge is a treat every American should get to enjoy. And again, the parking lot should not be filled just with luxury SUVs. A few aging Fords and Chevies should be welcome, as well. We never got that treat in 1959, but the more I learned about the architects and their principles, the more I feel the lodges and luxury hotels belong in the parks, as well. Just don't get greedy about the price, which seems to keep going up at ten percent a year while middle-class salaries stagnate, again, forcing the general public out.

    I have lots of wealthy friends and know lots of wealthy people. God bless them for their success. Most earned it and did not inherit it. Well, some of us march to a different drummer, and still the biggest drumbeat is the middle class. Price them out the parks and the poor will never come. And isn't that the problem we now face all across the land?

  • Musings From Timpanogos Cave National Monument: To Fee or Not to Fee, That Is The Question   2 weeks 18 hours ago

    There is NO charge for watching a sunset, sitting in silence, or enjoying birdsongs. But there are times when the people doing such things have had to use trails provided for them, have used roads to drive to the trailheads, and have used a potty located at that trailhead.

    Until the NPS starts erecting curtains to block the sunset unless you've paid your fees, sunsets will remain free for everyone to enjoy.

    Once again, a whole lot of complaining but no offering of any kind of solutions other than "I pay my taxes, therefore I am entitled," while simultaneously calling for tax cuts is kind of disengenuous isn't it?

    In our city, the water system is old and failing. When city fathers proposed a water rate increase to begin replacement, the uproar was deafening. That uproar is drowned out, however, any time a pipe fails causing property damage or a few days of no water for part of the city.

    That, along with the cries for free everything in our parks, is exactly what I'm talking about when I mention THE GREAT AMERICAN ENTITLEMENT MENTALITY.

    I volunteer. I pick up litter. I do a lot of other things without receiving any payment or recognition. I call that Good Citizenship. But none of those things entitle me to any kind of special treatment or freebies.

    One question: How much does it cost the NPS to clean the place up after the firefly watcher have headed for home?

  • Musings From Timpanogos Cave National Monument: To Fee or Not to Fee, That Is The Question   2 weeks 1 day ago

    SmokiesBackpacker:

    Saying that FLREA allows the NPS to commit the violent crimes of rape and murder offends me. You think FLREA is garbage: fine. That is your opinion. Murder and rape have NOTHING to do with FLREA! Your comments trivialize these horrendous crimes.

  • Musings From Timpanogos Cave National Monument: To Fee or Not to Fee, That Is The Question   2 weeks 1 day ago

    Wow Rick, wrong on so many levels. 1) not giving advice, providing facts. 2) never attended a tea party event in my life. 3) learned my ethics long before working on Wall Street.

    Perhaps you would suggest people take their economic advice from someone that has been living on the public teat all their life.

  • Court Documents Allege Private Trails Cut Into Great Smoky Mountains National Park   2 weeks 1 day ago

    Here is a picture of a sign that currently sits at the intersection of Ace Gap and Beard Cane trails, where the private resort trail system begins. Does this look like an NPS sign?

    http://www.southernhighlanders.com/9_BlairGapTrailSignlittleun.JPG

  • Musings From Timpanogos Cave National Monument: To Fee or Not to Fee, That Is The Question   2 weeks 1 day ago

    I heard before they started managing the firefly event it was a free for all and was becoming, once again, a tragedy of the commons. They had to get a grip on managing that ever growing popular natural event or else the people would destroy what they were going there for. Imagine having 10,000 people all cluttered into a small narrow river valley trying to see that event during a week long period! So once again, your fight isn't against "tyrants" but against overpopulation. The park exists FOR THE fireflies, first and foremost. It's their most important habitat. In fact, if the park didn't exist, i'm willing to bet neither do these fireflies, since these sort of sycnhronous fireflies have been wiped out of most of TN because of development. This area would now be subdivisions and concrete and the forests these insects rely on would be paved over and just grass. The last great places to find these type of fireflies are in National Parks like the Smokies and Congaree, or in privately owned nature conservancies.

    1.00! Wow, playing a video game for 5 minutes at an arcade costs more than that.

  • Musings From Timpanogos Cave National Monument: To Fee or Not to Fee, That Is The Question   2 weeks 1 day ago

    There is NO charge for watching a sunset or hiking along a stream or sitting in silence. uuh, not yet Lee.

    I wonder, Lee, how many people 20 years ago would have said, "There is no charge for merely hiking on a trail." You enter a slippery slope when you decide which of God's wonders the NPS has the right to charge us for. You call it entitlement, I call it taxes. We pay them to the NPS to manage their budgets like everyone else. We now have to pay for the privilege of watching fireflies in the Smokies. You can call me entitled, but I volunteer for the National Park Service and pay taxes so I have earned a right to have an opinion that differs from a retired NPS employee that is supposed to be a public servant. Last time I checked, the NPS didn't create those fireflies but under FLREA perhaps they can find a way to charge us for using the government air the lightning bugs flew in on. By the way, here they call it a "parking fee". You wanna charge someone to use the bathroom, go ahead. Charge to visit a visitor center, the Oconaluftee utility bill is $1500 a month and they told the GSMA before they could donate that million dollar facility that they would also be responsible for that bill in perpetuity. Talk about looking a gift horse in the mouth, that is your NPS at work.

  • Preserving Natural Soundscapes In The National Parks   2 weeks 1 day ago

    Excellent article, Carli. Thanks.