Recent comments

  • Interior Officials Planning To Make It Easier for Mountain Bikers to Gain Backcountry Access in Parks   6 years 19 weeks ago

    Great thats just one more thing for hikers to think about; when some fool racing down a trail on his or her mountain bike runs you over comming around a corner; or over a rise. So much for a peaceful hike in the woods.

  • Woman Dies in Fall From Angel's Landing   6 years 19 weeks ago

    5 of us went on the AL trail several years ago. 1 stopped at the beginning of the "danger zone". 2 of us (including me) stopped at the next "landing" and 2 others did the entire trail. The key is common sense and knowing yourself. we laugh at each other now, but there was no "peer pressure" (age 29 then) from the others that day. Every person needs to decide for themselves. beautiful country from any viewpoint.

  • The Lost Arrow Spire Highline in Yosemite National Park is a Slackliner’s Dream and an Acrophobe’s Nightmare   6 years 19 weeks ago

    Interesting article, Bob, one that perhaps will raise a discussion about whether this a good practice/sport in the parks?

    The folks in Arches National Park have outlawed slacklining. I'm not exactly sure why off the top of my head, but it might have to do with protecting both an individual's safety as well as park resources.

    And while you note Dean Potter's slacklining in Yosemite, don't forget that he got in just a little bit of trouble for climbing Delicate Arch in Arches. He's not the best representative for the climbing industry.

  • Is Bush Administration Moving to Shuck Some Congressional Oversight on Public Lands Management?   6 years 19 weeks ago

    Rick, just like the bailout of corporate criminals on Wall Street and the clowns from Homeland Security who grope me every time I try to fly to Pittsburgh, you've gotta realize by now that centrally controlled government is the worst way to run anything.

    I mean ANYTHING!

  • Is Bush Administration Moving to Shuck Some Congressional Oversight on Public Lands Management?   6 years 19 weeks ago

    I hope everyone sees the pattern that is developing in the waning days of this Administration. The Interior Department proposes: changing gun regs in the parks; establishing new mountain biking regs for the parks; fast tracking 6 new management plans for BLM lands in Utah that will increase off road vehicle use and resources development in these areas; eliminating the requirement for USF&WS consultation on proposals that may impact endangered species; and ignoring Congressional action on mining around Grand Canyon. The Administration also ordered wildlife agencies to ignore global warming as a potential impact on endangered species, saying that no single cause could be isolated as causing direct or indirect impacts. These agencies were also told to ignore the cumulative effects of climate change because they are of no relevance in determing whether the proposed action has an effect on a listed species or critical habitat.

    They are trying to accomplish through regulatory change that which they could not accomplish legislatively. It's not a pretty picture.

    Rick Smith

  • First Ladies National Historic Site Struggles to Attract Visitors   6 years 20 weeks ago

    This is a great discussion. I agree, that cost per visitor is not a valid measure of the value of a park or its costs. Somethings are worth protecting, not at any cost, but at a reasonable cost for effective preservation and management. I mention the cost of Isle Royale per visitor because it is a direct analogy to the original story of the cost of managing First Ladies. I would support taking the $1 million from First Ladies, de-authorizing, the site and giving the money to Isle Royale even if that did increase the cost per visitor there!

    The point is, the funding of the national parks make no sense at all. Current park budgets are a hodge podge history of add ons, boosts, and additions over time that only go up and never go down. Even with declining visitation at places like Carlsbad Cavers or Grant's Tomb, you will not see a park's budget decrease and the money allocated to a park with growing visitation, added lands, or new challenges. This is unique among all federal agencies: no other agency is funded by Congress from the bottom up. National Forests, wildlife refuges, even military bases, are not funded by line-item allocations from Congress. This means that inefficiencies and the ineffective expenditures of budgets will continue because the central office of the NPS has no ability to analyze needs across the national park system and allocate funding accordingly to meet those needs and emerging challenges. In my opinion, advocating for a change to the budget system is the single most powerful thing the Director and the Secretary of the Interior could do to improve the national parks. True, more money is needed, but we could be doing a lot more with the current budget put in the right places.

  • Yorktown Day – Our Country's "Other Birthday"   6 years 20 weeks ago


    Thanks for a great article about this event. I wish I could attend this year, but sadly have prior commitments.

    Yorktown and the "Historic Triangle" areas including Jamestown and Williamsburg are a must-see if your ever in that part of Virginia. The area is rife with Colonial history and period structures, as well as National Battlefields and parks from both the Revolutionary and Civil Wars.

    I've been on the Godspeed several times, as she makes fairly regular visits to assorted events in the area throughout the year. It's quite a sight to behold, and all the hands on deck actually sail her to and from the various locations. Said crew members are also more than glad to show you below decks, as well as answer any questions as to vessel design and operation. Built as part of the Jamestown 400th anniversary celebration, she sailed as far as Boston harbor on an East Coast tour beginning in 2006. May she continue to ply the seas for many years to come!

    Many of the Colonial-era reenactments can be seen during other times of the year at the Colonial Williamsburg Historic Area, for
    those who cannot make the Yorktown event.

  • Musings from Yosemite National Park   6 years 20 weeks ago

    Mr. Repanshek provided a fair and unbiased account of Yosemite. The park is so huge and diverse (ranging from a few thousand feet in elevation to over 13,000 feet) that it would be difficult to mention in detail Hetch Hetchy, sequoia groves, wilderness, and the biological diversity in every article.

    Many thanks to Mr. Repanshek for this article.

  • First Ladies National Historic Site Struggles to Attract Visitors   6 years 20 weeks ago

    The point, thought, is to protect for American interest and education what is important to America, and not the money.

    Gosh, I wish that was reflected in my visit to Lewis and Clark NHS this weekend. I visited Fort Clatsop on Sunday, and my wife and I had some substantive questions (not just "Where's the bathroom?") that required an interpreter. Unfortunately, the uniformed ranger at the VC desk seemed more concerned about taking entrance fees than answering our questions (even though there were three volunteers at the desk who could have taken the fees at the register). She blew us off mid-answer to collect fees at the register. I know this is only one instance, but I've seen similar examples at other parks. (I won't go into the double taxation of the current fee structure here.)

    But coming back to my previous question. d-2: You mention that many parks have business plans. What about business models? If so, what model do they use? Can you describe a business plan in use? It might be a semantic difference, but a general management plan and a business plan/model seem two different things.

    There are units in the system for protection only.

    MRC, if this is true, then why are so many FTE employees needed for these protection-only units? Which units are for protection only (and not enjoyment by the people)? It seems to me that the Organic Act's dual mandate indicates otherwise. (However, I'd readily vote to alter the Organic Act to mandate only protection, in which case,it would not seem that the NPS would need so many maintenance workers, LE rangers, and most importantly, administrators.)

  • First Ladies National Historic Site Struggles to Attract Visitors   6 years 20 weeks ago

    Dear Frank C:

    --There is a process, in law, for the establishment of new national parks.

    -- Many parks do have business plans.

    -- MRC is right about what matters in establishing a national park. These are places the nation decides it needs to set aside for the sake of what it means to be American. Visitation matters, but ultimately it is not what is essential about every park site. The site itself, and why it is important to America is what matters.

    -- On generating money from sites, people have been trying to get the balance right since parks were first created. The point, thought, is to protect for American interest and education what is important to America, and not the money.

    -- There is a charming feature of the character of America, that, like you and perhaps me and most of us to some extent, sees itself as living beyond or dispite of the efforts of the last 3000 years to bring civilization to the human condition, but only survives because of that civilization. Most peoples who settled America brought with them these charming tales of the good anarchist, such as Robin Hood. Even the act of setting aside wildlands and some of our national parks reflect this contrarian american spirit. But in the end, most sane people accept the need to sustain civilization and order; this spirit of cooperation is also part of America, and more to the point than coersion.

    Parks are part of that great sense of American cooperation. We can work to perfect how they work, but in the end just shaking our fist at the sky, objecting to any government at all, is a whole other discussion.

  • Musings from Yosemite National Park   6 years 20 weeks ago

    MRC, if you're going to beat up on poor Mr. Repanshek for failing to mention Hetch Hetchy in a Yosemite article, you're going to need to build a better case. Go to the Search box at top right on the Traveler home page, type in "Hetch Hetchy," and do a search. You'll note that Kurt has repeatedly mentioned Hetch Hetchy in his Yosemite-relevant Traveler articles. (The count is actually higher than what you'll see; we have a seriously deficient Search feature here at Traveler). We strongly agree that drowning Hetch Hetchy was a travesty, and nobody will be happier than Kurt and me when the O'Shaughnessy Dam is removed and that gorgeous valley is revealed and healed.

  • Musings from Yosemite National Park   6 years 20 weeks ago

    This is the second article on Yosemite National Park in a short time - and both failed to mention Hetch Hetchy. Is it really appropriate for the Traveler to showcase the park without mentioning the single most destructive event in the history of the National Park System?

  • First Ladies National Historic Site Struggles to Attract Visitors   6 years 20 weeks ago

    The per visitor costs are leading nowhere. Do you want to apply it to Aniakchak National Monument and Preserve with its 26 visitors in 2007? Or Agate Fossil Beds National Monument in Nebraska with 13,521? There are units in the system for protection only. Protection of nature or of historic places or buildings. Those can't be evaluated by the number of visitors. Of course it is valid to ask if a unit deserves the protection. And I won't defend First Ladies NHS. I am unsure if the First Ladies deserve a unit at all and I certainly believe Ms McKinley's home is the wrong place for it.

  • First Ladies National Historic Site Struggles to Attract Visitors   6 years 20 weeks ago


    The "business model" comment was originally Mr. Repanshek's. I was asking what type of business model the NPS uses. It doesn't seem like there is one, but I stand ready to be corrected. As you and Rangertoo have aptly pointed out, there seems to have been no business model for First Ladies. And while it's debatable how "rare" Steamtowns and First Ladies have become in recent years, there seems to be no business model for most national parks because the government does not operate like a business; its revenue is appropriated indirectly through a coercive political system. Since it's a monopoly funded by coercion, the "customer relationship" is one-sided.

    Mr. Repanshek that "some units of the National Park System [are] invaluable in what they represent to the country and so worth the investment", and I agree but think those "some" that are worth the investment usually could be self-supporting. (Yosemite comes to about $7.50 a person; Zion $2.50; Yellowstone $10.71; Crater Lake $10.00; even smaller parks like Lava Beds only cost $15 per person.) The subsidization of some parks causes inefficiencies. Do we need 19 FTE federal employees at Grant-Kohrs Ranch for 20,000 visitors while Fort Vancouver serves 35 times as many visitors with only 4 more FTE?

    I think that if something is important enough to be preserved by the federal government, there should be enough demand to efficiently operate a site. There must be enough "target customers"; if there is not enough demand, the federal government should not assume that merely by the creation of sites will the demand arise afterward. That's a poor business model by any standard.

    So, yes, the NPS should take a serious look at their business models, especially in light of the upcoming bankruptcy of the federal government.

  • Sky-High Ginseng Prices Boost Illegal Harvest in Blue Ridge Parkway and Great Smoky Mountains National Park   6 years 20 weeks ago

    I would have to say you are still wrong in that Aspect of "quality" I have found roots well over fourty five years old in a woods of only about 6acres, (my own woods.)

  • First Ladies National Historic Site Struggles to Attract Visitors   6 years 20 weeks ago

    Thanks for the date correction, d-2. First Ladies was indeed authorized in 2000, not 1980.

  • Stanley W. Abbott, Wizard of the Blue Ridge Parkway   6 years 20 weeks ago

    Thanks for the plug for my book and for this interesting article about the Parkway. This is timely, as we're getting ready to celebrate the Parkway's 75th anniversary in 2010; look for another article that I'll be posting here in a few days about that.

    Meanwhile, just one small tweak to what you've said about the building of the Parkway: I'm not sure what the origin of the idea that nearly all the construction on the Parkway was done by hand is, but I can say that that is simply not true. Parkway construction was handled by private road-building contractors like Durham, North Carolina's Nello Teer Company (which had 17 contracts for Parkway work, including the first section, built beginning in 1935). The *first thing* the Teer Company did when they got started on the first Parkway section was to unload several pieces of heavy equipment (including a brand-new diesel shovel) from the train at Galax, Virginia, and take them to the construction site near Low Gap, North Carolina. And from that point on, all the usual techniques of heavy road construction were used, including blasting. There was hand work involved in some slope rehabilitation, plantings, picnic grounds building, etc. But as many historic photos will attest, building this road through the mountains entailed extensive use of modern heavy trucks, shovels, rock crushers, and other heavy equipment.

    Thanks for the interesting historical pieces you are posting on NPT; I always look forward to reading them.


    Anne Mitchell Whisnant, Ph.D.
    Historian & Author of Super-Scenic Motorway: A Blue Ridge Parkway History
    Chapel Hill, NC

  • Imagine the Impacts of Climate Change on the National Park System   6 years 20 weeks ago

    Regarding Greenland's melting ice, in late August I was fortunate enough to attend a field workshop on climate change and the impacts to whitebark pine forests. One of the participants was Dr. Steve Running, a terrestrial ecologist from the University of Montana. As I noted last month in a post on that topic, Dr. Running's primary research interest lies within climatology. A chapter lead author for the 4th Assessment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Dr. Running has more than a passing understanding of what's happening to the Earth's climate.

    Here's a snippet from an interview I conducted with him:

    “I was at a seminar only about two months ago with one of the premier Greenland ice scientists, and he says, ‘You know what? The things we thought we understood five years ago we’re being taught are wrong. The speed that we thought this system could transition, it’s turning out it can transition three times faster than we thought was possible.'

    "We can’t kid ourselves that if humanity just went on its merry way that we couldn’t really push this planet to someplace almost uninhabitable. We don’t really know completely how the stability of the Earth system components are going to re-equilibrate with this huge forcing of carbon that is going from the ground into the atmosphere in 100 years. I like to tell people that it took 100 million years to put it in there -- the coal, oil and gas -- and we’re digging it all back up in 100 years and taking it all back out."

  • Imagine the Impacts of Climate Change on the National Park System   6 years 20 weeks ago

    Melting of ice at the two poles is expected to raise sea levels

    Since the sea ice at the North Pole is floating on the sea, its melting will not cause sea levels to rise. Greenland's ice is often cited, but it would take several millennia for all Greenland's 100,000 year old ice sheets to melt completely. (Interestingly, the second IPCC climate report showed Greenland had been cooling rather than warming in recent decades.)

    As for Alaska's glaciers: "Glaciers are subject to surges in their rate of movement with consequent melting when they reach lower altitudes and/or the sea. The contributors to Annals of Glaciology, Volume 36 (2003) discussed this phenomenon extensively and it appears that slow advance and rapid retreat have persisted throughout the mid to late Holocene in nearly all of Alaska's glaciers. Historical reports of surge occurrences in Iceland's glaciers go back several centuries. Thus rapid retreat can have several other causes than CO2 increase in the atmosphere."

    Please also note that average long-term average sea levels over the last half billion years has been much higher than today.

    Climate predictions should be taken as what they are: predictions, not gospel. We can't even predict the weather ten days from now let alone ten years, ten decades, or ten centuries.

    The IPCC states that climate change is happening and it's 90% likely cause by humans. The IPCC also states there's probably nothing that we can do to stop it. What's still poorly understood are the effects of climate change. There seems to be a tendency to blame everything on human-caused climate change, and it seems to be used as a fear tactic.

    If the NPS was serious about climate change and CO2 reductions, it should limit all activities in national parks that generate C02. No more leaf blowers at Grant Grove. No more lawn mowing in Zion. No more road paving using heavy machinery. No more cars. To do less is pure hypocrisy.

  • First Ladies National Historic Site Struggles to Attract Visitors   6 years 20 weeks ago

    perhaps the NPS should take a look at their business models, no?

    Does the NPS use a business model? If so, can someone define/describe it?

  • First Ladies National Historic Site Struggles to Attract Visitors   6 years 20 weeks ago

    While looking at cost-per-visitor might indeed be a good indicator of whether you're getting the most bang for your buck, can we really use that yardstick when measuring the worth of places such as Yellowstone or Gettysburg? Are not some units of the National Park System invaluable in what they represent to the country and so worth the investment, no matter how it breaks down per visitor?

    And if you do focus on cost-per-visitor, if it doesn't make sense for the federal government, why would it make sense for an NGO? And if private enterprise could make it work, perhaps the NPS should take a look at their business models, no?

  • First Ladies National Historic Site Struggles to Attract Visitors   6 years 20 weeks ago

    The figure of 11,112 visitors for First Ladies and the visitors for Isle Royale are from the National Park Service Greenbook for 2009, the official budget request of the NPS made to Congress.

  • First Ladies National Historic Site Struggles to Attract Visitors   6 years 20 weeks ago

    For 2008, the NPS spent almost $400 million to operate the 58 "National Park" national park units. It spent almost twice that to operate the historic sites, recreation areas, battlefields, etc. (Incidentally, "National Monuments" cost $76 million to operate.)

    Rangertoo is absolutely right to look at cost per visitor; it's a good indicator of efficiency. I've not visited First Ladies NHS, so I cannot say that it isn't worthy of preservation. (I have visited the website and it seems quite nice.) The federal government, however, should not take on the task of preserving every historical building or object in the country. California does a great job of preserving Bidwell Mansion; the private, non-profit Thomas Jefferson Foundation preserves Monticello (T.J. probably wouldn't want it any other way); the non-profit Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum protects the Spruce Goose and other space artifacts without the help of the National Park Service.

    As we enter the second great depression and our currency devalues and the economy contracts and tax revenue falls, we must look at streamlining the NPS. Places like First Ladies, Golden Spike, and other porkers should be transitioned into non-profits or sold to those who would continue preservation. And why is Isle Royale so expensive to operate? Preservation is cheap. Maintaining infrastructure for unsustainable industrial tourism is not. Spending millions to plow Crater Lake's Rim Drive or millions for god-knows-what at Isle Royale will no longer be options as the federal government teeters on the brink of bankruptcy.

  • Big Cypress National Preserve: Is More ORV Access In Bear Island Unit Wise?   6 years 20 weeks ago

    You have two types of ORV riders. First you have the mature type who cruise checking out the scenery or going to there hunting camps all while respecting nature and following existing trails. Then, you have the retard punks doing the mud wheelies and donuts or going thru untraveled routes making new ruts and trails. We all suffer from the irresponsible idiot who only cares about his thrill not the natural beauty. I know plenty of airboat and buggy guys who go out of their way to tread as lightly as possible. Live by the rule "tread lightly."

  • First Ladies National Historic Site Struggles to Attract Visitors   6 years 20 weeks ago

    Come on, Bob. You know this park is a political boondoggle and is a poster child for the dilution of the National Park System. It was created Congressman Regula and his wife is the chair of the First Ladies Library Association. Two of the Regula’s daughters also work at the park.

    As for the cost per visitor. What about Isle Royale National Park? It got only 11,025 visitors last year and visitation is decreasing. Yet, it costs $4 million a year to operate and the NPS is asking for a $500,000 increase for 2009. I will agree that this is a significant resource and an important part of the National Park System. But at $400 a visitor, is that a valid expense?

    By comparison, in 2007, First Ladies NHS got more visitors than Isle Royale: 11,112***, and costs $1 million to operate, for $91 per visitor.

    *** [Ed: According to NPS official stats, the 2007 tally of recreational visits at First Ladies NHS was 10,881]