Recent comments

  • Are There Really 391 Units in the National Park System? You Won’t Think So After You Read This!   6 years 25 weeks ago

    Not to be picky but....for #7, correct spelling: Frederick Douglass. We're used to having to correct.

    [Ed. Nice catch; it's been fixed.]

  • Steamtown National Historic Site Schedules Leaf Peeper Excursions in the Poconos   6 years 25 weeks ago

    Northeast PA, specifically Scranton, has been known lately more for being the hometowns of Biden and Clinton and maybe for "The Office," but once upon a time Steamtown was it's claim to fame. As a local, I can see something needs to be done with's a sad site, and very pathetic how it's barely noticed anymore. Maybe some successful leaf peeper excursions will revive the floundering historical site. Get out on that train, folks!!!!

  • Singer Dolly Parton Named Ambassador for Great Smoky Mountains National Park's Anniversary   6 years 25 weeks ago

    Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful. I have always loved Dolly Parton's genuineness and coming from the heart her whole life. What a wonderful pick and a perfect choice. How many artists would write an entire album and donate the rights to a National Park? Beautiful. Even though it may be a few years before I can visit the area, I will get these wonderful souvenirs now!

  • Young Panther is Killed Crossing a Road in Everglades National Park   6 years 25 weeks ago

    Vehicle collisions...are the leading causes of panther deaths. At least several panthers are killed on south Florida roads each year.

    Sounds like cars are far more lethal to endangered species and wildlife than concealed weapons. How come I don't hear anyone calling for cars to be banned in parks?

  • How Far Should National Park Rangers Go To Safeguard Your Life?   6 years 25 weeks ago

    George summed up a key to many visitor incidents when he noted, "Despite all the warnings and instructional material about the dangers in the parks, we still have visitors recklessly approaching wildlife, climbing over barriers to the edge of cliffs and bluffs, and ignoring other danger signs." Those attitudes also relate to the previous post about life jackets and education. If they prove to be successful, programs which would encourage increased use of safety devices such as life jackets would certainly be a plus. As always, it comes down to priorities for limited funds and personnel. Does a park like Indiana Dunes cut back on lifeguards, rangers or some other activity to fund safety education, and hope for the best? Not an easy answer.

    I spent quite a few years at parks with heavy water-based activity, including Lake Mead, Buffalo River and Big Thicket, and it was an uphill battle to convince people to wear life jackets, even when conditions were clearly less than ideal. Looking back, I'd agree that more time spent on proactive safety education programs would have been a plus, but the reality is that most of the time we were just trying to deal with "the tyranny of the urgent."

    As an example, at Lake Mead I worked at an area that was quite busy 7 days a week about 7 months out of the year, and on weekends year-round. We had 2 rangers available for a "sub-district" covering a huge piece of real estate. That meant if we were lucky enough to get in our 2 days off duty each week, there were 4 days of the week with only 1 ranger on duty to cover the full 24 hour shift; on busy weekend days, we each worked either an early or late shift. When the "train got off the track," the nearest help from other rangers was 30 miles and 45 minutes away - if we were lucky. I hope that doesn't sound like whining - we didn't, we just hung in there and did the best we could. I'm afraid that in some (most?) parks, things haven't changed a lot in terms of available staffing.

    A couple of posters commented about the ranger's job being to "protect the parks from the people." That's certainly a key role - and a challenging one. When I started my NPS career way back in 1971, I was taught that the "protection" aspect of a ranger's job had three main elements: protect the park from people, people from the park, and people from each other. All three certainly continue to occupy a lot of a park employee's time and energy.

  • How Far Should National Park Rangers Go To Safeguard Your Life?   6 years 25 weeks ago

    Excellent comment, wise words Mr. Anoymous.

    At the same time, life guards also have a place, and can warn the public in the event of riptids or particularly dangerous surf. Some public high-use beaches should have life guards, and parks should not have to choose between resource protection projects and an appropriate level of life guards.

    But on the big picture, Mr. Anoymous, you've nailed it. Parks and protected places should provide education programs for people to learn how to conduct themselves in the nature.

  • How Far Should National Park Rangers Go To Safeguard Your Life?   6 years 25 weeks ago

    Until the National Park Service addresses the over arching questions "why don't visitors do what they know they should do" it will continue to struggle with visitor use management. Yes, the National Park Service mission is as much about managing the visitor as it is the resources. Understanding human behavior and treating the public like adults is an answer. If the park service continues to react to the accident, not look at what led to the accident, then the accidents will continue to happen. When people enter National Parks there is a sense that they will be taken care of. If they understood that dangers exist they would be more inclined to prepare themselves for it. Drowning statistics in National Parks are staggering. For the most part visitors who drown in National Park Sites do so because they failed to wear a life jacket. Yes, life jackets do save lives. If boaters/swimmers understood that choosing not to wear one increased the likely hood of drowning oh say by 99.9% they might consider putting one on. When a person gets "in trouble" in the water it is a life or death situation that must be dealt with immediately. Being a good swimmer in a pool does not convert to open water. In open water you cannot swim to the edge of the pool or bounce off of the bottom. Only people who have trained themselves to deal with the threat of drowning have a small chance to survive. The general population do not train themselves to survive a drowning event. The stress that overtakes their body and mind prohibits them from making rational decision; their brains are shut off, as demonstrated by the thrashing around in the water that takes place prior to sinking under. Don't hire more life guards, partner with organizations that teach water safety, establish life jacket loaner or give away programs and teach the public to take care of themselves. Oh and by the way, this will decrease the amount of risk Park Personnel assume because someone decided not to wear a life jacket and let them get back to the business at hand, protecting the parks from the people.

  • Appellate Court Upholds Lower Court Ruling on Development at Gateway National Recreation Area   6 years 25 weeks ago

    Dear Water Witch:

    Please clarify by just answering a few specific questions, relating to your rebuttal. It is important for us to understand if your comments are balanced and take all facts into account, or if you are just an advocate of the developer and opponent of the Colemans.

    [First, please be assured that I think, and other historic preservationists think, that the private use of these structures via Wassel's proposal was, and is, the best proposal on the table. I also think you are right on with the dock issue. BUT whether this is a good or bad precedent to the ENTIRE NATIONAL PARK SYSTEM is the troubling issue.] OK, here are a few clarifying questions, since you seem to know the details of this project pretty well, I am sure you can give us direct answers:

    1) On the idea that the Coleman's on on their own and represent only a personal vendetta: a) can you tell us the editorial position of the local paper on this issue? b) what is the position of the local US congressman on thiis issue? Has that congressman, outside this issue, generally voted for NPS budgets in the past? c) at the public hearing the Congressman arranged at the park, at which the coleman's spoke, are you really saying that only they in that room opposed the Wassel plan, and that the entire sentiment supported the NPS and Wassel?? d) If you believe the Coleman's are own their own with no public support, why in the world would the Congressman and the local paper be carrying their water on this?

    2) You make a large point about the public access to the buildings. a) will every building identified as a 'contributing structure' in the National Historic Landmark be open to public visits? b) or, will some of the restored buildings function pretty much as a high-tech industrial park: ie: offices, CLOSED to public visits? c) Is the Ft. Hancock National Historic Landmark specifically cited in the authorizing legislation for Gateway NRA as a primary park resource, and a reason for the establishment of the Nat. Recreation Area?

    3) Has the NPS requested the funding from Congress to restore these structures using NPS construction funds, rather than or before seeking private dollars to turn them over to private development?

    4) You say that "even if the NPS could find the money to restore these buildings, it couldn't come up with better uses for them than Mr. Wassell has." My understanding is: NPS never offered that alternative to the public, but would have required any not-for-profit to cover the cost of restoration and pay market-based leasing costs. a) Are you saying that if the NPS HAD restored these buildings FIRST and THEN issued an RFP for ideas for appropriate uses consistent with park purposes or educational program, you are convinced NO GOOD IDEAS for exciting uses, consistent with park purposes, could ever have been imagined or proposed? Is it not true that local universities and environmental groups had attempted to explore with the NPS some public use of these building, but because the NPS would require them to pay for restoration and a market lease, that attempt failed?

    b) Is it true that in the 1970's the NPS budget office came up with a list of 4,000 historic structures, including iconic lodges at Yellowstone and Glacier, that would have to be bulldozed because NPS lacked the money, presented that list to Congress, and ultimately, didn't Congress find a way to fund all those projects, rather than bulldoze them? Why was the NPS willing to pressure Congress then, but Sandy Hook was not?
    c) Do you agree Sandy Hook has a reputation of being neglected by the management of Gateway NRA, who live and work in New York, and who make the New Jersey segment a low priority? Do you think that if Sandy Hook were an independent NRA with its own independent superintendent, that there WOULD have been a funding request for Ft. Hancock? Do you think the reason Gateway does not request funds for Sandy Hook is because this big conglomerate is making the New York projects the priorities instead?

    Although there is no specific mandate in the Gateway law to protect as historic structures Floyd Bennett field or other parts of the Jamaica Bay, NY, part of Gateway, hasn't a lot more money been spent their, than on these NATIONAL LANDMARK structures in Sandy Hook??

    [Here is what the Gateway law says, plain English: "In the Sandy Hook . . .Units, the Secretary shall inventory and evaluate all sites and structures having present and potential historical, cultural, or architectural significance AND SHALL PROVIDE for appropriate programs for the preservation, restoration, interpretation, AND UTILIZATION OF THEM." Development advocates get out from under this mandate by the historic leasing law, that permits, but obviously conflicts with, the intent of the Act of 1916]

    In the absence of your answers, it seems to me your case is based entirely on the idea that NPS has never opened many of these NHL buildings to the public, so nothing is being lost. It seems to me you are avoiding the question that the purpose of parks is both to protect a site and provide for their use by the public.

    It seems to me conscientious people would agree it is vital that the NPS seek congressional approval for this, and acknowledge it as an exception to appropriate policy, for unique reasons. Otherwise you will see more and more privitization, for exactly this justification, on primary park resources throughout the country.

    If NPS was not going to ask for the money, it could at least have asked for congressional authority for this lease, to prevent this very dangerous precedent. I think if NPS is straight about all this, and less adversarial, it would do better with its proposal.

  • Appellate Court Upholds Lower Court Ruling on Development at Gateway National Recreation Area   6 years 25 weeks ago

    The debate on Fort Hancock has included much comment on “using historic leases to displace public use of prime park assets” which, in the case of the Fort, is completely wrong. The grounds of Fort Hancock have been, and will continue to be, freely used by the public. The 60 buildings subject to the lease have not been used by anyone for more than 30 years, and have been left to deteriorate because of a lack of sufficient funds, even for basic maintenance. As Barky and MRC have correctly stated, using Fort Hancock as an example in the debate over “privatization” of the parks is a mistake. It displays a lack of knowledge of the physical nature of the Fort, how it fits into Sandy Hook as a whole, and what its use has been heretofore and will be under the restoration plan.

    If you turn to Kurt’s article of June 30, 2007 [sorry that I’m not good on links] you will see that the Fort covers only a small fraction of Sandy Hook. His brief item of July 11, 2007 will take you to Terese Loeb Kreuzer’s July 10, 2007 report of a day-trip using the ferry service from New York. This article is particularly informative, covering the Fort as well as Sandy Hook as a whole. Ms. Kreuzer’s visit itself points out Kurt’s error in stating that “the NPS would spend $2.2 million on a new dock so he [the developer] could ferry conferees over to Fort Hancock from Manhattan.” I believe, and could be wrong, that the amounts already allocated for this facility come from transportation funds and not the NPS. But more importantly, this dock is not something new, but a replacement for the rickety wooden structure that now serves the ferries on which Ms. Kreuzer traveled, nearly all of whose passengers are headed for the beaches, and not Fort Hancock. There are plenty of beaches at Sandy Hook, but limited parking. Park goers, after a long drive, must often be turned away before noon on summer weekends as the lots fill. If memory serves, ferry trips roughly doubled from 2006 to 2007, from 6,000 to 12,000. A rebuilt dock will facilitate this service and allow more people to use the beaches on weekends, in addition to providing an alternative to the automobile for future visitors to, or employees of, Fort Hancock. Many local residents now use these ferries to commute to or visit New York. What’s wrong with traveling the other way? Are we now against public transportation?

    At least Kurt didn’t have the temerity to call Save Sandy Hook a “grass-roots” organization. I can’t do any better than a commenter on the local newspaper’s report of the 3rd Circuit’s decision:

    SSH claims to be a “grass roots” environmental org.

    Its address is Judith & Stanley [sic] Coleman’s giant house situated on an environmentally fragile bluff overlooking the Navesink River.

    Their house & landscaping must cause erosion of the bluff and some runoff from their property must make it’s way into the Navesink.

    Their carbon footprint must be significant too!

    Some “grass roots” Environmental Org!

    This opposition has been virtually a personal vendetta, funded by the Colemans. They had no case from the beginning, as Judge Cooper so ably demonstrated in her opinion. Their continuing to drag it out over five years, and more, would seem to have been motivated solely by a wish to kill the project, and the buildings, through delay. All that will have been accomplished is making restoration much more expensive.

    Readers should recognize that all of Sandy Hook is now open to the public, with the exception of the Coast Guard installation on the bay side. Some of the buildings also are, including the restored Lighthouse and Keepers’ Quarters, which saw 17,000 visitors last season. Visit the Sandy Hook website, or that of the Sandy Hook Foundation, where you can link to the Winter 2007 edition of their newsletter, the Sand Paper. It describes jitney service through the Park, including the Fort.

    Visit the Fort Hancock Museum, Battery Potter, and History House, a restored home on Officers' Row. The Sandy Hook Lighthouse, Keepers' Quarters and Barn tell the story of the lonely life of a sentinel of the sea. Most sites are open weekends with extended summer hours.

    The Sand Paper also contains several before and after pictures of the Fort’s 1941 Chapel. Restored, it has become popular for weddings and other local functions. Or visit the developer’s website, the Fort at Sandy Hook, to see their plans for the rest of the Fort. The theater as restored by them is also now available for use, both under long-time arrangements that the NPS has had with some local groups, and for new scheduling by the lessee. One can denigrate these uses as “commercial,” but I will gladly pay the price of a theater ticket to enjoy that facility, and have last year and this coughed up contributions to the Fort Foundation for Arts and Education, and seen exhibitions in the Chapel. If I knew how, I’d link you to a color picture of the interior . . . it’s a beautiful job. All done pursuant to the Department of the Interior’s guidelines for historic preservation, and the even stricter ones of the New Jersey State Historic Preservation Office.

    In sum, the restoration of Fort Hancock will not shut out the public; it will open it to far more, and more enjoyable, use. If you have to pay for a hamburger in the Mule Barn, so did the WWII soldiers who used it as an Enlisted Mens Club. And if access to a former barracks converted to classrooms, offices, and laboratories for Rutgers University is limited, so is it for such facilities at their New Brunswick campus. The Wassell plan was the only one that offered to retain and restore all of these buildings as a unified whole, adding no new construction. The gym stays a gym; the bakery stays a bakery [or a kitchen]; offices stay offices; residences stay residences. The specific use of each building is subject to approval by the NPS. And if the many thousands of soldiers that populated the Fort in its heyday are gone, I will be glad to see them replaced 24/7 by hundreds, or thousands, of civilians, coming and going in these buildings, with their windows sparkling out over the water at night. Far better that than to watch these buildings slowly deteriorate, as I have for 30 years. I live here, and probably know Fort Hancock and the issues involved better than most who have commented. I can appreciate the debate on NPS funding, and in fact wholeheartedly agree with Kurt and others on it, but take it somewhere else. It doesn’t apply here, because even if the NPS could find the money to restore these buildings, it couldn’t come up with better uses for them than Mr. Wassell has.

  • Are There Really 391 Units in the National Park System? You Won’t Think So After You Read This!   6 years 25 weeks ago

    Add one more category: Homestead National Monument of America. The only "National Monument of America'"

  • Park History: Yosemite National Park   6 years 25 weeks ago

    I just returned from a trip to Yosemite NP. I spent 2 days hiking from Tuolumne Meadows Lodge, 5 days backpacking from Cathedral Lakes , Sunrise, Merced Lake, Red Peak Pass, & then down to the valley for 2 nights. My impressions are as follows; Tuolumne Meadows is a fantastic intro to the High Sierras and the hike from Cathedral to Sunrise was truly spectacular. I was practically in tears just reflecting on Muir's Range of Light. The park in it's entirety is an incredibly brutal & beautiful gem. The walk to Merced Lake High Sierra Camp was truly picturesue and a tribute to all the people who have done trail building in this park. I had 2 days of almost complete wilderness solitude from Lake Washburn to Illiluoette Falls in some of the most gorgeous alpine country you might imagine. And then there's Yosemite Valley. While many people (myself included) probably would assume John Muir would have a meltdown if confronted by this spectacle, I had several experiences that changed my mind.

    Let me start with the Hybrid- Bus free shuttle system. These are very nice and really efficient at moving (thousands?) people around the valley everyday. The system was easy to use and keeps the traffic to a minimum for such a busy place.2nd, the park & concessionaire employees were ALL very helpful & friendly, and I don't mean in that corporate-disney kind of way. They all seemed genuinely pretty happy with their luck at working in Yosemite even if the pay isn't the greatest, and were perfectly willing to offer any park info they had. 3rd, I wish I'd had more time to check out the park's programs. I would have loved to take a painting class and seen several of the talks given by authors at The LeConte Memorial Lodge. The programs were enticing & topical.

    I can't imagine another park being anywhere near this competent at handling the daily masses of people who flow into this park, and considering that, they have really done a great job with Yosemite Valley. If John Muir was around today, he might not like to hang out in the valley, but he would surely see the value of it and the potential for advocacy of all the parks through visitors' experiences.

    I have never felt so at home in any other park and I can't wait to return!

  • **** Viewing National Parks Traveler on Firefox 3.0****   6 years 25 weeks ago


    I'm hoping (hopeful?) that I've found a tech who can solve the problem by mid-October at the latest (might be sooner, but I've got travel that could delay things).

    Thanks for hanging in there....

  • **** Viewing National Parks Traveler on Firefox 3.0****   6 years 25 weeks ago

    Any word on the patch/update for FF 3.0?

  • Are There Really 391 Units in the National Park System? You Won’t Think So After You Read This!   6 years 25 weeks ago

    Since the National Park Service doesn't know what a national park is, why should I be expected to know?

  • Bird Nests and Closures Spurring Civil Disobedience at Cape Hatteras National Seashore   6 years 25 weeks ago

    It would appear from the detailed statistics which are only gathered by site visitation, that a self proclaimed elit group can wander the shores within their private bird santuary at the expense of all others. Arrogance by elite components of any society has always spawned reprocussions. While the birders proclaim the "rednecks with their trucks" are off the beach, the footprint of the homes and cottages on Hatteras are also a problem. But will that access be sacrificed for the well being of tha hatch?

  • Are There Really 391 Units in the National Park System? You Won’t Think So After You Read This!   6 years 25 weeks ago

    how many do you count?

  • National Park Quiz 22: Angels and Saints   6 years 25 weeks ago

    Nice catch, Griz. All these years I've thought that the church was in the Bronx! I've made the correction.

  • National Park Quiz 22: Angels and Saints   6 years 25 weeks ago

    In regards to question #8. While Saint Paul's Church is in New York state, it is just outside the boundary of New York City in the city of Mount Vernon, NY.

  • Fall Is A Great Season in Glacier National Park   6 years 25 weeks ago

    Donna - A good reminder that weather is always a wild card on outdoor trips, and that's even more the case in the mountains.

    Your recommendations about Polebridge and areas in the northwest corner of Glacier are good ones - driver's just shouldn't expect a superhighway! Anyone planning drives in that vicinity should check the link above for current road conditions. The road outside the park Donna mentioned isn't affected, but the park's website notes that the "Inside North Fork Road is currently closed at Logging Creek RS and Fish Creek due to construction ...the actual closure is in effect from Howe Ridge Trailhead to Howe Lake Trailhead. Areas north and south of this section are open to vehicle traffic. " The link has a basic map showing the area in question.

    Those gravel roads and other less-traveled routes can provide some premier experiences for those who don't mind getting off the major highways.

  • Are There Really 391 Units in the National Park System? You Won’t Think So After You Read This!   6 years 25 weeks ago

    In response to Dan, there are actually 20 National Monuments that are run outside of the Park Service – and they are run by a veritable potpourri of land agencies, including BLM, the Forest Service, the Fish & Wildlife Service, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and even the Armed Forces’ Retirement Home. Then there is also the Valles Caldera National Preserve, which is run outside of the National Park System by a special trust. But as Bob mentioned, the subject of designation types is a topic for a future article - but based on the comments here it looks sure to be a popular topic as well.

  • Fall Is A Great Season in Glacier National Park   6 years 25 weeks ago

    We've had good and bad weather luck visiting Glacier National Park in the fall. In September 2004, we experienced beautiful sunny days. My husband returned last Saturday from a photography trip to Glacier. The weather was cloudy, rainy and snowy his entire visit.

    Visitors who like off-the-beaten-path locations will enjoy the drive (around 13 miles on a gravel road) to the small community of Polebride on Glacier's western edge. Although it's not in the park, the area provides access to Glacier's Kitna Lake and Bowman Lake. And who can resist the baked goods at Polebridge Mercantile? Call ahead to see of Northern Lights Saloon is open for dinner. When my husband was there last weekend, the adults of the community were dressed in turn-of-the century formal clothes in preparation for the Polebridge Prom.

  • Pruning the Parks: Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area Was a National Park for Just Five Years   6 years 25 weeks ago

    The NPS apparently very much wants to keep Curecanti NRA, and currently has a plan out for public comment that would expand Curecanti and calls on Congress to officially designate the NPS manager of the public land surrounding Curecanti's three reservoirs. Curecanti, very likely Colorado's most inferior NPS unit, is managed together with adjacent Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.

    Check out the NPS's plan for Curecanti here:

    Curecanti sparks deep passions in many Colorado "water buffalos," who revere the three reservoirs, part of the Aspinall Unit, together as a great monument to late Colorado Congressman Wayne Aspinall, one of the Bureau of Reclamation's most fervent boosters of yore.

  • Pruning the Parks: Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area Was a National Park for Just Five Years   6 years 25 weeks ago

    Congress should complete this excellent decision and divest from the NPS Lake Meredith, Amistad, Curecanti, and the park formerly known as Grand Coulee NRA. The Army Corps actually has an excellent public recreation operation that can take some of these sites and the USFS the rest. Get the NPS out of managing reservoirs with little else to offer besides simple water-based recreation. (I will have to give in to places like Glen Canyon, North Cascades, and Lake Mead where the surrounding holdings are extensive and worthy natural and cultural resources).

  • Pruning the Parks: Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area Was a National Park for Just Five Years   6 years 25 weeks ago

    It makes me wonder if other National Recreation Areas should be transferred to the forest service. The whole debate about recreation vs. preservation continues to rear its ugly head. Maybe recreation doesn't belong in the list of NPS missions and such areas should be transferred out.

    Just a thought.


    My travels through the National Park System:

  • How To Buy National Park-Related Gifts Without Leaving Home   6 years 25 weeks ago

    New park ornaments have arrived at Inner Peace Designs. Zion and Death Valley National Parks were just added to the short list this American company produces. Mount Rushmore, Grand Canyon, and Crater Lake just to name a few others they carry. They must have a contract with the National Parks Service to do these. Very nice detail. Keep an eye out for these in gift stores in the parks. To view them go to I own a Grand Canyon ornament and I receive comments all the time. Eveyone asks me to buy on next time I visit. I think there are nicer than painted Christmas balls!!!