Recent comments

  • Attendance Shortfalls at Steamtown National Historic Site Prompt Calls for Privatization   6 years 30 weeks ago

    Hey, you're looking at a new Vice President who was born in Scranton -- so don't expect that Steamtown will wither on the vine and die. Eight more years to get its act together...

  • Attendance Shortfalls at Steamtown National Historic Site Prompt Calls for Privatization   6 years 30 weeks ago


    I have a considerable affiliation with your interest in historical steam and railroad operations, and empathy for the preservation effort you support. I cringe a bit, that so many aspects of our 'progress' 'discredit' formerly outstanding technologies.

    I know what a "superheater" is & does: I am a (turbine) steam plant operator ... and nuclear power plant operator, and submariner. The hull of my Thresher-class boat, the USS Drum SSN 677 lies tied in the Sacramento River at Mare Island (the now-closed Navy base, where I attended nuclear power school) awaiting funds to turn it into a museum and sole surviving example of the quiet machines that substantially enabled us to retire the Soviet Union. I imagine it's a forlorn project.

    I like that piston steam can run on a campfire. That valve-boxes can be fabricated with a hacksaw & file. At the remote resort where I live, we pulled a vertical boiler out of a septic tank: it now decorates the yard of the cabin next door. I grew up with the giant stumps logged by 5 or 10 horsepower steam donkeys. My grandfather stands with a crew of dozens on one.

    So ... yeah, I have a pretty good idea where you're coming from, why you do what you do, and what you get out of it.

    Unfortunately, it may well be that the US National Park System/Service was not really the organization that can best see to our steam railroad heritage. My operational suspicion is, we've saddled the laudable idea of natural-wonder & King's-forest Parks with too many follow-on functionalities, at which it is basically ill-suited.

    Right now, we are dancing around, anxious to restart the 19% of our national refinery capacity that was shut down as hurricane Ike passed over. This is likely a foretaste of an increasingly common predicament ... hoping we don't start seeing NO GAS signs cropping up, or (groan) prices breaking $5 ... etc.

    I'm not sticking my economic neck out anywhere these days, and I expect coming Presidents & Congress' are going to be following suit. In this climate, people with a passion such as yours will find their efforts complicated by stark economic realities.

    ... So if it's not going to be the NPS, how else might Steamtown hold it together?

  • Attendance Shortfalls at Steamtown National Historic Site Prompt Calls for Privatization   6 years 30 weeks ago

    So what you're saying is that it makes perfect sense to extract money from federal taxpayers across the nation to subsidize attractions in economically depressed areas? I don't know about its relative convenience but I never knew that any region or city "deserved" anything, especially the hard earned wealth of folks from other regions of the country.

    If manufacturers and employers have abandoned heavily unionized places like Pennsylvania and Michigan to set up shop in South Carolina and Sonora it is not the responsibility of the citizens of Arizona and Florida to cough up the dough to create half-baked tourist attractions in the Rust Belt. It was clear from the beginning that this was what the local Congressman had in mind and now the free market has responded. Steamtown and Scranton are duds! No offense but not every place can be Aspen or Martha's Vineyard. What was it I recently heard about putting lipstick on a pig? Oh, never mind.....

    Your logic just illustrates how deeply ingrained national socialism has become in our formerly great and grand republic.

    "Every election is a sort of advance auction sale of stolen goods." ------ H.L. Mencken

  • Attendance Shortfalls at Steamtown National Historic Site Prompt Calls for Privatization   6 years 30 weeks ago

    I didn't realize it was so bad. I visited there a couple of years ago, and didn't feel disappointed. Yes, I was disappointed there weren't more visitors, but I didn't visit during the peak season anyway.

    I do disagree with Beamis, however, that Scranton doesn't deserve an attraction simply because it's an economically depressed area. We shouldn't abandon parts of the country that aren't doing well simply because the money is elsewhere.

    Just because it's not convenient doesn't mean it's not important.


    My travels through the National Park System:

  • Attendance Shortfalls at Steamtown National Historic Site Prompt Calls for Privatization   6 years 30 weeks ago

    My family and I go out of our way to ride in steam powered trains. For example, we never miss the Durango Silverton line when passing through Colorado. It is like stepping back in time, just magical. Bottom line: If my family can't ride the train -any train- for a awesome excursion, we are not going to make the trip. If privatization would bring more rides for families, then in this particular case, I am all for it. Looking at old trains is one thing, but riding the train is the total experience.

  • Attendance Shortfalls at Steamtown National Historic Site Prompt Calls for Privatization   6 years 30 weeks ago

    Sell this white elephant----lock, stock and barrel!

    It was obvious pork in '86 and is now nothing more than $176 million down the drain that was unwisely allocated to revitalize an area of Pennsylvania that ain't comin' back no matter how much more wealth is redistributed from federal taxpayers residing in other parts of the country.

    The real question should be: who's going to want to buy this collection of junk from the government and run a "tourist" attraction in a thoroughly dead area of the old "Rust Belt"?

    This federally sponsored disaster deserves to wither and die just like Fannie, Freddie and the crooked Lehman Brothers but, I'm afraid, will also receive more of our ill-gotten tax dollars before the inevitable forces of economic gravity drag it down into the black hole of bad ideas, that somehow manage to get Congressional funding, where it most deservedly belongs.

  • Alaska Regional Director Responds To Outrage Over Katmai Preserve Bear Hunt   6 years 31 weeks ago

    Anonymous (Sept 14 '08)

    Hey, the most recent comment preceding yours is from last November - almost a year ago. There was a whole bunch of other comments, and we can't tell which one you are responding to.

    The original post says straight out:

    "During the last open fall-spring hunt, 35 bears were taken. This translates to an annual harvest rate of no more than 5 percent, considered by biologists to be conservative harvest." (emph. added)
    ... So they obviously are not killing all "big healthy bears", as you say.

    Alaska bear populations have been hunted for a long time, and there is no runting or other diminution of the resource.

    We understand that some folks do not like or approve of hunting, either as a general rule or as pertains to certain species, or within certain habitats. It is clear from your comment that you are passionate. Please gather your good arguments together, make clear which other commenter you are addressing, and tell us more about your position & views.

    Thank you!

  • Sky-High Ginseng Prices Boost Illegal Harvest in Blue Ridge Parkway and Great Smoky Mountains National Park   6 years 31 weeks ago

    Anonymous (Sept 14),

    Easy there, now ... I didn't say ginseng doesn't exist outside the Park. Of course it does. I said that a buyer & other knowledgeable pickers can identify product that comes from the Park due to its "quality". Patches that are protected in the Park will yield bigger & older roots than areas that are regularly visited, and it will be evident that such material is 'unusual'. It's the "quality" I'm saying "doesn't exist", outside the Park.

    That's interesting, you're finding ginseng right in town. Cool. Do you know of any folks growing their own patches, or 'grooming' wild patches?

    Do you do any other kinds of picking & gathering, other than ginseng?

  • Sky-High Ginseng Prices Boost Illegal Harvest in Blue Ridge Parkway and Great Smoky Mountains National Park   6 years 31 weeks ago

    horse pucky!!!i hunt ginseng i live in towsend i have just recently taken up looking for it ive never been in the park and have harvested about 2 lbs in the last 2 weeks.. all no where near the park!mostly in the town limits!!!to say it doesnt exist anywhere else is ludicris!you need to go farher into the moutains or something if its this abundent here some one is wrong about its status in the park,,,

  • Alaska Regional Director Responds To Outrage Over Katmai Preserve Bear Hunt   6 years 31 weeks ago

    Real man huh? I would love to walk within feet of a bear rather then live anywhere near your inconsiderate self. The point is there is no sport in murder. If they need to be thinned out let the state decide which bears need to be shot. You just want that bear trophy to hang on your chair like miss Sara. Kill all the big healthy bears and leave the rest, soon there will be nothing left on earth but sick and scared animals for you killers to hunt down. Maybe then you won't be interested in killing any more.

  • Attendance Shortfalls at Steamtown National Historic Site Prompt Calls for Privatization   6 years 31 weeks ago

    As a Steamtown volunteer, I posted the following comment to the article in the Scranton Times:

    Mr. Singleton:

    It was some days ago that I learned of your article on Steamtown through an announcement of its impending publication posted on a website devoted to the railroad preservation community interests, by Ross Rowland, one of the “critics” airing their views in the article. I expected that if Mr. Rowland was “hyping” the article in advance, its tenor or conclusions would match his well known negative attitude toward Steamtown.

    Whatever the conclusions, I would have expected that you would have vetted your sources better. Unfortunately, you did not. Unlike those critics, I have been an active volunteer at Steamtown since 1995 in various capacities, but primarily in train and engine service. From that lasting affiliation, I know Steamtown very well, and both its positive and negative attributes. Because of that, I think we should examine a few positive aspects of Steamtown and the motivations and qualifications of its critics.

    First, let consider three positive aspects of Steamtown.

    First, Steamtown is still operating long distance excursions when others, most notably the Grand Canyon Railroad (who just shut down their steam operations this month) and the Ohio Central have given up on regularly scheduled steam excursions. The only exception to this rule has been the new excursions on the nearby Reading and Northern Railroad, who returned their No. 425 to service this year. In a testament to the difficulties of operating Steam, the 425 was inactive for over a decade and they have announced no plans to restore their other and larger locomotive- the Reading 2102 (a sister to Steamtown’s 2124) to service.

    Secondly, Steamtown is currently and successfully operating excursions on the Canadian Pacific Railroad, no small accomplishment. Most large, publicly owned railroads want nothing to do with public excursions (especially steam), as they perceive enormous operational and legal risks in order to be associated with passengers and older equipment. These concerns have sidelined numerous locomotives in recent years and caused the end of the Norfolk Southern’s steam program in 1994.

    Third, Steamtown has managed to attract and retain one of the most active, vigorous and dedicated volunteer groups in the country. Some volunteers now have over twenty years of service and one provided over 10,000 hours of volunteer service.

    Finally let’s examine the qualifications of two of your “critics”, Mr. Donald L. Pevsner and Ross Rowland.

    Mr. Pevsner is indeed a “transportation lawyer” but his legal background appears to be confined to commercial aviation. There is no suggestion that he has any special knowledge of railroading in general, or heritage operations in particular other than as an author of opinion pieces. It’s quite a different matter to fly an aircraft in the public airspace than it is to operate a train over privately owned rights-of-way.

    Secondly, while Ross Rowland has operated showcase operations such as the American Freedom train, inside the preservation community and in the railroad industry in general, he is something of a pariah. I have personally spoken to a retired railroad manager who was a trainmaster on a railroad Ross operated on in the 1960’s who expressed concerns over Ross’ ability to subordinate his showmanship to the “prime directive” of railroading-safety.

    With the possible exception of some limited success in the late 1960’s, (now a lifetime ago) Ross has never been able to operate steam on a sustained basis. Typical of his operations were trips run in the late 1990’s on New Jersey Transit from Port Jervis to Hoboken. The trips were run until the locomotive; former C&O No. 614 needed the heavy mechanical work all steam engines require. Unable to fund that rehabilitation, he had the locomotive taken to the Reading & Northern’s Port Clinton headquarters where it remains today parked and cold in an inoperative condition.

    I suspect part of his campaign against Steamtown is in part due to his inability to reach an agreement to move that locomotive to Steamtown. It’s also clear that he regards Steamtown more as an amusement park than a government operated historic site and doesn’t seem to understand that there are mission-driven constraints on the nature and extent of the operation.

  • Bear #399, And Other Grizzlies, Are On the Prowl In Grand Teton National Park   6 years 31 weeks ago

    We saw 399 and one of her cubs this past week around Pacific Creek area - it was so special. We saw the cub first, foraging for berries on the bank above the road, and then a few days later saw 399 herself digging up grubs etc. Both attracted a small but respectful audience with 399 being kept an eye on by a ranger - who told us she had been out of sight for a couple of months. I just hope she is still around for us to see again next fall, she really seemed very special once we knew her story.

  • Greening the National Parks: Environmental Achievement Awards Highlight Sustainable Design, Energy-Efficiency, and Recycling   6 years 31 weeks ago

    Most of the greening-initiatives mentioned in this post seem like commendable recognition for doing what's basically only right, but certainly will benefit from the encouragement & reinforcement.

    (At my logging camp on the reknown black bear haven of Kuiu Island of Southeast Alaska, there was strenuous competition for the duty of taking garbage to the informal dump - an operation straight out of the Yellowstone bear-feeding playbook. Throughout the Far North, open dumps conditioned bears to seek out home trash-cans, incinerator-barrels, compost-piles and even fertilized garden-plots - often leading to destructive and sometimes dangerous bear-visitation at folks' homes. They knew dump-feeding led to bear-invasions, but it took a long time - and 'intervention' - for northern communities to finally break the bear-dump link.)

    What did raise questions for me, is the citation of somebody called Xanterra, for building a power-generating plant in(?) Death Valley Park. I tried Xanterra's own website, but it's for somebody with broadband to check out. However, the Wikipedia entry about the company provides a good first pass on their background.

    While photovoltaic electrical power generation is a good step forward (once it becomes economical on meaningful scales - which escalating fossil-fuel prices bring closer!), I have to think it would still be preferable not to site such facilities within National Parks. I furthermore have the hunch that if it were I or you who wanted to erect some technological activity within a Park, nobody would even talk to us. What does Xanterra have going here, that their power plant construction project gets sited in the Park? Wouldn't it be 'greener' to put it outside the Park?

    On the whole, though, I agree: our National Parks have a natural role in promoting the generalized 'green ethic'. Sorting garbage, solar heating, fuel-efficient vehicles and more can & should be showcased, and rewarded with public kudos.

  • The Essential Olympic   6 years 31 weeks ago

    “.. one can recall that “rain is only water and the skin is waterproof” and go walking in the forest, and find that after completing the initial process of getting soaking wet, all the way to the skin, there is no more pain remaining in the rain, or the water-heavy brush, or even knee-deep streams, and one can then proceed pleasurably through the water wilderness with a sort of swimming motion, winking the excess rain out of the eyes, blowing drips from the upper lip, and lulled by the rhythmic squish in the boots.”
    - Harvey Manning -

  • Prime Location and Varied Habitat Help Make Point Reyes National Seashore a Biodiversity Treasure Trove   6 years 31 weeks ago

    Grasslands and "open scrublands" that have been grazed for several centuries are anything but natural. To get the best grazing for cattle, you artificially hold the ecosystem in the early, fast-growing stage of ecological succession that many call the "weedy" stage. My guess is that, if all the cattle were removed, the grassy/scrubby vegetation would be replaced eventually with a more richly diversified ecosystem with fewer grasses and more shrubs and trees. You'd have to ask an ecologist or botanist about that, and I'm not one of those. As for getting to the shore, there are some good places to get to beaches, if that's what you want. Drakes Beach (sand and muddy sand) is a popular, easy to get to spot. McClures Beach is gorgeous (sea stacks). There are others (check the PORE website).

  • Prime Location and Varied Habitat Help Make Point Reyes National Seashore a Biodiversity Treasure Trove   6 years 31 weeks ago

    Very nice background, Bob - thanks!

    I have not determined - is the 'open-scrub' ecology there a natural feature? That's what drew the original Spanish settlers - 'open fields' they could see from the water?

    Are the majority of the shoreline contexts open to visitors - I wanted to go down the rough bluffs to the tantalizing beaches, but had others along and stuck to the upland trails. We did not visit working dairy farms, but did see & inspect historic barns etc. (I too, Barky, have dairy-background from the grandparents farm.)

    Yes, it is called a "Seashore", not (mostly) "wilderness" ... but I remain curious about the natural heritage of the 'uplands', whether the original flora-complex survived & recovered ... or is what we see growing just the 'weeds' that took over by default?

    (I noted similar but much smaller patches of open terrain along the Lost Coast/Kings Range, to the north - and they appear to be "grasslands".)

  • Prime Location and Varied Habitat Help Make Point Reyes National Seashore a Biodiversity Treasure Trove   6 years 31 weeks ago

    Here is some background for the comments that Barky and Ted made. I hope you'll find them useful. Bear in mind that this national seashore is a 111-square mile area, only part of which is occupied by dairy farms. Also recall that the article I wrote focused on biodiversity, not scenic values or recreation opportunities, per se. Point Reyes is a marvelous place by any reasonable measure. It has long been, and will remain, one of my favorite national parks.

    The Point Reyes peninsula has been used for cattle grazing since the Spanish colonial era. During Spanish rule, three “Lords of Point Reyes” -- James Berry, Rafael Garcia, and Antonio Osio – operated ranches on the peninsula under authority of Spanish land grants. Later, a single family -- the Shafters and their in-laws, the Howards -- owned the entire peninsula.

    When the park was created nearly a half-century ago, the enabling legislation ensured the continuation of pastoral activities by providing that ranchers who sold their property to the federal government would be given renewable leases. The areas and structures used for grazing activities comprise the park’s Pastoral Zone.

    Today, there are about 30 private beef and dairy cattle operations in the Pastoral Zone. These livestock operations operate under the terms of leases and related agreements with the Park Service.

    Point Reyes National Seashore has many interesting historic structures related to cattle ranching. Many of the structures related to the grazing industry are historically significant. The historic Pierce Ranch dates back to the time of the Spanish land grants, and many buildings in the ranch complex were constructed in the 1860s. The Historic C Ranch was established in 1859.

  • Prime Location and Varied Habitat Help Make Point Reyes National Seashore a Biodiversity Treasure Trove   6 years 31 weeks ago

    Thank you, Barky - I was going to be 'nice'! ;-)

    The entire Point Reyes area is a run-down & then abandoned dairy farm complex. It was given over for recreational purposes only after the main portion of the commercial operation was no longer profitable. (Pt. Reyes hauled milk products for many decades to San Fransisco, on the water - a serious competitive angle. With better-developed land-transportation, better-resourced inland dairy districts out-hussled them and they (largely, not entirely) tossed in the towel.)

    Pt. Reyes is a very charming area, especially if you like open farm-land (which I do!).

    ... But wilderness?! My achin' hind quarter! ;-)

  • Lake Mead National Recreation Area Hosts 150,000 Weekenders and a Hells Angels Poker Run   6 years 31 weeks ago

    Beamis quoted Dylan:

    "To live outside the law you must be honest."
    ... And to that I will add the comparable observation:
    "An armed society is a polite society."

  • Prime Location and Varied Habitat Help Make Point Reyes National Seashore a Biodiversity Treasure Trove   6 years 31 weeks ago

    Oh my God, are you completely kidding me?

    When I went to Point Reyes, all I could think of was "what a ruddy sh*thole!"

    Sure, maybe there is some tidal pool goodness, but the island itself is an over-farmed mess. I was completely appalled at the bad farming practices as I drove through it. I did stop to see the elk, and walked to the lighthouse, but I cancelled my planned hike on the southern tip of the island and left.

    I don't know if the NPS should encourage sustainable dairy practices on the island, but the farmers in question should learn anyway. I grew up around dairy farms, and know such places can be run a LOT better. I couldn't wait to get out of the place.

    It was one of the most appalling things I've ever seen on my trips through the National Park System.


    My travels through the National Park System:

  • Lake Mead National Recreation Area Hosts 150,000 Weekenders and a Hells Angels Poker Run   6 years 31 weeks ago

    I hope law enforcement personnel wrote thank-you letters to the Hells Angels and their events promoter !

    The thank-you is appreciation for giving them "job security" and probably "overtime pay." Law enforcement hired to assist at Lake Mead over Labor Day weekend should include thanking the Hells Angels for providing colorful and quality material to work with!

    Ride on...


  • Management Shuffle Yields New Superintendent for Shenandoah National Park   6 years 31 weeks ago

    Wow what a great story. I would like to hear more stories about our Park Supers. This is my first time to this site. I live near Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore

  • Great Smoky Mountains National Park Celebrates the 75th Anniversary of the Civilian Conservation Corps   6 years 31 weeks ago

    I ran into an interesting film the other day regarding the CCC in the Smoky Mountains. The film was produced by the U.S. Department of Interior back in 1936 and appears to be a newsreel type production. In addition to a few scenic shots, the film shows CCC corp men building the Newfound Gap Road and a couple of trail bridges. It also has a little bit of footage on the CCC camps.

    Here's the link for anyone interested:


  • House Subcommittee Considers Bill to Relax ORV Rules for Cape Hatteras National Seashore   6 years 31 weeks ago

    Anonymous (Sept 13) references:

    "The General Authorities Act of 1974 says all NPS units regardless of designation will be managed the same... "
    Actually, however, there are wide, dramatic & diverse variations in how the resources of many NPS units are handled.

    Perhaps the GAA '74 intends a narrower ('technical') application of its language than 'general usage' would suggest. Certainly, there are indeed 'radical' differences in how the various NPS units are regulated. They are obviously not all handled "the same".

    One of our recent Presidents had an industrial pallet load of Regulations hauled out for public display, to dramatize the pickle we've gotten ourselves into, 'dog-piling' ever more rules into an increasingly incomprehensible heap.

    There is nothing to exempt our Parks from the 'disease' of run-away rule-making. Bottom line: We have laws to serve the needs of the Country & Citizens, and when they become such a mess that folks of ordinary mental means don't know or can't agree what they do or don't mean, they may no longer be capable of filling their intended role, and are not of benefit to either the Country or the Citizens.

    Or, they may be used to fill roles for which they were not intended.

  • Visitation Decline at Great Smoky Mountains National Park Has Area Businesses, Residents, and Governments Worried   6 years 31 weeks ago

    I agree that the Alaska fall colors map is not very helpful, but you just can't show much detail on small scale maps like this. The colors peak at different times in various parts of this huge and climatically variegated state. About the best you can do is indicate that peaks throughout Alaska tend to come "early" by Lower 48 standards. Fall colors in some areas of Alaska, including parts of Denali NP, can be expected to begin peaking by mid-August.