Recent comments

  • Exploring The Parks: Musings From El Morro National Monument   4 weeks 2 days ago

    The really BIG question is whether or not anything has been done to hold those accountable who need to be held accountable. It sounds as if some serious penalties should have been imposed on more than just one or two people.

    Does anyone know?

  • Exploring The Parks: Musings From El Morro National Monument   4 weeks 2 days ago

    I've been to the USS Arizona NMEM at the end of September. Getting tickets in the first place was a hassle (early morning tickets were booked out a half year in advance) and my booked tour got finally canceled on site without explanation, but I was transferred to the next (the last of that day) group which was quite full then. So there IS definitively some problem with ticketing.

    I didn't experience any problems with cleanliness, though, and overall I had a good experience at the Memorial.

  • What Should The Wilderness Management Plan For Sequoia, Kings Canyon National Parks Look Like?   4 weeks 2 days ago

    How about we just become partners on the trail and not get to worked up over something that every living thing does in the wild. Plenty of infinitely more serious issues going on to ruin a day if one cares to allow it than green poo. Get along folks, riders and hikers, please. A very symbiotic relationship that can only make the wilderness experience better. That has been my experience.

  • Exploring The Parks: Musings From El Morro National Monument   4 weeks 2 days ago

    Going to the memorial in two weeks. Four months ago the only way to get tickets was through a tour company.

  • What Should The Wilderness Management Plan For Sequoia, Kings Canyon National Parks Look Like?   4 weeks 2 days ago

    I think those "special diets" are just weed free certified grasses. Nothing "bad" in those.

    Poop bags sound like a good idea and work on the streets. Not being a horseman, I don't know that they would be practical on the trail.

    As a hiker, I agree the trail piles can be annoying. It would seem some kind of compromise that allocates horse only and hiker only trails would be the best. Obviously there will be fights over who gets the "best" trails but that is better than being banned outright.

  • What Should The Wilderness Management Plan For Sequoia, Kings Canyon National Parks Look Like?   4 weeks 2 days ago

    Thanks for the link.

    Yeah, horse poop is better because it is fertilizer. But, many areas will only allow horses on specific diets - an effort to curb invasive grasses and weeds. So it isn't all good. In cities with horse drawn carriages, the drivers are typically required to use poop bags - why can't those be required on multi-use trails? Then the poop could be dumped off trail...

  • Exploring The Parks: Musings From El Morro National Monument   4 weeks 2 days ago

    That's horrible. Hopefully Kurt will be able to expand on this initial release when more info is available.

    The Arizona Memorial is a sacred site, and an overwhelming experience to visit. Rotting wood in the attic must be dealt with.

  • Exploring The Parks: Musings From El Morro National Monument   4 weeks 2 days ago

    Will, I subscribe to emails from PEER. This one turned up today. I can't figure out how to run a link to this, so I'll just post the text here. It contains some links you can access yourself. Be sure you look up the report written by Maxi Hamilton from the regional office. Again, I'd suggest that if you're not at the Arizona Memorial, you might have some success contactin PEER for help. I don't know if anything positive has come from this, and hope someone who knows will tell us.

    To say the least, this is mighty interesting:

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    For Immediate Release: Monday, November 17, 2014 Contact: Kirsten Stade (202) 265-7337

    USS ARIZONA MEMORIAL MIRED IN DISPIRITED MESS Shoddy Conditions and Manager Absenteeism Compound Illegal Ticket Diversion

    Washington, DC — Employees portray the USS Arizona Memorial as a leaderless, rundown and deeply demoralized institution controlled by commercial tour companies, according to two internal reports posted today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). Released over the objections of the National Park Service (NPS), the reports charge that top park managers knew or were complicit in tour companies siphoning off most tickets which are by law supposed to be available free to the public. The USS Arizona Memorial is Hawaii’s most visited tourist site. Nearly 1.8 million people a year visit the park in order to see the sunken battleship in Pearl Harbor holding remains of nearly 1,000 sailors who perished on December 7, 1941. Earlier this year, PEER unearthed an internal report finding that most all of the free first-come, first served Memorial passes were snapped up by commercial tour operators before visitors can obtain them. In response to the release of the report, the Park agreed to make 300 “next day” tickets (less than 10% of the Memorial’s 4,350 per day capacity) “available to visitors daily.” Two more newly uncovered reports indicate these problems go much deeper. One is a September 25, 2013 NPS law enforcement “Briefing Statement” describing tour company representatives given stacks of tickets and concluding “The NPS is aware of what is happening.” It ends with the statement “We are requesting consultation and investigatory assistance due to the sensitive nature of the case.” The other is a summary of interviews with 38 Memorial employees and others by NPS Regional Equal Opportunity Manager Maxie Hamilton. It quotes employees as saying that “Ticketing is a big problem here” with “tour companies grabbing all” desirable tickets. It also records widely held concerns about –

    • Poor Maintenance. “The monument is not being cleaned as it should.” There is no maintenance budget or plan. The “grounds were an embarrassment.” The USS Arizona bell was encrusted with bird droppings and cleaned only due to a visit by the Secretary of Interior. The report includes photographs of deteriorating or poorly maintained areas in the Park;
    • Chronic Absenteeism. “Employees almost universally reported that the Superintendent is never on site at the visitor center or even the Park.” And “the biggest problem employees reported is they cannot reach” Superintendent Paul DePrey. Indeed, even the NPS “Regional Office reports having received numerous calls from the Park looking for him”; and
    • Cripplingly Low Morale. Employees reported morale as “very low” in “an adversarial atmosphere” compounded by a widespread “fear of reprisal.” Unsurprisingly, “employees are not optimistic that things will improve.”

    “These reports show that the USS Arizona Memorial is adrift and has lost its sense of mission,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, who obtained redacted versions of the reports under orders from Interior’s Office of Solicitor which upheld his appeal of the NPS decision to deny their release under the Freedom of Information Act. “No wonder the Park Service resisted letting these reports see the light of day. They describe a deeply dysfunctional organization suffering a leadership deficit.” Following all three reports, NPS did not conduct an investigation into any individual’s role in the systemic ticket diversion or verify accounts of officials receiving gifts and other amenities from tour companies. Nor did NPS remove DePrey or change any of the park’s management personnel. The agency earlier released an undated “Corrective Action Plan” but it is not clear what, if any, changes in park maintenance, employee relations or ticket distribution have actually occurred. “It appears the Memorial is long overdue for a good literal as well as figurative housecleaning,” added Ruch, noting that it took whistleblower disclosures to bring these conditions to the surface. “Despite an appalling ticket scam at one of the most hallowed places in America, it remains business as usual in the Park Service.”

    ### Read the law enforcement briefing statement View summary of employee interviews Look at 2014 report on USS Arizona ticket diversion See the Interior Solicitor decision releasing redacted reports to PEER

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  • What Should The Wilderness Management Plan For Sequoia, Kings Canyon National Parks Look Like?   4 weeks 2 days ago

    Dahkota - here is a partial - if not impartial - answer.

    Interestingly, this claims horse manure doesn't spread E-Coli which I think was one of the major claims and complaints in some other threads by a supposed healthcare professional like the discussion of a new plan for Ozark National Scenic Riverways.

  • Exploring The Parks: Musings From El Morro National Monument   4 weeks 2 days ago

    Thanks, Lee. I always enjoy PJ's writings.

  • What Should The Wilderness Management Plan For Sequoia, Kings Canyon National Parks Look Like?   4 weeks 2 days ago

    I will admit that I am always irritated when encountering horse crap on a trail. I have to pack out both mine and my dog's; I don't understand why horse owners don't have to do the same.

  • National Park Service Plans To Enlarge Parking Area For Delicate Arch At Arches National Park   4 weeks 2 days ago

    But Sparky, shouldn't that be a two-way street?

    That's why I suggested perhaps reserving some times when closely approaching the arch could be restricted. Two or three hours a day during the Times of Golden Light near sunrise and again at sunset?

  • Exploring The Parks: Musings From El Morro National Monument   4 weeks 2 days ago

    PJ has a new issue of Thunderbear with another article that is probably germaine to this topc.

    A Home for Endangered Rangers is the bear's usual thoughtful wit.

  • Exploring The Parks: Musings From El Morro National Monument   4 weeks 2 days ago

    Lee and willj, after re-reading the main article and following the subsequent discussion thread, I am reminded of two previous NPT articles by PJ Ryan of "Thunderbear" fame (and another former NPS'er):

    I highly recommend that these two articles be consulted for their possible relevance to the current series of questions about the deterioration of staff morale within the rank and file of National Park Service employees, permanent as well as seasonal.

  • National Park Service Plans To Enlarge Parking Area For Delicate Arch At Arches National Park   4 weeks 2 days ago

    Let me preface by saying that I for one have committed to increasing my visitation to the parks to demonstrate their necessary place in our culture. However, on my first visit to Arches and Canyonlands in 2012, it was disappointing to witness photographers themselves in both parks crowd shoulder-to-shoulder onto a specific area (such as the small terrace in front of Mesa Arch) and proceed to jeer and catcall at fellow visitors to "get out of their picture." Has it been forgotten that these resources are preserved for enjoyment by all taxpayers equally, and not simply to be a photographic subject of which the same is already widely available on the Internet? At what point do we take a step back and commit to remembering that founding principal relative to our fellow visitors?

  • Exploring The Parks: Musings From El Morro National Monument   4 weeks 3 days ago

    Will and Wild -- both offer some fine comments.

    Perhaps someone can answer a few questions for me. Back in the "good ol' days," advancement came not because anyone sought it, but through a system that looked first at what specific skills a particular position required and then searched for people within the NPS who filled those needs. Qualified people then received an "offer" to accept the position as a lateral or promotion.

    Am I correct in thinking that now anyone may "bid" for an open position? Does that increase politicking within the service? It would seem logical that it would.

    Also, am I correct in thinking that virtually any Federal employee from any agency may also bid for jobs in NPS? Has that watered down or degraded the skill sets, morale, and (what's the right word . . . . ) heritage or tradition of the NPS or whatever word I'm searching for here?

    One theme I've often heard as I have talked with current field level rangers is a feeling of frustration that there is so much competition from people who may never have "paid their dues" as NPS employees. I think I've noticed a lot of items in the NPS Morning Reports that so-and-so was just selected as superintendent of such-and-such park -- but that the person came from another agency. Am I right or wrong in that observation?

  • Exploring The Parks: Musings From El Morro National Monument   4 weeks 3 days ago

    It's an issue in the private sector too. Lack of accountability at the higher levels and managers giving and taking direction without understanding what they are asking or signing up for. It's always been my view that before you are put in charge of a team tasked with cleaning toilets then you had better have cleaned a few somewhere along the way.

  • Exploring The Parks: Musings From El Morro National Monument   4 weeks 3 days ago


    I do think things have gone downhill since your time. That seems to be the consensus from the old timers I know, even accounting for the usual "kids today" bullshit.

    This is what a former superintendent on the CNPSR message board had to say on the subject:

    It¹s easy to blame Congress, funding and staffing limitations, etc. But in my judgment (and experience teaching and consulting with NPS since my retirement) it is that the NPS has done a very poor job of developing effective leaders for some time. Looking at the dismal ratings for leadership and supervision in both the OPM and Best Places to Work surveys, as well as the anecdotal information that continues to flow, over the past several years seems to validate this. Leaders at the lower levels aren¹t holding poor performers accountable, which is frustrating and demoralizing to the better performers; and leaders at the higher levels aren¹t being held accountable for poor decisions and how they are treating employees below them. It¹s partly a training issue, but even more of an accountability issue.

    So other people are seeing it, it isn't just a few bitter employees. I'd like to think that it is just confined to a few places, but the worst people we've had have all come to us from the wider NPS.

    As for your quitting a permanent job when you didn't think you could do it as well as you wanted to: I have a lot of respect for that, we need more people with that kind of integrity. Unfortunately it is also one reason we end up with so many people at the top who lack integrity.

  • Exploring The Parks: Musings From El Morro National Monument   4 weeks 3 days ago


    I guess what I wrote about local businesses really only applies to the out of the way parks I know well. I agree that things can easily get out of hand at a large park. 2000 people a day at Delicate Arch makes my head spin. I’ve had that place to myself more than once, and I’m not that old.

    Personally I think the one size fits all national standards stuff can be taken too far. The park system is too diverse for that. Among the managers I know, ignorance of local conditions is almost a point of pride. They have this culture where they think they can go anywhere in the country and just plug in and go.

    I have seen very little cultural diversity among management, they have all come from the suburban upper middle class, doctors’ kids and so on. They are really only comfortable in that culture, and the lower level people they support come from the same background. They make a big show of pushing racial diversity, but somehow just end up with brown skinned doctors’ kids. Their incomprehension and visible discomfort when dealing with the working class people among their own staff, and in the local communities, would be pretty funny if it didn’t have real consequences. Their refusal to get to know people forces them to fall back on stereotypes. They seem to think that anyone who would want to make their life out in the middle of nowhere is just an ignorant hick who is only out to despoil the wilderness. I have been treated with an amazing amount of condescension and contempt, and have seen my very intelligent and capable coworkers and neighbors treated much worse.

    If they would just stop moving around so much, and take the time to get to know the place and work with people, things could go pretty smoothly. People react much better to changing rules when they come from managers who have earned their respect, and who they know will be around to deal with any consequences.

  • Exploring The Parks: Musings From El Morro National Monument   4 weeks 3 days ago


    I don't disagree with what you are saying and have been disappointed by upper level managers more often than not.

    The personal situation that I knew about was where individual district rangers and staff were given directives and then when they carried out their directives local business/recreation orgs went after them. The higher level mangers would sometimes stand up for their staff or sometimes not depending on the political wind and what their mangers told them.

    For me the idea of NP being held to higher standards systematically and fairly throughout the country is going to cause problems locally in some places. The mom and pop places you speak of can be altruistic or totally self asborbed in their own personal recreation and their bottom line. I personally still like the Idea that if I go to a NP there is a set of asethetic standards that is consistent throughout, held together by the Organic Act, CFR and NPS management guidelines. The idea of traffic jams of ORVs next to a colonial bird nesting colony on a national park beach or a haze of blue smoke from snowmobiles on trails that were ment to be silent, clean and pristine must be addressed. I have seen some really nice state parks but they don't do for me what NP parks do.

  • Saguaro National Park Officials Voice Opposition To Development Proposed Across From Rincon Mountain District   4 weeks 3 days ago

    This question of whether there should be any kind of "buffer zone" around parks to limit development to various degrees is usually guaranteed to be controversial. This situation is especially interesting due to the recognition by local government that there is value in some controls on some types of development in those locations.

    Lots of room for interpretation in the following summary of that local ordinance:

    "The main purpose of this ordinance to preserve and protect the open space characteristics of those lands in the vicinity of the public preserves while at the same time permitting economically reasonable use of lands. The ordinance also seeks to protect the public preserves in Pima County and at the same time maintain an ecologically sound transition between the preserves and the more urban areas without substantially affecting the wildlife in the area. The preservation of visual aesthetics is another goal of the buffer overlay zone defined by the ordinance."

    Here's a link with more information about the Pima County Buffer Overlay Zone.

  • Exploring The Parks: Musings From El Morro National Monument   4 weeks 3 days ago

    Nice post Rick, I agree. Once we assume a position that only our side has all the answers, problems usually arise. Like yourself I have found it all human organizations, issues are generally more complicated and fraught with frailness, myself included, but much good does occur.

  • National Park Service Plans To Enlarge Parking Area For Delicate Arch At Arches National Park   4 weeks 3 days ago

    Please someone explain how how certain iconic resources managed by the NPS are greatly restricted and relatively expensive to access and protect while others are open to all, apparently easy to protect, and cheap to the pulic. At Arches, management plans on laying more asphalt to better accommodate the onrushing mostly unrestricted hoards who are charged a mere $10 a carload (5 people) for access, while that same car load would likely wait years to secure a permit and then pay $500 for access to the Colorado River in Grand Canyon.

  • Visitation Booming At Great Smoky Mountains National Park; October Numbers Best In Nearly Three Decades   4 weeks 3 days ago

    Jim Casada made this bogus claim about me in his forum. He claims I said the following on this page:

    "It's also interesting that Gary Wilson, on the National Parks Traveler site, is saying he found full campsites most everywhere he went in October while many others are reporting quite the opposite. It's one thing to be a staunch advocate for a given position, pro or con. It's quite another to be a bald-faced liar. Someone is a master of mendacity, a duke of deceit, a high priest of hyperbole, and I don't think its folks giving specific numbers or crying foul."

    Once again, I made no such claim about backcountry campsites, and did not mention anything about backcountry site use on this thread. Can you point to where I said any such thing on this page, jim? So quit twisting my words!! The reality was the park was busy, the roads were crowded, and businesses in Gatlinburg-Pigeon Forge-Townsend, etc were booming in October. Those are facts and reality. I was inside the park boundary 25 of 31 days, jimbo. Were you? Were you in the park AT ALL? Having a few people make claims that they didn't encounter anyone along trails like rabbit branch, or miri ridge, or a few other trails on the west side, does not mean the park wasn't crowded in other areas. Those trails are low hanging fruit, and well off most people's radar and are barely trekked even during the busiest times .. ENJOY the fact that areas like that still exist in GSMNP, if you can somehow attempt to pull yourself out of grinch mode ..

    Regardless, I never made any comment about backcountry use in this entire thread. I don't whine about the backcountry 24/7, and am not in the business to spread misinformation and propaganda to "get donations" so I can use those funds to pay lawyers to file lawsuit after lawsuit to sue the park. That's your world. Point is October was very busy. I live next to the park, and I saw it with my own eyes. I don't need heresay from someone sitting on a computer way out in knoxville or even further out in Kentucky that are only in the park a few times a month. June and July were also very busy this year and the stats do show that. Regardless, if you dont trust the statistics to claim the park doesn't have ANY traffic is a joke. The park is quite busy and anyone that is involved saw it. Learn to read and quote me in context, please! Because it would make the misinformation you try to constantly spread about me more pallatable…I definitely did not trek every trail in the park checking on backcountry accommodations, nor do I care. That is your fight, and seems to consume a good portion of your life. Even though I do encounter backcountry campers throughout the year, i'm not keeping data, nor do I care to do so. So don't pull me into your battles with the NPS, when all I stated that the park was crowded in October.

  • Musings From AirVenture National Park   4 weeks 3 days ago

    Here's a link to a news item from the Experimental Aircraft Association's website about Darrell Collins.

    A little plug for the park service and one exceptionally fine interpreter. Anyone who has heard Darrell's presentations won't quickly forget them.