Recent comments

  • Exploring The Parks: Musings From El Morro National Monument   5 days 21 hours 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   5 days 21 hours 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   5 days 21 hours 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   6 days 30 min 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.

    http://www.eaa.org/en/eaa/eaa-news-and-aviation-news/eaa/2014-10-29-darr...

  • Exploring The Parks: Musings From El Morro National Monument   6 days 1 hour ago

    Lee...

    I hsve to agree on fumigating the politicians and those who purchase them. I spent over a decade in the corporate world, then 20-some years in the nursing world, and have heard from friends with similar experiences in academia, retail, and every other sort of organized workforce. The problems of management being influenced by factors other than what is best for the individuals and their mission is far from unique to the NPS.

    Personally, I try to take the grey inbetween road. Those who adamantly state that the NPS is always right are probably as wrong as those who one-note-samba 'the NPS always lies' or such. If we can find one thing that an opponent does right or that we agree with, it will help to trim the evil characterizations of those we are in opposition to. This really extends out more generally to many of these issues we discuss here.

  • National Park Service Plans To Enlarge Parking Area For Delicate Arch At Arches National Park   6 days 5 hours ago

    Alfred and Gary -- Edward Abbey was enitrely correct when he opined that although the NPS may not be able to find money for interpreters or maintenance workers or other really essential essentials, they can always find money for asphalt.

    I'm not sure if there really would be a very loud outcry from the local merchants. Moab is a different sort of place -- certainly for Utah. It's full of those strange creatures called "liberals" by other Utah inhabitants. Many, if not most, of the business owners there seem to be very protective of their parks. Even to the point of putting the parks and its resources first in their list of priorities.

    Maybe we need more Moabs and Moabites.

  • Exploring The Parks: Musings From El Morro National Monument   6 days 5 hours ago

    Will, I agree fully with almost everything you have said.

    I wish I had some good ideas to change it. As a teacher, there were a few of us who stood up and sounded off, and paid some prices now and then. But sometimes we managed to make progress. (Dunno if it continued when we were gone, though.)

    Surely if there are others who feel as you do, there might be strength in numbers. Then there is PEER -- have you considered trying to get in touch with them?

    I chose to leave permanent NPS work and return as a seasonal because of the political pressure that was landing on me when I had advanced to a level just above field ranger. But I can honestly say that as far as I know, none of those pressures came from any of my immediate supervisors or even the regional office. (But things may have changed since the early '80s) What bugged me were new and increasing laws and regulations regarding hiring and minority preferences that kept me from hiring and supervising as I thought I should. Those came from ON HIGH and were driving everyone I knew batty. And I was chained to my desk instead of out in the park.

    As a seasonal interpreter, I had no real worries but did have the privilege of mentoring others while enjoying the park with the people who came to visit the place I worked.

    I'm thinking a lot of the nonsense from those days still exists. Changing it will require changes at the top and somehow finding a way to reduce the Congressional overreach that infests our government. (But even that comes from the wealthy special interests who purchase the services of career politicians. Maybe one of the best places to start would be a strict system of limiting terms and limiting contributions -- aka bribes.)

    The most resiliant good ol boys networks in the nation reside on Capitol Hill in 50 states and in D.C.

    We need to find a way to fumigate those places.

  • Winter Lodging In The National Parks: The Choices Are Many And Intriguing   6 days 5 hours ago

    The US Virgin Island..Great National Park for the winter..Virgin Islands guide from a local..at

    http://www.travelaskthelocals.yolasite.com

  • National Park Service Plans To Enlarge Parking Area For Delicate Arch At Arches National Park   6 days 5 hours ago

    I've always felt that Arches was too small of a park to accomodate the auto traffic as it is. They should have long ago implemented the tram system. There's only one spot in that place where you can still find solitude... and yes, its in a section where it takes travelling on a dirt road to access the features. Sad to hear they are just going to expand the pavement, especially when there are other ways to combat ever increasing use. I also remember the days of walking out to the Delicate Arch and having it to myself... but those days are gone. I was last there in 2011, and got an early morning start only to find that I was not the only one walking up there. Times have definitely changed, and it's well past the days when Abbey saw it. He'd probably loathe what it has turned into.. I guess, he just couldn't uproot the engineers stakes fast enough.

  • National Park Service Plans To Enlarge Parking Area For Delicate Arch At Arches National Park   6 days 6 hours ago

    Obviously, the Park Service has yet to read DESERT SOLITAIRE. These are not "impossible challenges," Lee. The Park Service simply refuses to acknowledge there is a problem. Every problem gets solved with a parking lot. No wonder the problem persists. What would I do? Make it all a gravel road. No problem "accessing" the wilderness. You just have to ask yourself whether you want wilderness or a "perfect" car. 99 percent of Americans will answer for their car. Problem solved. Of course, the local businesses will scream bloody murder, but this is a NATIONAL park. If the resource is jeopardized, the resource prevails.

    Ah, but then I am dreaming, too.

  • Exploring The Parks: Musings From El Morro National Monument   6 days 7 hours ago

    Lee-

    It isn't that I think meddling from afar isn't a problem for most everyone. I don't think that this problem, which I believe to be one of the worst problems the NPS faces, is a result of outside meddling, unless you consider the NPS manager class to be outside meddlers. There is no lobbyist putting pressure on a superintendent to hire the superintendent's kid's college roommate, or telling a new district ranger that he should get rid of the super competent guy who was passed over for his job. There are no moneyed interests served by a manager refusing to fire a problem employee because it would be a tacit admission that he messed up when he hired him in the first place. It is just a remarkably resilient good ol boys network.

  • Exploring The Parks: Musings From El Morro National Monument   6 days 7 hours ago

    You have people who think they are so much smarter than the locals that not only should they be able to plan in a vacuum, they shouldn't even have to inform the people who are most affected. I've seen press releases come out that are flat out lies.

    The sole reason I choose my nick name here, the NPS have treated us like we are too dumb to know any better, dismiss anything we say because they think we are too stupid. They have told us flat out lies and expect us to just shut up and make us out to be the problem. Some just transferred here think they know better. This kind of attitude has worsened in the last decade. Now we have no choice but to completely rock the boat and be made out to be bad guys. I know who is dumb and it ain't us.

  • Exploring The Parks: Musings From El Morro National Monument   6 days 7 hours ago

    Lee-I agree that the problem is not confined to the NPS. As long as we have institutions, we will have institutional dysfunction. What sets the NPS (and teaching, for that matter) apart, and gives us a unique opportunity to do better, is that we attract a lot of people who are not in it entirely for the money. We still have to feed our families, but it isn’t the only thing. We have people who find a job that they want to stay in and do well for its own sake, rather than so they can climb the ladder. People like that are the best chance any institution has to blunt the effect of the Peter Principle. Currently, from where I stand, these people are treated with suspicion and contempt by the ladder climbers who make up the majority of managers. So the way to fix it is to make keeping the good long term employees, and sidelining or removing the ladder climbers, a priority. Reduce management churn. Stop paying relocation expenses for permanent employees who move every few years to further their own careers. Pursue policies which give hiring preference for permanent jobs to seasonals who have proven themselves in that specific operation, and who are committed to that specific park. Step up and remove poor performers, rather than wait for them to take their next promotion. End the culture of the NPS can do no wrong. Stop trying to use public goodwill toward the parks as a shield against meaningful accountability for the park service. Maybe that is a pipe dream, but it shouldn’t have to be. We are spending money taken from the public by the governement, to be used for the common good. That is a huge responsibility, larger than that facing any private business owner or manager. We absolutely have to be held to a higher standard.

  • Exploring The Parks: Musings From El Morro National Monument   6 days 8 hours ago

    So how do we go about trying to change it?

    Simple, the problem you describe is precisely due to an overreaching federal government. Return to our roots, limit federal intrusions to those Constitutionally permitted and return local control.

    Unfortunately, you are against all those things.

  • Exploring The Parks: Musings From El Morro National Monument   6 days 8 hours ago

    Will, unfortunately what you describe is not isolated only to NPS circles. I submit it is true in virtually any profession that is subject to political interference -- and political interference comes not only from lawmakers, but as Bruxton has pointed out, an almost endless menangerie of other special interests as well.

    As a retired teacher, let me edit your first paragraph to reflect education instead of NPS:

    . . . is also a narrative that is drug out for ad hominem attacks on the credibility of local teaching staffs when they point out problems with the shiny new plan. It is used to rationalize ignoring the opinions of the people who know the most about an area, if those opinions differ from management's. The capture of educational management by ( local strikeout isn't working) often distant business interests and various segments of both liberal and conservative legislators and the public could certainly be a problem, but in my opinion it is currently not nearly as large of a problem as the short termism, ill informed decision making, and capture by managers' personal interests and special interests that exert influence upon them that is the (strike out result) cause of such rapid churning of upper management.

    I firmly believe that most of the problems that face professionals of all kinds is meddling by people far removed from the scene who too often have some kind of vested financial interest in whatever they are trying to influence.

    The local businesses you point to in your essay are probably analagous to students and their parents in our public schools. What you are trying to cite is correct, but is not restricted to NPS concerns. It's epidemic throughout our society.

    So how do we go about trying to change it?

  • Exploring The Parks: Musings From El Morro National Monument   6 days 9 hours ago

    Buxton-

    What you describe is undoubtedly true in some cases, but is also a narrative that is drug out for ad hominem attacks on the credibility of local staff when they point out problems with the shiny new plan. It is used to rationalize ignoring the opinions of the people who know the most about an area, if those opinions differ from management's. The capture of NPS management by local business interests could certainly be a problem, but in my opinion it is currently not nearly as large of a problem as the short termism, ill informed decision making, and capture by managers' personal interests that is the result of such rapid churning of upper management.

    There is a strong ideological current in the NPS that paints private business as innately bad, politically connected corporate despoilers of the land, only out for their own quick buck. Again, certainly true in some cases, but not all and not even most. I find it odd because these are the people at the front lines of the economic activity the NPS is so quick to point out as an advantage of having parks. At least around the podunk parks where I work, the businesses are family owned affairs geared toward helping people enjoy the parks. They provide basic things like food, lodging, horse packing, and canoe trips. They are not making some fantastic killing, often make less money than even low level park managers. The only politically connected corporate outfits that I see are the concessionaires the NPS brings in. The local businesses are in it for the long haul, and are trying to plan around an agency that is in a constant state of change as managers leave and new ones come in. They have every right to expect to be consulted and kept informed. They are "partners" just as much as the various non profits are partners. in the big picture they are some of the most loyal allies a park can have, even if they disagree with specific policies. But sometimes they are treated as enemies, and NPS employees are treated as 5th columnists for interacting with them on a basis of mutual respect and understanding.

    The new regulations involve politicians creating all kind of problems (FOIAs and meetings with the local recreational groups) that takes up the time and energy of everyone and increasing the work load of management.

    This is basic civics. Responsive government. If a park manager regards a meeting with a local recreation group as a problem, they are probably in the wrong line of work. Why should NPS management expect to be able to make whatever decisions they want without consulting local interests? This is the stuff that drives me crazy. You have people who think they are so much smarter than the locals that not only should they be able to plan in a vacuum, they shouldn't even have to inform the people who are most affected. I've seen press releases come out that are flat out lies. I've had managers tell me that if one of my neighbors asks me a question, I have to lie to them, just so the manager doesn't have to take a call from someone who disagrees with them.

    If the decisions they are making are the right ones, and often they are, then management should have the guts to stand up and explain their thinking to anyone who asks. That is their job. I think a lot of people in the NPS have this feeling that because they work for the NPS, everything they do is automatically good, everyone who questions them is therefore bad, and basic tenets of open government and accountability do not apply to them.

  • Visitation Booming At Great Smoky Mountains National Park; October Numbers Best In Nearly Three Decades   6 days 11 hours ago

    You can only book smokies back country sites 30 days in advance. Unless you are a guide service that can log into the system and book a site full then change it to keep non guided taxpaying peons away from their private gains from public lands.

  • National Park Service Plans To Enlarge Parking Area For Delicate Arch At Arches National Park   6 days 11 hours ago

    Wow. 2000 visitors a day to Delicate Arch.

    I recall when you once could go out there and be alone. Now it's almost impossible to get a photo of the arch without a crowd of people in the picture. I wish they'd also set up a "people free zone" around the arch to prevent people from wandering right over to it and gathering under -- and frequently on parts of its lower portions. I know many would object loudly, but how about setting aside certain times of the day when no one may approach so folks wanting pictures of just the arch will have a chance of getting one?

    Or have I just succumbed to the Great American Entitlement Mentality? (Or have those who want to touch the arch?)

    Just one more good example of the impossible challenges faced by park managers these days.

  • Exploring The Parks: Musings From El Morro National Monument   6 days 11 hours ago

    Buxton, I think you hit one of several nails on the head.

  • Exploring The Parks: Musings From El Morro National Monument   6 days 13 hours ago

    Great story Lee, really enjoyed it. I will put El Morro on my bucket list.

    I think the NPS has a really difficult job anymore. I never worked for the NPS but my spouse did so I did get an insider view of sorts. A lot of he problems start when management (rules and regulations) of the park changes, usually as a reaction to a problem that should have been addressed much sooner. Things like snowmobiles in Yellowstone or ORVs in CHNS or forced compliance of Acts of Congress. Businesses outside park become established that cater to specific clientele that uses the park for specific activities. The local businesses and the habitual users of particular park become one and the same. The users and local businesses come to view the particular park as "theirs". Some local NPS employees (usually maintenance) that live in the community are not on the same page as interp, LEO or resource divisions. This results in problems, things being said and stories being told. The new regulations involve politicians creating all kind of problems (FOIAs and meetings with the local recreational groups) that takes up the time and energy of everyone and increasing the work load of mangement. All the NPS superintendents are beholding to higher level managers and are political animals to some degree. The habitual visitors to the particular park look for any excuse to grind their axe never missing a chance to make a mountain out of a molehill, exacerbating the problems. This further separates the visitors from the staff and adversarial working conditions for all the Park's employees.

  • Visitation Booming At Great Smoky Mountains National Park; October Numbers Best In Nearly Three Decades   6 days 13 hours ago

    No shows happen all the time in the front country, too. I am currently in a SC state park on the beach where campsites are nearly impossible to get on weekends, even during winter. And yet, a 1/3 of the sites are empty due to no shows (they are in the system as reserved). These sites are $30/night and people don't bother to cancel. It is pretty easy to see why people wouldn't bother to cancel for $4/night.

    When I was in the smokies last month I got a site for a week because some else canceled. But the campground, booked full for the weekend, had dozens of open sites due to no shows. People can now book months in advance. Then they forget or plans change.

  • Exploring The Parks: Musings From El Morro National Monument   1 week 1 hour ago

    Well, Will, perhaps it will fall to you and people like you to make the difference happen.

    Figuring out how to do it and finding the courage to try are the biggest challenges.

  • Visitation Booming At Great Smoky Mountains National Park; October Numbers Best In Nearly Three Decades   1 week 7 hours ago

    A trip to the Smokies is made just about every month to do some hiking and backpacking. The latest backpacking stats are as follows on an October hike across the Smokies backbone via the AT:

    10/20/14 CS112 Mollies Ridge, Resv said 2, actual 2

    10/21/14 CS109 Derrick Knob, Resv said 8, actual 7

    10/22/14 CS106 Mt. Collins, Resv said 12, actual 1

    10/23/14 CS104 Pecks Corner, Resv said 7, actual 4

    10/24/14 CS102 Cosby Knob, Resv said 11, actual 5

    That is 21 no shows over a 5 day period with perfect weather. Reservations said 40 permits were granted, 19 showed, 21 did not. That is a 52.5% no show rate.

    This trend has been well documented since late summer of 2013 and is very predictable. My hiking friends have also noticed similar no shows when they backpacked. Its hard to imagine with over 20 documented hikes that there are that many hikers paying to stay, and then not showing up. No shows of 40 to 50% is very commonplace with this new reservation system.
  • Visitation Booming At Great Smoky Mountains National Park; October Numbers Best In Nearly Three Decades   1 week 10 hours ago

    your arguments are invalid on multiple levels J Thomas. if you knew a history of the backcountry fee you would know that the campsites were empty to begin with that is the point of contention for locals so there never was a need to have reservations. the Appalachian Trail shelters which represent only a fraction of the backcountry sites get full during at hiking season and the rest of the time the smokies back country is empty with an average of two campers per night for camp site. National Park Service lied about those numbers originally and cited over crowding as the justification for the fee so why should we trust anything they say including their inflated numbers now or back country or front country visitation? If you spent any time here you would know that. trying to discount comments questioning the National Park Service is a common tactic amongst the National Park Service.

  • Exploring The Parks: Musings From El Morro National Monument   1 week 20 hours ago

    Superintendents and division chiefs work here for 3-5 years and then leave. The ones we have had recently have been catastrophes, but that hasn’t stopped them from being promoted.

    CHNSRA's last superintendent didn't even make it two years, turned the community even further away then was promoted. It's a big problem the NPS needs to fix.