Recent comments

  • New Look Starting To Appear On National Park Websites   3 days 22 hours ago

    Thank you RickB, yes it is difficult to understand how anyone could disagree with someone going on a vacation. Hawaii, a great place to do it, my mother lived and remarried there. I always looked forward to it.

  • New Look Starting To Appear On National Park Websites   3 days 23 hours ago

    On that snide Obama/Hawaii comment, I found an article from Politifact from August 2014:

    "CBS White House reporter Mark Knoller is the unofficial but widely trusted chronicler of data on presidential travels and other day-to-day White House goings-on, so we turned to his calculations.

    On Aug. 8, 2014, Knoller tweeted that Obama had taken 19 vacations totaling 125 days so far while in office. Those numbers have risen a bit due to the Martha’s Vineyard vacation, but that’s still many fewer than George W. Bush’s 65 combined trips to his Texas ranch and his parents’ home in Kennebunkport, Maine, which totaled 407 days at the same point in his presidency.

    Not included in this data are trips to the Camp David presidential retreat in western Maryland, which Knoller doesn’t count as "vacation." Knoller told Yahoo! News that, through Aug. 12, 2014, Obama had made 33 visits to Camp David for all or part of 84 days, while Bush had been there 108 times for all or part of 341 days."

    If you are looking for a warm wasteland there is a ranch in Crawford Texas that is surely cleared of brush by now, after eight years of staged photo-ops spent clearing it.

  • Special Tours Offered At Mesa Verde National Park   4 days 29 min ago

    I took their Mug House backcountry tour a couple of years ago and loved it. I also have taken their Cliff Palace Twilight tour which is a very unique time- and lighting- perspective of this very popular set of ruins. I highly recommend these less-visited / special tours. The Photography Tour of Cliff Palace sounds awesome!

  • DOI Report: National Park Service Left Tens Of Millions Dollars On The Table In Potential Fees   4 days 36 min ago

    Dittos Smokiesbackpacker, I agree, Kitty Benzar got to the crux of the issue. "Our parks should be nature centers, not profit centers", David Brower.

  • DOI Report: National Park Service Left Tens Of Millions Dollars On The Table In Potential Fees   4 days 1 hour ago

    "What ever happened to public lands providing a public good? Monetizing the parks has got to be 'America's Worst Idea.'"

    Amen Mrs. Benzar. Thanks for your service to American taxpayers. You are a hero.

  • New Look Starting To Appear On National Park Websites   4 days 1 hour ago

    Okay, guys, but I meant serious ideas. In the first place, if you wanted to get your politicians out of Washington, you would have to send them to someplace WARM. Note how President Obama fires up Air Force One to vacation in Hawaii. How much CO2 does that contribute to the atmosphere? Ah, heck, the windmills will take of that.

    You see my point. I suggest we not get huffy with the National Park Service until we have something substantial from our offices. Here's one of my ideas. Every park visitor center has a bookstore, although some look more like toy stores now. Make them bookstores again--and bookstores only--from January 1, 2016, until December 31, 2016. Put every major title on the shelves dealing with the national parks. Perhaps have a special shelf devoted just to the Park Service, drawing special attention to the centennial. The National Park Foundation is halfway there with its funded series of lectures in the national parks. Of course, broaden the definition of "books" to include everything interpretive, but ensure that "quality" win out over "sales" for these special 365 days of history.

    The problem, so let's air it now, is that money drives these venues. Of course it does, but just this once, scholarship should prevail. If you mean it, let the public see that you mean it. For once, give the public a chance to prove itself. Is it that they prefer trinkets over substance, or that the substance is not properly displayed AND interpreted?

    No congressional appropriation would be needed, but yes, the Park Service would have to live without a stream of income derived from spur-of-the-moment, impulse buying. Thirty years ago, every visitor center looked like a library. There was not a tee shirt, fanny pack, or walking stick to be seen. Okay. If you can't give up on all of it, at least give scholarship half of the store for the centennial.

    My model would be Zion National Park. A beautiful store with lots of interpretation. Good people who still love books. In 2016, every store--in every visitor center--would be asked to look like that.

    Ideas, folks. And good ones. The professor has his grade book out this time around.

  • DOI Report: National Park Service Left Tens Of Millions Dollars On The Table In Potential Fees   4 days 1 hour ago

    Good observation about the situation 6 years ago. Wonder if the IG report acknowledged those factors.

  • New Look Starting To Appear On National Park Websites   4 days 1 hour ago

    Traveler, interesting post by Dr. Runte. First I am sure public shuttles and even trains, where feasible, is a consideration. It should be done in conjunction with a visitor capacity and reservations system, where needed during peak visitor periods. I have see this work well in some areas. My other concern is the raising of entrance, camping, backpacking fees. Thank you Taveler for contacting Kitty Benzar, I am in agreement with her.

  • DOI Report: National Park Service Left Tens Of Millions Dollars On The Table In Potential Fees   4 days 1 hour ago

    Believe that 6 years ago time frame is the same as the big stimulous injection of cash to NPS ($600 Mil comes to mind), Cash for Clunkers and a number of other programs. The timing, including the economic crash, probably made the decision to raise fees politically not smart.

  • DOI Report: National Park Service Left Tens Of Millions Dollars On The Table In Potential Fees   4 days 2 hours ago

    There have been lots of opinions expressed on the Traveler about fees, many of them in opposition to those fees. As reported earlier on the Traveler, a few parks have decided to either cut back on plans to increase fees, and a few have dropped such fees completely.

    The tone of the IG report described in the above story appears to be critical of the NPS for failing to maximize revenue. ("By failing six years ago to implement higher entrance fees across all 131 parks that charge them, the National Park Service left tens of millions of dollars on the table in potential revenues...").

    Will park manager's feel added pressure to increase fees as a result of this report from higher up in the organization? It seems unlikely any report from the IG would be simply ignored, so the question is whether its implied recommendations to increase fee income will be challenged or implemented.

  • New Look Starting To Appear On National Park Websites   4 days 4 hours ago

    I forgot the MOST IMPORTANT people in my list and the edit button isn't there this morning. I failed to say that we also need to elect not just one, but several veterans of four or five combat deployments in the Middle East.

    My sincere apologies to all our brave men and women of the military.

  • New Look Starting To Appear On National Park Websites   4 days 5 hours ago

    Lee - great idea! My only addition to your plan is to say they can't accept any PAC donations to help get home. :-)

    And, to tie this to the subject at hand, in the backcountry of Gates of the Arctic, they won't be able to rely on park websites, old or new, for any help. Wonder if anyone in that group would be able to read a "real" vs. a virtual map?

  • New Look Starting To Appear On National Park Websites   4 days 13 hours ago

    Haven't heard better suggestions in quite awhile.

  • New Look Starting To Appear On National Park Websites   4 days 13 hours ago

    Ah, HA! It just came to me.

    Offer all our Congresscritters a taxpayer paid junket for a fact finding mission to the farthest reaches of Gates of the Arctic. Haul them out as far as possible from the nearest road and tell them they will have to find their way home.

    Then, as they become mired in hopeless gridlock and partisan arguments and endless filibusters about which direction they need to go (left or right), the Capitol building will become a peaceful place again and with all of them far, far away, they won't be able to do any more harm to the NPS or the rest of us.

    Then we can elect a whole new flock to the hallowed halls. But this time, let's make sure they are all people who possess good sense and are actually willing to work. Like minimum wage waitresses who somehow manage to support a family of children; a small farmer from Iowa; a schoolteacher from Detroit; a cancer survivor who was driven into bankruptcy when insurance refused to cover treatments; a small businessman or woman who has managed to build a modestly successful business; a police officer and firefighter or two and a college graduate who can't find a decent job but has thousands of dollars in loans to pay off. Common people who probably couldn't come up with a million dollars if they pooled all their funds.

    Then, just maybe, we might have a government that truly represented ordinary Americans.

    With that, the NPS (and everyone else) would be all set for the next hundred years.

    True, the junket might cost a few bucks, but sometimes you have to make an investment to reap a profitable result.

  • New Look Starting To Appear On National Park Websites   4 days 17 hours ago

    Here's an idea for the NPS to embrace instead of millions on feel good websites and flashy plug ins. Instead of dropping entrance/usage fees for fourth graders, Northerners of Scandaniavian descent and Southerners with Scotch Irish backgrounds whose brothers played soccer on Thursday, How about eliminating user fees for taxpayers for ALL public lands. The offset would be the whopping increase President Obama has slated for the NPS and this agency would have a directive to serve the people instead of the concessionaires who appear to dictate much of NPS policy these days. Throw in the millions they are spending in attempts to convince Americans that the parks are a good idea and make it easier for taxpayers to access them.

  • New Look Starting To Appear On National Park Websites   4 days 18 hours ago

    Kurt promises to take care of all transportation costs. "Have Website, Will Traveler." Ho! Ho! Only we older folks (or people watching re-runs) will get that one!

  • New Look Starting To Appear On National Park Websites   4 days 19 hours ago

    A very interesting challenge, Dr. Runte.

    Yet without money, how will we ever transport the ideas beyond the office's walls?

    Even so, this could be fun.

    But it's gonna take some real effort. And it's almost time for dinner and there's a big golf tournament on TV this afternoon.

    Maybe tomorrow . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

  • New Look Starting To Appear On National Park Websites   4 days 21 hours ago

    Okay. Class assignment for Wednesday morning. Think of ONE thing the Park Service could do, costing no one any MONEY, to help celebrate the centennial properly. Send your ideas into Kurt and he will post them in an article next Sunday morning. No, Kurt has not approved, but we on the "staff" have great creative leeway.

    You're all right. There is no real "thinking" going on here, but it has nothing to do with MONEY. Nor some amendment introduced by some Congressman, Senator, etc., etc., intended to inflame a constituency hostile to the public lands. That has been going on since our Puritan forefathers established the first real estate agency. The sagebrushers are not to going to win the argument, but yes, thanks to wind and solar inroads they're getting bolder.

    Using history, I invite you to be creative. As on Apollo 13, you can use only what is already on hand in the Service and Command Modules. Get the astronauts safely home and save the centennial from disaster. No "extra" appropriations; no "PC" seminars; just the materials you already have in both spacecraft.

    The clock just started ticking. You have 72 hours before the astronauts (Jon Jarvis, et al.) run out of air., i.e, catastrophic climate change in the bureaucracy. Seriously, if the Park Service cannot figure this out, Harry is right. They never intended to mount a memorable centennial in the first place, because yes, all that is required is a commitment to succeed.

    Now remember. You are not to spend a dime. Everything you need is in the office, the talent of your staff, or in the field. It's already there. You just need to look for it. After all, you HAVE survived for 99 years.

  • New Look Starting To Appear On National Park Websites   4 days 23 hours ago

    Harry, you're right. But "future" is a word foreign to most Americans -- and certainly to our government.

    "Future" requires active planning and forethought. It requires vision. It also {gasp!} requires funding. Money. It's an uncertain investment.

    In a nation that is increasingly about ME and where the operatant issue seems to rarely expand beyond the simple selfish question of what's in it for ME, the future is an abstraction that only diverts attention from important things like being constantly entertained or seeking after greater fortune.

    "Future" is not politically important, so it's easy for lawmakers to ignore it.

    Unfortunately, without strong leadership that looks toward the future, we will continue to flounder in the present.

    But as long as we're making money while we flounder, all is well.

    Right?

  • New Look Starting To Appear On National Park Websites   5 days 5 min ago

    The NPS web site, A Call to Action--Preparing for a Second Century of Stewardship and Engagement, was last updated on August 24, 2012. There is a link on the page to the current plan, Preparing for a Second Century of Stewardship and Engagement, dated 2014. Is this the latest information and thinking on 2016? Has nothing happened since 2014? The page (http://www.nps.gov/calltoaction/success.htm states the following.

    The National Park Service turns 100 on August 25, 2016. To us, it's not about cakes and candles — it's about being an organization ready to take on the challenges of our second century. Our blueprint to get there — A Call to Action — outlines the innovative work we want to accomplish. Every partner, program, and park plays a dynamic role in realizing that vision. Take a look at what we're doing and get involved! Some examples are listed below.

    A Hip Hop Musical Adventure on the NET

    N'oubliez Pas: Preservation & Advancement of the Louisiana French Language >>

    Learning to Camp - Alongside the Arctic Ocean

    A minute man visits Iowa.

    President Clinton Visits Governors Island

    My question is what does all of this have to do with preparing the National Parks for the challenges facing the service in 2016 and beyond? How can the NPS operate to meet the needs of the visiting public to ensure their safety and protect the resources? Where is the money going to come from for roads, sanitation, and support services that every park needs? How is the service going to take on the challenge of managing a growing number of parks with fewer people and resources?

    2016 should be a golden opportunity to reach out to the American people and Congress to ensure that our parks are funded, maintained, interpreted and survive to be passed on to later generations of Americans. Where is the long range planning and critical thinking? Perhaps the service has taken these steps but if so I see no indication in the 2016 literature that being promoted on the web. The serious questions and challenges are not being address.

    2016 seems to be all cake and ice cream and one big celebratory party. No one is thinking about the years to come. Has NPS management forgotten that in the final analysis our purpose is to protect the parks and ensure that every visitor has a quality experience?

  • Main Attraction At Jewel Cave National Monument Growing Longer Bit By Bit   5 days 3 hours ago

    Jewel Cave is a real jewel. (Sorry 'bout that . . . ) It's fascinating to think that such a complex underground maze exists anywhere. It's also wonderful that there are people who are adventurous enough and tough enough to do the work necessary to extend our knowledge of places like this. I did a little cave crawling in West Virginia when I was young and know how very difficult and uncomfortable it can be.

    The article expresses distances in hours and not feet or yards. When you stop to think that much of that time was probably spent crawling on hands and knees or slithering in cold, narrow, wet, muddy passages, you have to take your hat off to these explorers.

    Is there a chance that someday in the future, these spelunkers will share more photos and tales with Traveler readers?

  • New Look Starting To Appear On National Park Websites   5 days 3 hours ago

    Currently, there is no law forcing them to be placed on the chopping block.

    And under the Cruz amendment there is no law putting the Parks on the chopping block. To be disposed of, they would have to go the exact same process they would need to go through today and there is little doubt that the National Parks would be one of the last of the massive government lands considered for disposal.

    As I detailed before in the states affected, the Parks represent a very small portion of the massive Federal land alotments that would still be allowed.

  • New Look Starting To Appear On National Park Websites   5 days 4 hours ago

    Here in California, roughly 52% of the 100 million or so acres is in public hands.

    As of 2010 it was 47.7%.

    http://fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R42346.pdf

  • New Look Starting To Appear On National Park Websites   5 days 4 hours ago

    No more vulnerable than they are today

    I doubt that. The Cruz Amendment, had it passed, would by law place national park units on the chopping block for the several states identifed in the article to which Lee linked. (As Kurt pointed out, we would hope that an Interior Secretary wouldn't cut the NPS units.) Currently, there is no law forcing them to be placed on the chopping block. So, how would they be "no more vulnerable" under the Cruz Amendment "than they are today"?

  • New Look Starting To Appear On National Park Websites   5 days 13 hours ago

    Yep, there are quite a few more ready to climb out of their caskets to redefine "feel good."

    Exchanging places with revisionists would be on their minds, I'm thinking.