The End of the Earth

Olympic National Park Coastline : NPS PhotoI love the parks. I am reminded of this fact every time I get a chance to visit one of our national treasures for a couple days. I've just returned from a trip to Olympic National Park. I spent three days on the beach in an area north of Lake Ozette. What do I love about my visits? As mentioned earlier this month, I love the very large scale, there is more than enough room to roam. I love the sense of discovery I get every single time I visit (finding an eagle soaring above, finding a half-eaten rodent and wondering if I've stumbled into a cougar's lunch, watching my newborn discover the taste of sand). And I love that it feels like I am on the very edge of the planet, the last outpost before falling off into space. I turned my cell phone on to see if there was service (not that I was going to make a call, I was just curious). There was no service. I did have a small portable radio, which was able to pick up broadcasts from Astoria, Oregon (approx. 200 miles to the south) and from Vancouver Canada (well to the north and west). And of course, the radio reception was half static which added to the impression that I was far from civilization.

But the thing that gave me the greatest sense of being away from it all, was watching the boats on the ocean. In the daylight I couldn't distinguish any figure of a boat against the horizon, it was at night that they stood out. The boats were only represented by distant tiny lights on the horizon that defined the fine line between ocean and sky. An internet calculator has figured out the distance I could see was approximately 13 miles, but in the darkness of night, the lights seemed much farther away. These tiny lights represented order and schedules and commerce and all the things of civilization, and there they were gliding silently, slowly from left to right upon the very edge of the earth. And here I was, so far away from it all. It was a peaceful feeling.

Park news around the Olympic Peninsula is about the impending changes to the park General Management Plan (GMP). The park is taking public comment on the plan until September 30. I picked up a copy of the Forks Forum, the small newspaper for the town of Forks, the city situated between the rainforests and the beaches of the park. There have been local meetings for the plan which this article addresses. From the article:
[Park information officer Barb] Maynes emphasized this was a draft plan, and "as much public input as possible" was critical at this stage. "The key word is 'draft, we are offering four different alternative ways of managing the parks, four different visions, in this draft. We are here to fit the plan to the community."

The four alternative ways are Plan A: the no-action alternative, in which the method of management remains unchanged; Plan B: the resource protection emphasis, in which, for example, a washed-out road becomes a trail; Plan C: the visitor opportunities emphasis, in which graded roads are added to parks that are opened for year-round access, and Plan D: the preferred emphasis, in which parts of the other three plans are combined to form a compromise.

"We aren't necessarily trying to make everybody happy," said Maynes. "We're trying to provide for as many of the alternative preferences as possible. Compromise leaves everyone a little unsatisfied, but with something they want. We'll be basing the final plan on our own analysis and community input," said Maynes
A friend of mine on the peninsula is worried. I think anybody that lives out there is worried when change is in the air. I think the feeling is that you can never be quite sure what will happen when new rules are created and enforced. But it is not only locals who are worried. This press release was delivered yesterday on the Common Dreams newswire. The release is titled "Olympic National Park Plan Shortchanges Wilderness: Development Promoted While Rivers and Wild Lands Shortchanged". I haven't yet had a chance to go over the draft plan. The plan is available to download, or you can call to request a hard copy, or visit a local library to review. The plan is 400 pages long. I'd like to have a look before I comment, but I guess I better hurry since there are only 30 days left. It is worth taking the time to review the 400 pages and to leave a comment if it means an opportunity to have input towards preserving the peace in this park on the edge of the earth.


Here is a link to the Olympic Draft GMP:
Hi Jeanne,

You have been the Park Remark fact checking department this week! I really appreciate you posting the link to the downloadable draft plan. I guess I didn't click enough links while I was on the GMP web page. I have updated the article with your changes. Thanks!