Changes Coming to Park Remark

If it feels a little quiet around here, it is because I'm working on some changes to the website behind the scenes. I hope to make an announcement within the next couple weeks or so about the changes. In the meantime I may add a short article or two, but for now, most of my efforts are going into the code for ParkRemark 2.0. By the way, I've really enjoyed reading the debate between 'Avoiding Paradise' and 'Mark Johnson' at the conclusion of the recent Disney article. They wonder, has the NPS drifted so far towards resource protection that they've turned a stink eye toward visitors? Or is it because so much of the visitor experience is now handled by less qualified volunteers that the public perception of visitor outreach in the parks is so poor?


I'm gratified to have this forum in which to bat around a few ideas and observations, so thanks.

I must say that I'm somewhat surprised by the lack of input that I assumed would be contributed by readers of this site who work for the NPS. I was hoping that they might be able to offer some insights into the rationale for the steep price hike in entrance fees, as well as other topics that you raise in your column. So far the silence has been deafening.

Are retired NPS employees the only people allowed to speak thier minds? Is that when the ideas finally start to flow more freely?
I'm not familiar with the inner workings of the NPS but I have experience with other land management agencies and know from experience that you have to be very careful what you say, even on an anonymous internet forum.

Some people really don't like criticism, and when those people are GS-14 or above, they frequently have the power to wreak havoc with the careers of those who dare to speak out against them, even when off the clock.
Doesn't sound like an outfit that is open to change or periodic paradigm shifts. It seems that the agency is hidebound to remain static and unchanging, which is most outwardly symbolized by their World War One era uniforms.

At least you've pointed out why so little has been contributed to the discussion, so far, from that quarter, which is sad because fear based stasis is no template for organizational growth. If people are unwilling to risk their careers to promote change and growth then it sounds like the NPS is just another self-perptuating government bureauacracy, which is why privatization should not be such a taboo word in light of this pervasive agency malaise.
Avoiding paradise,

I've really enjoyed your contributions to the website lately. I like that you've got some real strong opinions!

I think 'I can-t tell' is right on this, that folks within the NPS have been put in a position where speaking out can get them in trouble, though, I guess that could be said for most folks in the federal government these days. The current administration wants very badly to control the message. That is why almost all statements regarding the NPS come from Park Service spokespeople out of D.C., or from the Public Information Officers of the individual parks.

As you had mentioned in your first comment here, if you want to hear the voice of the rangers, you probably have to look to those that have retired! I have spoken with folks from the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees a number of times. They are in a position where they can speak-up without threat from retaliation.

There are active employees who speak out publicly when they see something wrong in the system, but these cases are rare. Most of the time, I think they'll work behind the scenes to get the message out.
I keep rolling over in my mind your statement: "They are in a position where they can speak-up without threat from retaliation."

What gives? Is Roberto Gonzales in charge over there, or what? It sort of reminds me of academe where the petty politics and back stabbing careerism brought forth this maxim: "The blood flows the thickest when the stakes are the smallest." Park rangering should not have the word "retaliation" in its lexicon.

I'd say that judging from the comments and insights offered, so far, that the major problem facing the NPS is rampant careerism and federal employment rules that make it hard to dismiss incompetent or vindictive employees. Maybe the cycle of fear and loathing could be brought under control if the parks were taken out of the Interior Department and put under the aegis of a non-profit foundation or were contracted out to interested scientific and culural institutions or even to state and local governments when deemed appropriate. The current federal system is a total failure that only perpetuates mismanagement and self-serving job advancement.

Let's try putting some free market principles into the work of providing protection and enjoyment of America's crown jewels by taking out the politics and cronyism inherent in the federal government's very core.