Mary's Thoughts on the Parks
Mary Bomar is on a short Western swing this week, in part to reach out and in part to get the latest on storm damage suffered at Mount Rainier.
While in large part her comments yesterday to an audience of businessmen and women in Wyoming were vanilla, there were a few red flags that popped up, both in her address and in discussions with reporters.
For instance, she did tell members of the Wyoming Business Alliance and the Wyoming Heritage Foundation that "always the No. 1 goal in my mind is the mission of the National Park Service -- 'to preserve for future generations’ as well as to connect every American to the parks and ensure financial sustainability and protection of park resources.”
But Mary also mentioned that, “We must reach our vast audiences and shift our methods to keep pace with the tastes, technology and changing demographics of the 21st century."
Now, the story in the Casper Star-Tribune did not go on to reveal exactly what Mary meant about that statement, but it's certainly something to watch.
To her credit, Mary, possibly inadvertently, seemed to overlook the boasting her predecessor, Fran Mainella, and former Interior Secretary Gale Norton made in the past about the success the Park Service was making in erasing its bloated maintenance backlog.
"We must make inroads into the maintenance needs that come with the aging infrastructure of parks and make them vibrant, attractive, compelling places for the next century," Mary told the audience.
Of course, how she engineers those inroads is something else that must be watched, for in an interview with the Jackson Hole News and Guide Mary indicated a willingness to bring more partners into the fold when it comes to coping with the park system's financial woes.
Does that mean more commercialization of the park system, more privatization, more leasing of facilities to private concerns, such as that being done at Fort Hancock at the Gateway National Recreation Area in the New York-New Jersey area?
Those questions are not new, but have been lingering since Mary's name first surfaced as Fran's successor. Somehow they were ignored by the Senate parks subcommittee that gently quizzed her during its hearings into her appointment, and by the few members of the media who have been allowed access to Mary since she was confirmed.
Hopefully some concrete answers will be forthcoming soon.