Recent comments

  • National Park Service Promotes Parks As Economic Engines   3 weeks 2 days ago

    EC: I plan on stopping at Crazy Horse too, but the majority of highlights in that region are NPS sites.

    True that Yellowstone would be a must-see whether it's an NPS site or not. But if it wasn't an NPS site, it would be an overdeveloped hellhole like Niagara Falls. I went there once (in winter, even) and will never return.

    When my wife and I went to ROMO we spent two days in Grand Lake and spent a fair amount of money in lodging and food. Although it was August we visited the park between about 6 am and 11 am, and again after about 5 pm. Crowds seemed minimal in those off-peak times, in spite of visitation stats, and we had the best experiences with wildlife we ever had in our 35 national park visits. It was an amazing experience, and I'm sure many who have lived it would agree. Since Grand Lake and Estes Park aren't wanting for tourism, it would seem ROMO draws a fair share of tourist dollars, and rightfully so.

  • Congressman Proposes Overhaul To Fee Programs On National Parks, Other Public Lands   3 weeks 2 days ago

    I may be misreading the info, but it appears from page RecFee-3 of the FY13 NPS Budget Justification (a.k.a. the "Greenbook") that estimated receipts from fees for FY11, 12 and 13 were about $172 million.

    Whether the correct amount is $100 million or $200 million, on my meter, it's a hefty chunk of money.

  • Congressman Proposes Overhaul To Fee Programs On National Parks, Other Public Lands   3 weeks 2 days ago

    I'd submit the above comments about the value to local economies of jobs tied to programs such as the F-35 are a key reason why the NPS feels the need to tout the value of parks to the economy.

    As the F-35 and other defense contracts confirm, few if any congresspersons want to be open to criticism local jobs were lost because they cut funding a federal project or program. That said, we shouldn't be too hard on the NPS for trying that same strategy to gain support for funding parks, by touting parks as "economic engines."

    On the original subject, if park fees bring in about $125 million a year, would Congress ante up that much in appropriated dollars if all fees were eliminated? Seems unlikely in today's world.

  • Congressman Proposes Overhaul To Fee Programs On National Parks, Other Public Lands   3 weeks 2 days ago

    The entire F-35 fleet was grounded recently for the third or fourth time after Congress pushed the Pentagon to declare it was "operational" even though the Air Force, Navy, and Marines still say it is in a testing phase.

    Several pilots have given up their careers rather than continue to fly the thing. They maintain it is unsafe even if it's sitting on the ground. (The most recent grounding came as a result of fire while one of them was on the ground.)

    Lockheed Martin very cleverly made the aircraft a stealthy sneaker that faces no chance of being shot down by Congress by strategically placing manufacturing of subassemblies in as many different Congressional districts as possible.

    In addition, the $400 billion number tossed around is far short of reality because of some clever accounting. True cost per aircraft for those built so far is estimated to be in excess of $1.5 TRILLION.

    Google F-35 and you'll find a flood of negative reviews and very few that offer positive pictures. And those, if you look, are almost always from Lockheed Martin.

    Golly whiz bang. What could our parks do with $400 billion?

    As for the idea that charging entry fees for our parks might drive potential visitors away, I wonder. My daughter and her family just returned from Dizzy World in Florida where they paid a daily entry fee of $294 for mom, dad, and two kidlets in the 3 - 10 age range. (That was at a discounted rate. Without a discount it would have been $356.)

    Our parks are a bargain.

  • Congressman Proposes Overhaul To Fee Programs On National Parks, Other Public Lands   3 weeks 2 days ago

    Rick, I believe the figure you're looking for is 1/13th of 1 percent of the federal budget.

    Here several more interesting numbers:

    * $125.7 million: That's how much park specific passes, daily entrance fees, the various interagency fees, and commercial fees brought in in 2009, the most recent year for figures that I have.

    * $2.6 billion, President Obama's FY15 budget request for the NPS.

    * $400 BILLION: Cost estimate for building the F-35 fighter, which has yet to fly in service.

    * $8 million: Cost estimate of a single job tied to building the fighter.

    For what it's worth, Hill Air Force Base, which is to serve as a "major depot" for the F-35, is in Rep. Bishop's district.

  • Congressman Proposes Overhaul To Fee Programs On National Parks, Other Public Lands   3 weeks 2 days ago

    And if Congress wasn't so parsimonious with the NPS budget compared to other national boondoggles then creative ways to fund maintenance, operations, or any other part of the NPS wouldn't be necessary. What is it - one tenth of one percent of the federal budget or something like that? [I'm asking -- I've heard it before but don't have the figure at hand today]

  • Congressman Proposes Overhaul To Fee Programs On National Parks, Other Public Lands   3 weeks 2 days ago

    To be fair, users never really pay their way when it comes to parks (national or not). 90% plus of the funding is shouldered by the taxpayer and a tiny minority of the population gets to enjoy it. I'm not complaining about it, but that's the reality.

  • National Park Service Promotes Parks As Economic Engines   3 weeks 2 days ago

    By the way am spending 2 days in Ft Collins with fishing and hiking in Poudre Canyon. Last minute, we decided we will drive home tomorrow through RMNP. Our RMNP incremental spending $0. Other outdoor recreation activities, hundred$.

  • National Park Service Promotes Parks As Economic Engines   3 weeks 2 days ago

    Muddy,

    Don't waste your time at Mt Rushmore, go to Crazy Horse instead and there are plenty of other great places in SD/ND that aren't National Parks.

    Yellowstone is a must see - but then, it would be whether it was a National Park or not.

  • Congressman Proposes Overhaul To Fee Programs On National Parks, Other Public Lands   3 weeks 2 days ago

    While I agree with Jim that the Devil may be in the details, on the surface this looks like a pretty reasonable approach. Make fees for comparable facilities consistent. Charge for shuttle buses - but no more than the standard entrance. (I assume you won't get charged for both) and provide a set level of "basic interpretive programs and services, including tours required to provide basic visitor access to a primary resource in a unit, that will be provided free of charge" and charge for the extra's above that.

    That seems fair, at resonable costs while making those that incur more than the basic costs pay their way.

  • Congressman Proposes Overhaul To Fee Programs On National Parks, Other Public Lands   3 weeks 2 days ago

    There is a person in the NPS who's sole job is the fee program manager. And you've got to watch them because I have dealt with that person. They play games with the public input and when I confronted her on a public input mechanism for the Everglades, for example, they tried to deny that the website was actually disabling the ability to capture public comments. We made a stink about it and they were caught with their pants down. The result was they were forced to "restart the comment period", which was already considerably shortened in the first place. It was another example of some crookedness in the agency because that kind of "data" doesn't reinforce the NPS predetermined bias in favor or fees. Pesky public input is just plain inconvenient, along with studies that weren't commissioned by the NPS that prove fees decrease access to public lands. So it is little stretch to believe they would actually have someone here trying to convince us that the public is in favor of paying for something they already pay for.

  • Congressman Proposes Overhaul To Fee Programs On National Parks, Other Public Lands   3 weeks 2 days ago

    "The legislation would allow the Park Service to charge a fee for shuttle bus operations..."

    This is the type of thing I would definitely NOT want to see... "add-ons" where I'm reaching for my wallet every time I board a bus or attend a program. (Although just one thing is referenced here, you know once you start paying for one "extra", others will follow.) If a park offers a unique service causing them to incur additional costs, then include it in an increased entrance fee. Let the airlines be the ones to nickel and dime us; they're very good at it.

  • Congressman Proposes Overhaul To Fee Programs On National Parks, Other Public Lands   3 weeks 2 days ago

    As others have noted, the Traveler has spoken in favor of fees from time to time, but we do believe the less it costs Americans to visit their parks the better. There's enough money in the federal budget to cover the park system's needs, if Congress weren't so beholden to others.

    Perhaps AWishfulParkUser would reveal their name and occupation for the sake of unbiased positions?

  • Congressman Proposes Overhaul To Fee Programs On National Parks, Other Public Lands   3 weeks 2 days ago

    SmokiesBackpacker- A review of all the fee related articles on this site does indeed show the bias, maybe not “entirely anti fee,“ but certainly biased. For example in the article your cite, Kurt states “While recreation fees are generally unsavory...” A clear indication of his feeling towards recreation fees. Also note in this article the only highlighted quote is clearly anti-fee.

    Your “proof” that fees decrease visitation is “white paper” prepared by an anti-fee group? A paper that cites not one peer reviewed study, and takes into account no other variable and starts from the assumption that only fees affect visitation? The paper states that visitation peaked in 1999, 3 years in to Fee Demo, if fees are the sole reason for declining visitation why didn’t visitation drop in 1996 when the fees went up, why are many of the parks with the highest fees, $25 today (Yellowstone, Zion) at or near peak visitation? According to the paper one park dropping, Shenandoah, is proof right? So using the same assumption in your “proof” paper at Zion and Yellowstone an increase in fees has driven visitation up.

    So, as long as we are citing biased information as proof , here is a paper that proves that if we gave the agencies more flexibility in charging fees we can improve recreation through the increased use of fees.

    http://www.cato.org/publications/policy-analysis/improving-incentives-federal-land-managers-case-recreation-fees

    For me I’ll accept the peer reviewed NPS study that actually asked the public what the barriers are, not the guesses of those who have an agenda.

    http://www.nature.nps.gov/socialscience/products.cfm

  • Court Documents Allege Private Trails Cut Into Great Smoky Mountains National Park   3 weeks 2 days ago

    John, the coordinates posted shows that he's on private property as linked to in my post. This is a non-issue. I also never stated that i'm for or against the fees, and you are quoting me very much out of context again. I said it would have pluses and minuses. The rest of your accusations about me is just more jargon that doesn't deserve any response.

  • National Park Service Promotes Parks As Economic Engines   3 weeks 2 days ago

    Lee i've seen Zion both with and without shuttles. The shuttle experience was so much better. The canyon is so much quieter, and the experience is greater with those quiet shuttles that travel the road every few minutes. It's not like bumper to bumper traffic or having a bunch of harley riders reving thier engines in some sort of crazed alpha male dominance display that it echoes throughout the entire canyon. That element is removed and you can actually hear the birds chirp, and the occasional laughter of a child having fun. It makes Zion canyon actually a more peaceful place than Yosemite Valley. I consider the Zion shuttle experience I had a pleasant time, when I used the shuttle to hike up the west rim. I consider the time I spent in Yosemite Valley not so pleasant the couple times I was there. The shuttle in Zion has been in place for a while now, and it has not seemed to have any single effect on tourism in that place. I think it truly is a model for the crowded spots in our parks. Denali also has a tram, and I think I read on here recently that Mesa Verde is considering that too.

  • Court Documents Allege Private Trails Cut Into Great Smoky Mountains National Park   3 weeks 2 days ago

    Let's see, we have the NPS admitting that Blackberry Farms had trail signs erected on NPS property and asked them to remove it, there are pics of the trails on NPS land with the chain sawed trees and Blackberry Farms who " refuses to comment" and today a signed affidavit from another witness and then we have Gary Wilson citing gps coordinates from someone he doesn't know of a place he has admittedly never been. I can't imagine why no one would ever believe a guy who posts fraudulently under my name on this site. Of course, this is coming from a guy who last week said that he thinks the Smokies should be free of fees except for backcountry campers, so he can not only get paid to do commercial photography in the Smokies but not have to be bothered with the burden of paying to do so. You just can't make stuff like this up. I'm still waiting for your much ballyhooed expedition up to the trails, Gary. I presume you know how to work a camera and could provide some personal evidence. You are up there "all the time". Or is it because no one is paying you to go up there. Those of us dumb, native Tennesseans who don't make our living off the Smokies are on pins and needles.

  • National Park Service Promotes Parks As Economic Engines   3 weeks 2 days ago

    Exactly, Owen. It's impossible to even guess accurately how much of the mess faced by many of our parks are the direct result of some kind of political pressure applied by people with large financial interests and their Congresspersons.

    Zion last week was incredible. All parking inside the park full by 10 a.m.. Roadside parking in Springdale was solid for perhaps a quarter mile on both sides of the street. Can you imagine Zion if the shuttle system was not in use? The park's automobile entry fee is $25. The shuttle system is free.

    Without the shuttle, I'm sure many people would make one trip and one trip only.

    I spoke with a man who had just had his family at Yosemite. He said they stayed two days and left because of the congestion even though they had been planning to spend five days there. He sounded as if it will be his family's first and only visit to Yosemite.

    While there may be deafeningly shrill cries from vested interests who fear any change, I'd be willing to bet that if reasonable limits were set up -- not only in YOSE, but other parks as well -- there might actually be an increase in visitation. And with it, an increase in income for the profiteers.

    It's the old conundrum. "What I have now isn't really very good, but I'm familiar with it so why change?"

  • Court Documents Allege Private Trails Cut Into Great Smoky Mountains National Park   3 weeks 2 days ago

    John, you do realize those coordinates you posted are on private property outside of the park by about a 1/10th of a mile, right? Your friend was basically hiking on a road on private property.

  • National Park Service Promotes Parks As Economic Engines   3 weeks 2 days ago

    Are national parks economic engines for industrial tourism? Of course they are! Ask anyone who lives in Pigeon Forge, TN, Gatlinburg, TN, Cherokee, NC, West Yellowstone, WY, Jackson, WY, or Mariposa, CA. On the other hand, experience traffic and crowded conditions in a park and potential repeat park visitors might instead choose to vacation elsewhere the next time around. But, propose a plan to enhance visitor experience and protect park resources that involves restrictions on vehicle use in the parks, such as removing private car access to Cades Cove or Yosemite Valley, and hearing protection will be needed to survive the shrill cries of opposition from those economically dependent on the steady flow of tourism.

    Insensitivity to the economic importance of park visitation can be hazardous to one's NPS career. Some decades ago, a newly appointed superintendent to Yosemite National Park happened to oppose contruction of a Wells Fargo Bank in Yosemite Valley. That superintendent's tenure in Yosemite lasted six months, the shortest residency of any park superintendent in Yosemite's history.

  • Court Documents Allege Private Trails Cut Into Great Smoky Mountains National Park   3 weeks 2 days ago

    This is for the "trail denier" crowd that seems to creep from the NPS woodwork around here. This document was filed in federal court last week, I have excerpted it here.

    AFFIDAVIT OF MARK COOKE

    I, Mark Cooke, declare that:

    1. I recently hike along Ace Gap Trail to the trails intersection with Beard Cane Trail.

    2. While hiking along Ace Gap Trail, I noticed what appeared to be a recently installed survey pin on the south side of the trail. The coordinates of that survey pin are N35 40.264, W83 49.850.

    3. This recently installed survey pin appeared to be on the National Park Service side of the trail within the boundary of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

    4. Pictures of this survey pin are attached hereto as Exhibits A and B.

    5. In this same area, I noticed 2 small National Park Service boundary signs tacked about 20 feet apart onto small 4 inch diameter trees. The park boundary sign installation did not appear to be the work of the National Park Service.

    6. Attached as Exhibit C is a topographical map showing this portion of my hike up Ace Gap Trail.

    7. At the intersection of Ace Gap Trail and Beard Cane Trail, there is erected a non-National Park Service sign that states: “Blair Gap Trail Closed Beyond This Point.” Pictures of the sign are attached hereto as Exhibits D, E and F.

    8. Adjacent to the new trail sign, there is survey tape and the corner of an National Park Service boundary sign on a tree stump. Pictures showing the stump and removed National Park Service boundary sign are attached hereto as Exhibits G and H.

    Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1746, I declare, under penalty of perjury, that the foregoing is true and correct.

    Dated July 17, 2014. /s/ Mark Cooke

  • Congressman Proposes Overhaul To Fee Programs On National Parks, Other Public Lands   3 weeks 2 days ago

    AWishfulParkUser--First, you are patently and maybe even blatantly unfair to Kurt R. He strives, and does so in a way the mainstream media would do well to emulate, to be fair. I think if you do a careful screening of his editorials over the months,it will become abundantly clear that accusing him of an anti-fee bias is inaccurate.

    Beyond that, what this boils down to is one more (of many) examples of bureaucratic bloat. If we, as taxpayers, were not already underwriting the operations of the NPS it would be different. As for the endless litany of complaints from NPS bureaucrats to the effect "we need more money," that would not be the case if they utilized appropriated funds in a better fashion. Anyone with intimate familiarity with the NPS (and it holds true for HHS, ATF, the VA, or about any other federal bureaucracy you wish to mention) surely has to realize that there are far too many employees who do precious little (and that is not to demean many others who are conscientious and capable).

    The simple fact of the matter is that the entire culture of the NPS has changed dramatically in the last two decades and, on top of that, there is far, far too much coziness between NPS bigwigs and politicians. That can be readily documented and has been in a number of books.

    This reeks of yet another money grab and I see precious little good coming out of it.

    Jim Casada

  • Congressman Proposes Overhaul To Fee Programs On National Parks, Other Public Lands   3 weeks 2 days ago

    As polarizing as the extreme blacks and whites on this issue are, it would be interesting to see how a compromising gray path could be charted between them. I don't have that solution; I just wish for it.

  • Congressman Proposes Overhaul To Fee Programs On National Parks, Other Public Lands   3 weeks 2 days ago

    You folks kill me with your undocumented assertions. Here is proof that entrance fees decrease access and use of public lands. http://www.westernslopenofee.org/pdfuploads/Fee_Policy_White_Paper.pdf

    And as far as accusing this magazine of a bias, why don't you start reading what Kurt published the other day about proposing entrance fees to the NPS. Is that the language of someone who is entirely anti fee?

    http://www.nationalparkstraveler.com/2014/07/travelers-view-great-smoky-...

  • Congressman Proposes Overhaul To Fee Programs On National Parks, Other Public Lands   3 weeks 2 days ago

    The is a boring argument from those who think everything should be free. The NPS receives over $2 BILLION per year to fund the national park system. It does not seem unreasonable to ask those who visit to pay a TINY part of funding the cost of providing the SERVICE that they have the opportunity to take advantage of. (NPS collects only 90 million in entrance fees) When you talk about the cost driving people away, I have seen the research, specifically the NPS comprehensive study of the American public and many others and there is no clear link to visitation and entrance fees. In fact the comprehensive study lists many things that drive visitors away, having to plan (make reservations) to far in advance, distance from the parks, overall trip cost, not interested in parks, etc. Recreation fees never even make the list. If you want to encourage visitation, build additional lodging and campgrounds to increase supply to drive prices from hundreds of $ per night and make it easier for people to make reservations. Use the fees to create new recreation opportunities that people are looking for, that’s how you encourage visitation.

    As far as Kitty's argument of a fee “free for all”, congress now requires approval of every new fee or increase, what better way to limit fees, pass a law each time. Kurt your anti fee bias is clearing showing. Almost every group from NPCA to the Wilderness Society generally supports user fees as a way to bring much needed revenue to the public lands. Without it, (there will be no increase in funding from congress) you can be sure that recreation opportunities and visits to federal lands will decrease, as agencies lack the funds to provide the services and amenities that visitors require and want.