Recent comments

  • Our National Parks: "For the Benefit And Enjoyment Of The People" (If You Don't Mind the Entrance Fee)   5 years 27 weeks ago

    We don't want to turn the parks into the Peter Pan Ride at Disney World (i.e., sit in your car and look out the window and drive out).

    Too late.

    That's what most parks, including my beloved Crater Lake, have become. On my recent visit, this became clearer than ever. People don't get more than a few feet away from their cars, and when they leave the parking lot, they trample ancient tree roots and kill them. I saw at least a dozen people go over the wall to the caldera's edge. Someone asked how many people fell to their death from the spot he was so precariously standing. "Several" was my reply. One group who went out of bounds left a large empty cracker box, a water bottle, and various other trash in front of their car. As they were backing out, I gathered the trash, tapped on their window and asked if they forgot something. "This was once the cleanest lake in the world," I said handing them their trash.

    At this overlook, where I spent significant time, dozens and dozens of motorcycles assailed my ears. There was not one single moment of quiet at this overlook. No exaggeration. Same is true for the overlook NPS employees affectionately call "The Corrals".

    On my way out of the park, I had to smell oil for 15 miles, which was being dumped by the thousands of gallons on chipseal, which generates more roadway noise at any operating speed than typical asphalt or concrete surfaces. The smell of the oil overpowered the usual scent of pines and firs. This trip left such a bad taste in my mouth that I have vowed never to drive into the park again.

  • Our National Parks: "For the Benefit And Enjoyment Of The People" (If You Don't Mind the Entrance Fee)   5 years 27 weeks ago

    Again, how much the fees have an impact probably has a lot to do with how many people live around a park. I'd love to know how many people who visited fee-free to RMNP live within 100 miles of the park. I bet it's a lot. As for Mammoth Cave, nothing like Denver that close by, but Bowling Green and Nashville are both not too far.

    I still think waiving a $20 fee that lets you in for 7 days (but not else) can't be responsible for much increased visitation except by locals.

    In any case, there is some evidence of increased visitation. Is that a good thing? Very complicated question. We don't want to turn the parks into the Peter Pan Ride at Disney World (i.e., sit in your car and look out the window and drive out). I'd like to see more to encourage quality visitation over quantity of visitors. Maybe an argument out there for higher fees?

  • Did You Hear the One About President Obama's Trip To Yellowstone National Park?   5 years 27 weeks ago

    Even more angry posts from people blogging posted today ... apparently, the entire trip cost over $400,000 ... which ticked off one blogger. I wonder how far Obama could have gone to appease it by at leastt acknowledging the problems he caused and perhaps thinking of ways in the future to deal with it ... you don't have to close down the road to Old Faithful; you don't even have to close off the area ... there are certainly other ways something like this can be handled. When Obama goes to Ben's Chili Bowl in the U Street area of DC, they don't shut the city down. So, it's a little silly. It would have helped if NPS had been honest about the disruption - I saw one article where Al Nash, the park spokesman, hoped to minimize the impact, but that said nothing to the traveler.

    These things can be better handled by everyone involved.

    I think people rightfully resent the undemocratic reality that we have a kind of aristocracy in this country, like every other. However, at the very least, these things can be mitigated tremendously.

    Jim Macdonald
    The Magic of Yellowstone
    Yellowstone Newspaper
    Jim's Eclectic World

  • Our National Parks: "For the Benefit And Enjoyment Of The People" (If You Don't Mind the Entrance Fee)   5 years 27 weeks ago

    Would permanently waiving entrance fees not be in keeping with the spirit and intent of what our forefathers wanted?

    Deja vu, Kurt.

    Don't you remember this discussion?

    It's worth repeating:

    In 1914, William Steele, "father" and superintendent of Crater Lake National Park, wrote:

    "The frequent changes of administration in this Government, together with the unsatisfactory condition in which the national park service is left by Congress, are so pronounced that capitalists are unwilling to advance funds on park concessions in amounts adequate to their needs. . . . Under such conditions it seems to me imperative that the General government acquire possession of all hotels and other permanent improvements of a private nature within the parks. . . . This would be an important step toward making the parks self-sustaining, which they should be. With the road system completed, this revenue, together with that received from automobiles, would make the Crater Lake Park self-sustaining from the start . . ."

    But my larger point is that at the early 20th century, the overall goal seemed to emphasize a self-sustaining nature of national parks:

    "Roosevelt's Bureau of the Budget in 1935 instructed the Service to develop a fee structure for all the national parks and the national monuments as well, the object being to make the National Park System more nearly self-sustaining."

    I've seen historical evidence in the other parks I've worked that parks were originally intended to be self-sustaining, although I do not have access to those resources. So, I don't think that the claim that parks should be dependent on federal funding holds much historical weight.

    If our forefathers saw what a political quagmire parks have become, they'd probably champion self-sustaining, non-profit, non-governmental conservation trusts instead.

  • The New National Parks Index: 2009-2011 is Now Available Online   5 years 27 weeks ago


    All or nearly all of the National Monuments proclaimed by Clinton are administered by BLM, and 1 is administered by Forest Service.

    Note that the 2 big marine National Monuments proclaimed by G.W. Bush are administered by NMFS/NOAA, which makes sense, but I'm curious if the precedence has been set for National Monuments created by presidential proclamation (as opposed to by acts of congress) to be administered by other than NPS.

  • Did You Hear the One About President Obama's Trip To Yellowstone National Park?   5 years 27 weeks ago

    Kathy, I'm sure President Obama would love to do it alone with his family and visit ALL the national parks. But, with all the hate climate in this country...I dare not!

  • Just Down the Hallway: Saving Money at a National Park Lodge by Choosing a Room without a Private Bathroom   5 years 27 weeks ago

    The experience of using a shared bathroom is very much dependent on the quality of maintenance. Anyone who has lived in a college dorm probably understands.

    I've had different experiences with shared bathrooms. Some of the cabins w/o bath weren't to bad when the bathrooms were well maintained and fairly new. In many cases it seemed like the bathrooms were remodeled often, while cabins with baths generally had old fixtures and looked to be there for a long time.

    The worst part of any kind of shared bathroom (this goes for campgrounds too) is when they're wet and people have been walking through dirt paths. There's dirt tracked through and often the faucets and floor have signs of dirt.

  • Melding the Past with the Present   5 years 27 weeks ago

    What about hurricanes? I was planning on visiting Fort Jefferson when a tropical storm scuttled my plans. My reservations in Key West were automatically cancelled and there was a mandatory non-resident evacuation anyways.

    The house was obviously built with storms in mind, but how will the solar panels survive if a storm hits?

  • Did You Hear the One About President Obama's Trip To Yellowstone National Park?   5 years 27 weeks ago

    Great article. Although I could never imagine seeing Yellowstone in such a brief visit and would wish anyone could experience all the wonders I have enjoyed there. I must respect Obama for bringing notoriety to the parks and only messing up someones vacation for a short time. It must suck being president and knowing the effect you have on other peoples trips. The congestion, the presidents safety, logistics, etc... Imagine if the president spent a day or two touring the park. I do not think there are enough secret service men to place all over the park. This would ruin a lot of vacations. It is sad to say he may not be able to enjoy it like we do and we need to hope the funding follows.
    Dave Crowl

  • Our National Parks: "For the Benefit And Enjoyment Of The People" (If You Don't Mind the Entrance Fee)   5 years 27 weeks ago

    Does every Target store keep its profits or does it share them with the whole company?

    Target is a self-interested, for profit company that is organized to survive and prosper by satisfying their customers who voluntarily make purchases of the goods that they offer for sale.

    The federal guvmint, on the other hand, is a whole nuther beast. Don't expect logic and efficiency to dictate the structural integrity of an outfit that mainly extracts its funds through coercion (the tax code) and creates policy primarily to win re-election and stay in power. What you get instead is stuff like No Child Left Behind, Cash For Clunkers, un-winnable and costly war in faraway Muslim deserts, Goldman Sachs & AIG bailouts and the much vaunted NPS Centennial Initiative. Not exactly the fruitful and productive stuff of greatness.

    Still your question resonates with logic, unfortunately that is not what is on display in this debate.

  • Reader Participation Day: What's Your Favorite National Park Trail?   5 years 27 weeks ago

    I'll go with the Garden Wall in Glacier National Park.

  • Delaware Can Relax; The New National Parks Quarter Dollar Coin Series Will Celebrate “National Sites” Too   5 years 27 weeks ago

    With the centennnial pf the National Park Service coming up, this is appropriate. I agree with Pixie that some of the "profit" from the quarters - perhaps the sale of mint and uncirculated sets? - should be allocated to caring for our chronically underfunded national parks.

  • Our National Parks: "For the Benefit And Enjoyment Of The People" (If You Don't Mind the Entrance Fee)   5 years 27 weeks ago

    I've written about this before - it is not just the entrance fees themselves, it is the inequity of the system. Parks that cannot collect fees by law, or do not because of impracticality, are left in the dust to fight for meager drippings of maintenance money. Parks charging fees have access to the funds they collect and in some cases are building more than they need. The have and have-not park system is not a "system" at all. It is an "every superintendent for themselves" program that undermines the very concept of a National Park System. Does every Target store keep its profits or does it share them with the whole company?

  • Senator From North Dakota Trying to Legislate Elk Management in Theodore Roosevelt National Park   5 years 27 weeks ago

    First of all I live in ND, our elk licensing in ND is limited numbers, therefore one in about 200 people get a license, and is a once in a lifetime license, meaning you get one in your life, would it not make sense to have hunters get a chance at managing the elk rather than having a sharp shooter come in flying in a helicopter shooting every elk in site, every body wins this way, the hunters get a chance of a lifetime and the park gets there herds reduced. The park service says we will shoot the wrong animal, horses, how do you mistake a horse for an elk, they have no clue, it is some uneducated punk with nothing better to do with his time and made a statement or statements with nothing to back it up with. You guys read an article and think you are experts, news flash get off your high horse and come to down to the real world.

  • Should Anything Be Done With Angel's Landing?   5 years 27 weeks ago

    I hiked angels landing twice as a child and then again this last March, 2009 at 33. As I opted out of the last chained and riskier portion at the end of the peak this last time around I felt empowered because as a child I remember it being such a scary experience. Seeing it now, I am resentful that adults hadn't been more responsible for me as a child who didn't have the ability to really judge risk like that reasonably. As I watched a child that looked to be about 7 years old descend the chains crying this last March I was angered that parents were taking these kind of risks with their children's lives. The risk for this trail is documented and yet people are allowed to take risks with their children's lives here everyday. I wish there were a large warning sign posted at the top section at the base of the chains declaring the risk and suggesting that young children shouldn't attempt the climb. Children should be given appropriate warnings so that they can opt out as they wish. Children who decide to proceed after receiving the risk information should only do so with a responsible adult who has carefully assessed conditions and uses rope safeties and careful instruction. Ounce of prevention. Worth a life.

  • Melding the Past with the Present   5 years 27 weeks ago

    The head of the maintanance division at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore came into our class last semester, Protected Area Management, and showed us some of the shingles that buildings now have at PIRO, or at least those buildings that have been recently re-roofed. I'm not sure if it is less effective than a little league bleacher-sized installment like the one pictured, or more expensive, or what. I like the idea of fancy shingles more than adding large things like above. Though I'm conservative, I fully appreciate the paradigm shifts that are currently taking over the way we think about the energy we use and waste, and am excited to see my future employer (is that too bold of me?) leading the way into the future.

  • Fatal Fall from Angels Landing in Zion National Park   5 years 27 weeks ago

    I was there when it happened with about 8 others from my trek america group. the rock is really slick and sandy but still an easy trail. i lost footing once or twice myself and i can see how it would have happened. the worst thing was the family had to come back down. we were back from angels landing 10 minutes when other trek america members came running down saying what happened while a few others stayed behind.
    condolences to the family. we had taken the free shuttle with them that morning. It's an terrible tragedy. there should be wardens on that trail. i was suprised at the single sign at the top stating that falls result in death and not much else.

  • Melding the Past with the Present   5 years 27 weeks ago

    This could well be a picture of the future, and I do not mean just the solar panels. The study, compact and simply designed house reflects an era when most homes were designed to be practical family shelters rather than displays of conspicuous consumption. That building could comfortably accommodate a family of five or six. I speak from experience.

  • Did You Hear the One About President Obama's Trip To Yellowstone National Park?   5 years 27 weeks ago

    People who truly love the parks, vacation in the parks. I know that Laura Bush did the Yosemite High Sierra Camp loop trip with her girlfriends. John McCain hiked down the Bright Angel Trail and up the Kaibab (?) trail to the North Rim. They did not take a phalanx of photographers with them. The trips weren't political. What's that expression. You are what you are when no one is looking.

  • Motorized Tours OK-ed for Cumberland Island National Seashore   5 years 27 weeks ago

    The last time Cumberland Island NS reported annual visitation that low (40,000) was four years ago. According to NPS official stats, recreation visits to the island increased to 44,025 in 2006, jumped to 72,449 in 2007, and hit 82,812 in 2008.

  • Motorized Tours OK-ed for Cumberland Island National Seashore   5 years 27 weeks ago

    Visitation for the island is just over 40,000 per year, not 80,000 as you quoted. It is limited to 300 people per day, though it is only in the spring and a few holidays that the ferry even comes close to that number.

  • Did You Hear the One About President Obama's Trip To Yellowstone National Park?   5 years 27 weeks ago

    Geesh, people, give Kurt a break here. This is a fine piece. He is aptly critical of the Obama administration's expensive photo op to meet with parasitic lobbyists.

    I thought it was non-partisan?

    Gary, have you just started reading NPT? Of course NPT is partisan, as are most journalistic publications. And that's ok. Everyone has a bias. While I don't agree with NPT's Democratic bias, I stand by the editor's right to express it, and in this piece, he's not toeing the party line.

  • Heat Claims the Life of Boy Stranded for Five Days in Isolated Area of Death Valley National Park   5 years 27 weeks ago

    I'm still very confused by this story. They were heading to Scotty's Castle, which is in the north east area of the park, but instead ended up in the south west corner....a difference of 3-4 hours! I hope that more information comes through because this just baffles me how anyone could have ended up that lost. The area they were in isn't even on the way from Las Vegas to Scotty's Castle. It's pretty much a straight shot up the highway to the Castle. I'm just very, very confused...

    Ranger Holly

  • Managing Elk at Theodore Roosevelt National Park – The NPS has Released Its Plan   5 years 27 weeks ago

    We have already messed with nature and are trying to restore some balance. Although my frst choice would be to introduce predators such as wolves, I realize that they, themselves, would probably be annihilated again by man. I do not hunt and hate the thought of Bambi being shot, but it seems a far less cruel fate than starving to death. The long, painful process of starvation is what faces the overpopulated elk herd. I have seen this problem where I live in northern Michigan. I applaud the National Park Service and Senator Dorgan for the solution they have come up with to this sad problem.

  • Picking a Lot of Apples This Day Helps Keep the Bears Away in Yosemite National Park   5 years 27 weeks ago

    GlenW -

    A good question, and I don't yet have a definitive answer. I'll see what I can find out; perhaps one of our readers already knows.

    My best guess, based on the life span of apple trees in general, is that the current trees were not among those planted when the orchards were first established. In that context, the orchards in Yosemite Valley are historic, but not the individual trees.

    Although there are exceptions reported around the world, it would be unusual for apple trees well over 100 years old to still be bearing fruit