Recent comments

  • Reader Participation Day: Are Park Entrance Fees Fair?   5 years 44 weeks ago

    Nobody noted that Alaska national parks that came after the 1979 act establishing them have no entrance fees by design. Most have low visitation anyways, and the cost of getting to a remote area by boat/air likely would outweigh any entrance fee that could be charged.

    I do understand that no entrance fee was a condition for the establishment of Great Smoky Mountains NP. Much of this is political. The National Mall and all museums at the Smithsonian are free because of political sway. I remember when the entrance fee for Yosemite was slated to increase from $20 to $25, local businesses protested and the increase was never implemented.

    Many of the fees seem to be haphazardly applied though. I can understand the highest fees ($20-25) for Grand Canyon, Zion, Yosemite, Yellowstone/Grand Teton (combined) - since they're the crown jewels. There are some places where the prices seem a bit given the lower overall visitation, such as $20-25 for Sequoia/Kings Canyon or Bryce Canyon. They're excellent places, but it seems that the highest fees are generally reserved for the highest visitation areas. On my trip last year to the Pacific NW, there seemed to be an inconsistent set of fees, with $10 at Crater Lake (where I bought my annual pass) , and $15 at Olympic and Mt Rainier. Then there are the free places, such as Redwood NP - although the California state parks have fees.

    I simply get my pass. My folks both have the senior passes, which must be the best bargain I've heard of. When one lost a pass, buying another one didn't yield a second thought since it was so cheap. As for the regular public, I'm not a huge fan of the new America the Beautiful Pass. It was $50 just for access to NPS units and and additional $15 for access to other federal units (Forest Service, BLM, etc) - either with a sticker or buying a complete $65 pass. Back in 2006-7 I was about to get my pass in Dec 2006 when I fell ill and had to delay my trip until Feb 2007; I probably could have purchased the National Parks Pass at a local NPS unit, but didn't. I did end up getting that pass for $80, but I never used it at anything other than NPS units. Even with that, the option for the sticker ($50+15) was less than the later $80 charge. Now for my last pass, I did use it for one Forest Service entrance fee, but I find those visits few and far between.

  • Reader Participation Day: Are Park Entrance Fees Fair?   5 years 44 weeks ago

    So the logic is: Since parks are so dependant on fees, if those fees dry up there is a risk of privatization. So it follows, therefore, to avoid privatization by doing away with the fees!!??
    If my wife and I are planning to go to Europe and we intend to use interest money from a savings account or bond to pay for the trip, and then my wife loses her job, are we more or less likely to go on that trip? The trip money is still there. The job money was being used for other things. So why not? Because a loss of income is a loss of income. Is Congress more or less likely to fund parks if parks are no longer a "cash cow"? Is privatization more or less likely to occur if parks are not generating at least some of their own income? Eighty percent of an America the Beautiful pass sold at Yellowstone stays in Yellowstone. I have not seen any evidence to dispute that claim. Now, does that mean that Yellowstone recieves less funding? Probably. But does it mean that Yellowstone would get that money anyway? Probably not. Not with a Federal Government strapped with eleven trillion dollars in public debt. Of course user fees are factored into the equation of park funding; that is how the system works. I'm sure that is exactly how fees were proposed: Let's let actual users of the parks pick up a small piece of the pie, so that we can release taxpayer funds that would otherwise be going to parks for other purposes. Makes perfect sense. The point is that the parks are, at least in part, paying their own way. It doesn't matter if all the money is thrown into one big kiddy, any more than it matters in the case of my vacation. The parks are generating money. If that money stops, it has to be replaced. Congress might not be willing to do that with an eleven trillion dollar debt. Talk about privatization; China might well end up owning Yellowstone!
    Arguing whether or not Congress had the authority to charge these fees in the first place is not relevant. They exist. They are well established and they are relied upon. This makes as much sense as arguing whether or not income tax is legal.
    The fees are very reasonable. Your first night camping in a National Park is going to cost almost as much (or more) than your fee for seven days. Those who frequent parks have the option of an America the Beautiful pass for pennies a day. Life is unfair to poor people. If they buy a car they will be charged a higher interest rate. If they put money in the bank, they will be paid a lower interest rate. If they need to buy health insurance because their job does not offer it, they will be raked over the coals. Capitalism is built around scr**ing over poor people; the rich get richer....the poor get poorer, as my dad used to say. I wish we could change that. Maybe some program could be developed to allow folks under the poverty line into parks free, I don't know? My guess is, however, that what it costs to get into a National Park is the least of their problems!
    I have often heard the argument that lotteries are a tax on poor people. The problem I have with that is that it implies that poor people are all stupid, that they are too ignorant to understand odds. If it is a tax, it is a self imposed tax. I have been poor (eating ketchup in hot water for tomato soup poor) and I have been well off; I have never bought a lottery ticket in my life.

  • National Park Mystery Photo 11: And What Room Might This Be?   5 years 44 weeks ago

    Well done, Djjeffrey100. You are forgiven.

  • National Park Mystery Photo 11: And What Room Might This Be?   5 years 44 weeks ago

    Thank you. It's all good.

  • National Park Mystery Photo 11: And What Room Might This Be?   5 years 44 weeks ago

    I told Bob you wouldn't take kindly to his comment....;-)

    That said, darn good memory, Djjeffrey100. To have visited two years ago and nail it right down to which launch control center was depicted is pretty impressive!

  • National Park Mystery Photo 11: And What Room Might This Be?   5 years 44 weeks ago

    Now wait a minute guys. In my own defense I got excited and added a space in Minuteman. Cut a guy some slack. I visited this site 2 years ago and was just a little quick with the enter button. Watch as I now take my time.

    The Minuteman Missile National Historic Site.

    See I can do it.

  • National Park Mystery Photo 11: And What Room Might This Be?   5 years 44 weeks ago

    If I'd known the answer, I would have been tempted to sign in as Strangelove or Gen. Jack D. Ripper.

  • Reader Participation Day: Are Park Entrance Fees Fair?   5 years 44 weeks ago

    Some fees do help pay for the parks. The increase in the entrance fee at Zion was to help in paying for the upkeep of the Shuttle system. True the entire $25 doesn't go to the park, but a small amount does. If it wasn't for that entrance fee, the shuttle system would have to be nixed.

    The $11 charge (while not an entrance fee) for the tours at Scotty's Castle in Death Valley goes entirely to the upkeep of the castle. Often the fee dollars (from entrance fees) goes towards the new signs and wonderful composting toilets that are seen in the parks. If you look, there will be signs that say "this project was completed using your fee dollars." While the entire amount doens't go to the parks, some does.

    Ranger Holly

  • National Park Mystery Photo 11: And What Room Might This Be?   5 years 44 weeks ago

    I doubt that he's a missileer, Kurt. Heck, I seriously doubt that he even knows how to spell the word. :0)

  • Another Entrance-Fee-Free Weekend in the National Parks   5 years 44 weeks ago

    I seem to agree with all of these comments. Keep the fees or even go up if necessary. When I was a kid I was lucky to have been to a lot of our National Parks thanks to my dad being a Bird Colonel in the US Army that gave my family the opportunity to travel a lot. That experience and those memories were something else. Back in 1960, or close to it, my dad took us to a parade in Frankfurt Germany, where we lived, to see a parade with President Kennedy in his black limo. A secret service agent actually picked me up and carried me over to the limo and let me give my American Flag to the President, that I will never forget. Ill have to find the picture of that because no one believes me when I tell that story. Anyway, now that Im older and pay more attention to the news, all the bad things like crooked politics, companies, crime and the economy seem to make me not think about all the great stuff we have. Im from New England and get to Acadia National Park, and the Cape Code National Seashore quite a bit. When we travel out of New England we try to see a National Park at least for a day if not more. The thing is that when you go to these places your way of thinking seems to change, you thing about how great this country is and how lucky we are to have what we have. My wife thinks Im soft in the head but I become that kid again.
    So keep the fees and even increase them if necessary to keep what we have and even add to it. Happy travels.

  • National Park Mystery Photo 11: And What Room Might This Be?   5 years 44 weeks ago

    Methinks this was an inside job, Bob. Could Djjeffrey100 have been, or currently is, a missileer?

  • 52nd Annual Bat Flight Breakfast at Carlsbad Caverns National Park on July 18, 2009   5 years 44 weeks ago

    I went to three of these when I was the superintendent of Carlsbad and Guadalupe (the two parks were managed by a single superintendent in those days. Now Guadalupe has its own superintendent.) While seeing the bats leave the cave is a regularly interpreted event during the summer, watching them dive bomb back into the cave after their nightly insect hunt is an organized event only once a year. It's a great wildlife spectacle. I hope all NPT readers will do it once.

    Rick Smith

  • International Park News: "Nappies" for Horses Spur Controversy in Irish National Park   5 years 44 weeks ago

    Jeffrey -

    The photo I found to illustrate the type of cart may have been misleading - the roads in question aren't in a city, they're out in a national park. Based on the photos I've seen of the park, this is a spectacular natural area.

    Here's an answer to your question from the NPWS:

    NPWS and the jarveys attended a mechanical road sweeper trial in Killarney in April 2008. Although the road sweeper proved somewhat effective in collecting horse dung, there were considerable factors militating against its use in Killarney National Park – noise, durability on the paths, cost and the intermittent use of the road sweeper leading to horse dung remaining on the paths for long periods of time.

    Since about 9 miles of road are involved, I'd think the cost of sweeping multiple times per day would be prohibitive, not to mention the unwelcome noise from a mechanical sweeper on otherwise quiet sections of the park.

  • National Park Mystery Photo 11: And What Room Might This Be?   5 years 44 weeks ago

    Pretty darn good, Djjefffrey100. We'll have to dock you a couple of points for careless spelling, though. It's Minuteman Missile National Historic site.

  • National Park Mystery Photo 11: And What Room Might This Be?   5 years 44 weeks ago

    Minute man missile National Historic site. Launch control center Delta-01

  • Reader Participation Day: Are Park Entrance Fees Fair?   5 years 44 weeks ago

    I am 74 yrs old and been going to the National Parks camping for 40 years or more. I have no problem with the fees, my income is limited, just barely over 1,000/mo. But, I am glad to help out the parks. there is nothing better. they are a marvelous gift to us. Thank you.

  • International Park News: "Nappies" for Horses Spur Controversy in Irish National Park   5 years 44 weeks ago

    If the tax payers are footing the bill why then wouldn't it be fair to pay a city worker to make 2-3 trips a day with a street sweeper. I am not all that familiar with street sweepers but assumed it would work or be modified to work.

  • Reader Participation Day: Are Park Entrance Fees Fair?   5 years 44 weeks ago


    You are missing the equation.

    Either there is an increase in user fees or there is a decrease in user fees, in both cases Congress is likely to cut funding. Therefore, user fee revenue has nothing to do with the total amount of funding received. That is, neither reality is the cause for the ultimate result - they both end up with the same result. That is, it's not relevant. Congress is simply going to figure out how much the parks are worth; if they are making more via user fees, they may well use it as an excuse to provide less funding. If they don't provide the shortfall from user fees, Congress is still likely to provide less because the national parks aren't a priority. The user fee is simply a substitute for whatever they've decided to fund.

    I'm originally from Ohio. One way they bamboozled the state to accept the state lottery was to claim that the lottery paid for education in the public schools. That was nonsense. Statistically, it paid for 8 days, but it actually paid for less. The state legislature simply removed funds that would have gone to education and replaced it with lottery money. So, it was a lie to say that user fees even constituted eight school days worth of funding; it actually provided nothing because money was taken out the back end. The lottery didn't pay for education; it did, however, tax the poor.

    The same goes for user fees in the parks. When people think user fees pay for the 15% or whatever it is for funding of the parks, it's not true. It's not really the case; money is subtracted from the back end, and the budget is made up for by substituting in user fees. That's why I say that user fees are relevant to the process of funding, not to the bottom line. The amount has one determinant - Congress. However, the mechanism is unfair, and legitimizing the user fee mechanism only makes the funding source that much more unstable and that much more tenuous. All of that is inconsistent with parks supposedly there for the public good.

    Your quote about the amount of money that stays in the park, etc. only allows Congress to provide that much less funding to the park. They simply figure the user fees into the equation of the funding mechanism. However, it doesn't mean Yellowstone is funded that much more if it has that many more visitors. It just means that the money that is allocated to Yellowstone is accounted for in a larger percentage by user fees (and none at all in some of the parks). The only way that user fees could serve as an actual funding source is if Congress disregards them entirely in their appropriations; then a park with more in user fees will receive necessarily more in funds. It would still be unfair, but then user fees would actually contribute to the total. Even then, however, it is a decision of Congress in its appropriations and not the collection of user fees that is the real politik here.

    Making the mechanism dependent on fees is simply a step toward making the parks disappear. Because they are not funded as public resources and have become so dependent on user fees, when revenue does shrivel up, the parks will seek outside sources for funding. The foundations will make more and more corporate deals. That was happening even when today's economy seemed better. User fees ultimately are a step toward outright corporate privatization; that's been the case in just about every situation I can think of around the world where they are applied. You see it especially in World Bank and IMF structural adjustment programs and how those fees have destroyed the fabric of society. They show that Congress's priority is not with the parks they felt they had the right to set up. And, that's the rub here. Congress does not value the parks, and that's why the user fee mechanism gives the fascade of funding the parks when in fact it divests public investment in the parks through the regressive tax of user fees.

    That being the case and the case being that user fees are otherwise unfair, it's far better to be rid of them. If the parks are going to hell in a hand basket because Congress doesn't care about them, it's better that at the very least it not exacerbate the problem. And, ultimately, I don't care whether Congress divests itself of parks (they never had the right to create them in the first place), but I do care how the current order deconstructs. If we are to have a better world (I have no interest in ideals or ideal worlds - utopia is for fools), then we should commit ourselves to justice. Because when everything eventually does fall apart, then we will be in a better place to take care of the places we love. It would be far better that they fell apart with Yellowstone still accessible to the widest diversity of society than it to decay into the rotten hands of corporations and the very rich.

    But, short of that bleak vision, at the very least, we can stop pretending that user fees pay for the parks. We can stop the unfair practice and open the gates to as many people who are willing to explore the wonders of the parks as possible. We can't continue to exacerbate the problems of economic class and ultimately care for parks at the same time. That had better be reality or else it's all just a cynical and ugly hell, and all our words and solutions are for nothing. While I'm not an idealist, I certainly don't think our words and our love for these places are for nothing and that we can in reality do much better.

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

  • Let's Start a Tradition: "Thank a Ranger Day"   5 years 44 weeks ago

    I never met a National Park Service employee who took their job for the money. Many gave up much more lucrative careers to be part of the system.

  • Let's Start a Tradition: "Thank a Ranger Day"   5 years 44 weeks ago

    I thanked all that I saw in the Smokys in June.

    Who was the first National Park Service ranger to be killed in the line of duty and what park?
    (By the way, I know the answer.)

  • Another Entrance-Fee-Free Weekend in the National Parks   5 years 44 weeks ago

    Triple or quadruple the fees I say! Where else can you go and enjoy millions of acres of the best scenic land in America for $25?

  • History and Scenery in One Great Package – and Getting There is Part of the Fun   5 years 44 weeks ago

    I'd also recommend Highliner Coffee - the Fairweather Blend is awesome and they'll get you a pound to take home. Another kudos to Level II - it used to be the Bayview Restaurant. They've changed the interior and menu a bit. It's a nice view over Crescent Harbor. If you want fine dining, make a reservation at Ludvig's. Also, if you're visiting in July and have a rental vehicle that has at least front wheel, if not 4-wheel drive, take the road up to Harbor Mountain (gravel, chuck holes and a little mud) if the gates are open to the parking lot at the top (Tongass Forest Service office will have that information or ask around) and climb up the wooden stairs to the old gun placements. Take a picnic! It's a spectacular view of Mt. Edgecumbe!

  • International Park News: "Nappies" for Horses Spur Controversy in Irish National Park   5 years 44 weeks ago

    Seems like a reasonable solution to an awkward situation. The only "problem" the cart drivers have identified in the media reports I read is their claim the devices are a "safety problem" due to changing the weight distributions of the cart. However, I haven't read any information they've provided to bolster that argument. As others have said, this solution seems to work well in a lot of other locations.

  • Reader Participation Day: Are Park Entrance Fees Fair?   5 years 44 weeks ago

    (That last anon was me, BTW...I forgot to put my name in)
    I agree that if fees go up funding will not necessarily go up; but I strongly disagree that if the fees go away funding will remain. You apparently agree with your statement : "One of the claims that has been made in response is to suggest that Congress won't in fact fund if user fees disappear. That's quite likely true as far as I can tell....." therefore your statement that fees have nothing to do with funding our parks makes no sense.
    From the United States Department of the Interior website:
    "The officials noted that 100 percent of the revenue derived from passes sold at federal recreation sites will directly benefit the selling agency and no less than 80 percent of the revenue will remain at the site where the pass was sold."
    If these fees disappear they are not likely, in todays economy, to be replaced.
    Ideas are important, so are ideals. No fees would be great, so would no taxes. Neither is likely to happen in the near future. Not with a National Debt of over eleven trillion dollars.

  • National Park Quiz 63: Pools   5 years 44 weeks ago

    Cool Quiz!

    I did not do as well as the previous responders, but at least I don't have to take a course over again! LOL. I considered the course "Geology of National Parks" that I took as an undergraduate as one of the most fun courses I ever had. The "Going to the Sun Road" opening was an interesting question. I was in Missoula visiting family in July one year (can't remember exactly when, but in the early 2000's) and to go there was a plan for one of the days. We got up before the sun to go and had to cancel, as there had been 4 foot of snow over night and they closed the road. I was crushed! To date, I have yet to get to Glacier, but I will.

    To Anonymous - yes, some do that with Elk in Rocky Mountain NP, too. Luckily, I used to live close by, so I would have some days that it was not an issue. Early to any NP is get to spend more time. :)