Recent comments

  • Stanley W. Abbott, Wizard of the Blue Ridge Parkway   6 years 1 week ago

    Bob,
    Thanks for the plug for my book and for this interesting article about the Parkway. This is timely, as we're getting ready to celebrate the Parkway's 75th anniversary in 2010; look for another article that I'll be posting here in a few days about that.

    Meanwhile, just one small tweak to what you've said about the building of the Parkway: I'm not sure what the origin of the idea that nearly all the construction on the Parkway was done by hand is, but I can say that that is simply not true. Parkway construction was handled by private road-building contractors like Durham, North Carolina's Nello Teer Company (which had 17 contracts for Parkway work, including the first section, built beginning in 1935). The *first thing* the Teer Company did when they got started on the first Parkway section was to unload several pieces of heavy equipment (including a brand-new diesel shovel) from the train at Galax, Virginia, and take them to the construction site near Low Gap, North Carolina. And from that point on, all the usual techniques of heavy road construction were used, including blasting. There was hand work involved in some slope rehabilitation, plantings, picnic grounds building, etc. But as many historic photos will attest, building this road through the mountains entailed extensive use of modern heavy trucks, shovels, rock crushers, and other heavy equipment.

    Thanks for the interesting historical pieces you are posting on NPT; I always look forward to reading them.

    Cheers,
    Anne

    Anne Mitchell Whisnant, Ph.D.
    Historian & Author of Super-Scenic Motorway: A Blue Ridge Parkway History
    Chapel Hill, NC

  • Imagine the Impacts of Climate Change on the National Park System   6 years 1 week ago

    Regarding Greenland's melting ice, in late August I was fortunate enough to attend a field workshop on climate change and the impacts to whitebark pine forests. One of the participants was Dr. Steve Running, a terrestrial ecologist from the University of Montana. As I noted last month in a post on that topic, Dr. Running's primary research interest lies within climatology. A chapter lead author for the 4th Assessment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Dr. Running has more than a passing understanding of what's happening to the Earth's climate.

    Here's a snippet from an interview I conducted with him:

    “I was at a seminar only about two months ago with one of the premier Greenland ice scientists, and he says, ‘You know what? The things we thought we understood five years ago we’re being taught are wrong. The speed that we thought this system could transition, it’s turning out it can transition three times faster than we thought was possible.'

    "We can’t kid ourselves that if humanity just went on its merry way that we couldn’t really push this planet to someplace almost uninhabitable. We don’t really know completely how the stability of the Earth system components are going to re-equilibrate with this huge forcing of carbon that is going from the ground into the atmosphere in 100 years. I like to tell people that it took 100 million years to put it in there -- the coal, oil and gas -- and we’re digging it all back up in 100 years and taking it all back out."

  • Imagine the Impacts of Climate Change on the National Park System   6 years 2 weeks ago

    Melting of ice at the two poles is expected to raise sea levels

    Since the sea ice at the North Pole is floating on the sea, its melting will not cause sea levels to rise. Greenland's ice is often cited, but it would take several millennia for all Greenland's 100,000 year old ice sheets to melt completely. (Interestingly, the second IPCC climate report showed Greenland had been cooling rather than warming in recent decades.)

    As for Alaska's glaciers: "Glaciers are subject to surges in their rate of movement with consequent melting when they reach lower altitudes and/or the sea. The contributors to Annals of Glaciology, Volume 36 (2003) discussed this phenomenon extensively and it appears that slow advance and rapid retreat have persisted throughout the mid to late Holocene in nearly all of Alaska's glaciers. Historical reports of surge occurrences in Iceland's glaciers go back several centuries. Thus rapid retreat can have several other causes than CO2 increase in the atmosphere."

    Please also note that average long-term average sea levels over the last half billion years has been much higher than today.

    Climate predictions should be taken as what they are: predictions, not gospel. We can't even predict the weather ten days from now let alone ten years, ten decades, or ten centuries.

    The IPCC states that climate change is happening and it's 90% likely cause by humans. The IPCC also states there's probably nothing that we can do to stop it. What's still poorly understood are the effects of climate change. There seems to be a tendency to blame everything on human-caused climate change, and it seems to be used as a fear tactic.

    If the NPS was serious about climate change and CO2 reductions, it should limit all activities in national parks that generate C02. No more leaf blowers at Grant Grove. No more lawn mowing in Zion. No more road paving using heavy machinery. No more cars. To do less is pure hypocrisy.

  • First Ladies National Historic Site Struggles to Attract Visitors   6 years 2 weeks ago

    perhaps the NPS should take a look at their business models, no?

    Does the NPS use a business model? If so, can someone define/describe it?

  • First Ladies National Historic Site Struggles to Attract Visitors   6 years 2 weeks ago

    While looking at cost-per-visitor might indeed be a good indicator of whether you're getting the most bang for your buck, can we really use that yardstick when measuring the worth of places such as Yellowstone or Gettysburg? Are not some units of the National Park System invaluable in what they represent to the country and so worth the investment, no matter how it breaks down per visitor?

    And if you do focus on cost-per-visitor, if it doesn't make sense for the federal government, why would it make sense for an NGO? And if private enterprise could make it work, perhaps the NPS should take a look at their business models, no?

  • First Ladies National Historic Site Struggles to Attract Visitors   6 years 2 weeks ago

    The figure of 11,112 visitors for First Ladies and the visitors for Isle Royale are from the National Park Service Greenbook for 2009, the official budget request of the NPS made to Congress.

  • First Ladies National Historic Site Struggles to Attract Visitors   6 years 2 weeks ago

    For 2008, the NPS spent almost $400 million to operate the 58 "National Park" national park units. It spent almost twice that to operate the historic sites, recreation areas, battlefields, etc. (Incidentally, "National Monuments" cost $76 million to operate.)

    Rangertoo is absolutely right to look at cost per visitor; it's a good indicator of efficiency. I've not visited First Ladies NHS, so I cannot say that it isn't worthy of preservation. (I have visited the website and it seems quite nice.) The federal government, however, should not take on the task of preserving every historical building or object in the country. California does a great job of preserving Bidwell Mansion; the private, non-profit Thomas Jefferson Foundation preserves Monticello (T.J. probably wouldn't want it any other way); the non-profit Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum protects the Spruce Goose and other space artifacts without the help of the National Park Service.

    As we enter the second great depression and our currency devalues and the economy contracts and tax revenue falls, we must look at streamlining the NPS. Places like First Ladies, Golden Spike, and other porkers should be transitioned into non-profits or sold to those who would continue preservation. And why is Isle Royale so expensive to operate? Preservation is cheap. Maintaining infrastructure for unsustainable industrial tourism is not. Spending millions to plow Crater Lake's Rim Drive or millions for god-knows-what at Isle Royale will no longer be options as the federal government teeters on the brink of bankruptcy.

  • Big Cypress National Preserve: Is More ORV Access In Bear Island Unit Wise?   6 years 2 weeks ago

    You have two types of ORV riders. First you have the mature type who cruise checking out the scenery or going to there hunting camps all while respecting nature and following existing trails. Then, you have the retard punks doing the mud wheelies and donuts or going thru untraveled routes making new ruts and trails. We all suffer from the irresponsible idiot who only cares about his thrill not the natural beauty. I know plenty of airboat and buggy guys who go out of their way to tread as lightly as possible. Live by the rule "tread lightly."

  • First Ladies National Historic Site Struggles to Attract Visitors   6 years 2 weeks ago

    Come on, Bob. You know this park is a political boondoggle and is a poster child for the dilution of the National Park System. It was created Congressman Regula and his wife is the chair of the First Ladies Library Association. Two of the Regula’s daughters also work at the park.

    As for the cost per visitor. What about Isle Royale National Park? It got only 11,025 visitors last year and visitation is decreasing. Yet, it costs $4 million a year to operate and the NPS is asking for a $500,000 increase for 2009. I will agree that this is a significant resource and an important part of the National Park System. But at $400 a visitor, is that a valid expense?

    By comparison, in 2007, First Ladies NHS got more visitors than Isle Royale: 11,112***, and costs $1 million to operate, for $91 per visitor.

    *** [Ed: According to NPS official stats, the 2007 tally of recreational visits at First Ladies NHS was 10,881]

  • NPS Retirees Oppose Carrying Guns in National Parks   6 years 2 weeks ago

    "When seconds count law enforcement is only minutes away" I learned this first hand.

  • Wyoming Congressional Delegation Pushing Interior Secretary To Move on Yellowstone Snowmobile Plan   6 years 2 weeks ago

    Maybe it was just a poorly inferred analogy, but the comparison between a human body's need (requirement, actually) for water and our nation's "need" for oil lacks substance and accuracy. We all understand that evolutional development within the human species has left us composed of approximately 78% water (saline in nature, as were whatever our ancestors were) and we therefore have a definitive need for water-based fluids and to some degree food sources. Without thought processes wandering into the abstract, without regular consumption of water in some form, from whatever the source, the human animal ceases to exist.

    Conversely, the national "need" for petroleum is by choice, not by any manner of requirement. The basis for our initial industrial development was the coal-fired and steam generation engines, not any sort of petroleum based product. Petrol is a convenience, not a necessity by any stretch of the imagination. Ours in an insistence thrust upon us by oil merchants, not the "choice of the people", and this is due solely to a lack of options available to the masses. These options exist, and have existed for decades, and have only been refined and improved during the course of the last twenty or so years to become more compatible with current technologies, but have been effectively blocked by the oil lobby, who strive to maintain complete economic control of the American public not for the good of the masses, but solely to further their own fiscal security. We are a Third-World country in terms of our development of alternative energy sources, due to the small mentality of the pathetic oil barons, who have sold out the nation's economic future for immediate profit. The major "needs" supplied by petroleum products all have alternative sources available IMMEDIATELY. Heating supplies are in almost literally endless supply though geothermal sources. Plastics are now the byproducts of soy and mostly corn, with the added bonus of being 100% biodegradable. Additional heating, lighting and some cooling are easily converted into advanced "Next Gen" multi-layered solar cells, transportation into hydrogen (100% pollution free), water and garbage burning engines, again the availability of which is effectively masked by the oil lobby. But alas, since the people of this nation are generally lazy, and believe the first thing they are told, no matter who the source may be, and are prone to complete gullibility in the doomsday scenario if we proceed with alternative energy development, we as a populace act the good little lemmings diving off the cliff simply because we though we saw someone else do it first, and God forbid we think and act independently and show some backbone and an initiative in taking control of our own future.

    Please spare me the "you don't realize how long it would take to bring these notions to the masses" logic. That usually comes from a lame position of "we can't start a program due to we're lazy and generally content". If we ever intent to lead again, we have no choice but to begin by taking control of our destiny away from both unreliable Middle Eastern sources and corrupt and contemptible internal energy suppliers. Drill for offshore oil? You're only prolonging the problem. With the BILLIONS that it would take to develop new sources, build platforms and refineries, transport and bring the products to market, you could make great strides into the burgeoning "next gen alt en" developing markets, making our national security independent of world politics.
    What a concept, eh? International independence! Something our politicians claim isn't realistic or possible.....

    As long as we, as a nation, remain stuck in the ridiculous "either Rep or Dem" mindset, we are destined to remain part of the problem, not the solution. Get fired up, get the lead out of yourself and Washington, and FORCE enacted change NOW, or be content with the economic woes that lie directly in the path of our future.

  • Black Bear Attacks Child at Great Smoky Mountains National Park   6 years 2 weeks ago

    I live nearby and from what I read and heard on the local news, the little boy had been eating KFC chicken and had wiped his hands on his clothing. That would indicate to me the bear thought the little boy was a food source and was not attacking a human for the sake of attacking a human. His father was there and took on the bear as well to protect his son, but at that point the bear was probably thinking he was fighting something else for his food source.

  • Stanley W. Abbott, Wizard of the Blue Ridge Parkway   6 years 2 weeks ago

    Bob -

    Stanley Abbott's son, Carlton, has continued in his father's footsteps, and as far as I know, still has his own firm in Williamsburg, Virginia.

    During my years at Colonial National Historical Park, I had the opportunity to attend a number of meetings involving Carlton's projects in the park or surrounding communities. He's a gifted planner and designer in his own right, very sensitive to the NPS mission, and values his connections to the NPS through his dad's career.

    His years growing up in and around parks obviously rubbed off, and it's nice to see such a fine legacy continue.

  • Rock Falls Close Curry Village Lodgings in Yosemite National Park   6 years 2 weeks ago

    I WAS THERE!!!!! i am a student who was there in line for breakfast when the huge rockfall happened i ran for my life it was so scary

  • Upon Further Review – A Rare Photo Op   6 years 2 weeks ago

    Well hello, Jim, it's been what, 23 years since we worked together at Big Thicket? My best Big Thicket wildlife siting -- alas no photo -- was a live armadillo. I'd seen so many dead ones upside down on the side of the road that I was taken by complete surprise when a live one walked out of the woods and practically into me in the Turkey Creek Unit. My wife, on the other hand, has never forgotten when a copperhead fell out of an overhead tree and into our canoe on the Lower Neches River.

  • Rock Falls Close Curry Village Lodgings in Yosemite National Park   6 years 2 weeks ago

    Stephanie,

    They've reopened portions of Camp Curry. You can find some news at this site. I'd suggest you call the concessionaire at (801) 559-4884 to get more information.

  • Stanley W. Abbott, Wizard of the Blue Ridge Parkway   6 years 2 weeks ago

    Bob,

    Great article! You were correct in that I had never heard of Mr. Abbott, but have enjoyed his handiwork on many occasions.

    A fall foliage drive is part of my families yearly pilgramages. Living in Richmond Va. allows us to take Va. Rt. 33 towards Harrisonburg, and drive a fairly lengthy stretch across some of the higer Va. peaks southward to Charlottesville, where we can take Va. Rt. 250 back home. This drive can be accomplished in an afternoon, and the route can be reversed if so desired. Some of the vistas highlight either the Shenandoah valley to the West, or the sloping beginning of the Viriginia Piedmont to the East, as the roadway snakes along both sides of the ridges at different points along the route.

    It truly is a marvel of road building engineering, and does reside quite naturally along the spine of the Appalachians. A true wonder for all to see, if you're ever in the area.

    I must pose a hypothetical question concerning this higway, however:

    Would it be allowed to be built in the year 2008, along the same route and untilizing the same construction techniques?

  • Rock Falls Close Curry Village Lodgings in Yosemite National Park   6 years 2 weeks ago

    We have reservations in Yosemite starting this Sunday. Have they reopened Camp Curry yet?

  • Are There Really 391 Units in the National Park System? You Won’t Think So After You Read This!   6 years 2 weeks ago

    No cigar, I'm afraid. The four-letter code for Noatak National Park & Preserve is NOAT.

  • Vietnam Veterans Memorial Vandalized   6 years 2 weeks ago

    this is horrible...

  • Are There Really 391 Units in the National Park System? You Won’t Think So After You Read This!   6 years 2 weeks ago

    Dear Beenthere and Bob:

    My guess is that "NOAA" is the code for "Noatak National Preserve," the largest park system unit in the administrative collective called the Western Arctic National Parklands.

    Noatak is distinctive as the largest, largely intact river system, including a vast number of tributaries, in the National Park System, although the upper Noatak is actually in Gates of the Arctic NP (intended to encompass mountain systems), and most of the rest in in Noatak (intended to be a valley park, or a watershed).

    Kobuk Valley is the National Park in this Western Arctic collective. These parks should each be managed by separate superintendents.

  • Rock Falls Close Curry Village Lodgings in Yosemite National Park   6 years 2 weeks ago

    Time to move the "camp". (Aren't camps supposed to be temporary?)

  • Don't Forget Buffalo National River When You're Looking for Fall Foliage   6 years 2 weeks ago

    Charlie -

    Thanks for the comment. I'm glad you've had a chance to enjoy the Buffalo, and that you got to see it before quite so many others "discovered" the area.

    You're correct - many of the local residents, especially those who owned land that would become part of the park, weren't in favor of the idea when a park was proposed.

    I had a lot of contact with a number of those folks during the years I worked at the Buffalo, and I can honestly say that while some of them still weren't happy with the government, they didn't take it out on me as an individual. We made quite a few friends in the area, and had chances to talk about the changes. By the time I moved there in 1986, a lot of locals had come to accept the park, and realized that if it hadn't been established, it was likely that the area would have been flooded under the waters of yet another man-made lake. Under that scenario, the park was definitely the better choice for people who had lived there and used the river for years.

  • Rock Falls Close Curry Village Lodgings in Yosemite National Park   6 years 2 weeks ago

    Mother Nature is devastatingly gorgeous.
    Would have been something to see!

  • Don't Forget Buffalo National River When You're Looking for Fall Foliage   6 years 2 weeks ago

    Thanks for the memories.
    I grew up in Mountain Home, Arkansas (about and hour and a half east of Buffalo River) and canoed and camped along the river in the early to mid 1960's.
    I believe this was during the discussions of making the river a National River. Many of the local residents along the river were opposed to the idea of big government taking over 'their' river.

    Thanks Again

    Charlie