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Old 06-01-2016, 08:24 AM   #1
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Park Service Considers Visitor Caps

Here is a news article that has been bouncing around for a couple of days. I can see it now, start lining up at the gate at 6:00 AM to get a spot in the park. It may be interesting to see how this evolves.

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — "As the National Park Service kicks off a centennial summer expected to draw record crowds, the agency is seriously considering caps on how many people pass through some of the country’s most iconic landscapes and historical sites each day."

Read full article here: The Big Story
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Old 06-01-2016, 08:36 AM   #2
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I suppose we should have " Seen this one coming". We have not yet found excessive numbers in the parks we have been in recent years, with the exception of Yellowstone that is. An odd thing happened last year in Mesa Verde. We entered the park using our Access pass and were passed through. A mile or so past the booth we were flagged down by a Ranger and asked questions about the gate process. Specifically if we were asked to pay any surcharges in addition to the Access pass. I suppose they have run into some abuses and making an effort to control it. Times are a changing.
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Old 06-01-2016, 09:00 AM   #3
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I've been a Visitor Information Services volunteer for the past 15 years at the local NFS office and have seen a lot of changes. Budget cuts have been devastating when it comes to maintainence and improvements. When there was talk of changing the discount from 50% to 10% on the campground fees for senior pass holders, the protests were such that the idea never got beyond the talking stages. The majority of questions I get on camping locations relate to FREE! There have been several closures in our area do to the abuse of the land by those wishing to camp FREE or off the grid on federal lands.

I'd be surprised if there weren't more restrictions in the next couple of years on NFS and NP campgrounds. There are just too damn many people trying to use the same space!
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Old 06-01-2016, 09:49 AM   #4
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At Chaco Canyon they just don't pave or barely maintain the roads in, which keeps visitors down to a trickle.


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Old 06-01-2016, 10:13 AM   #5
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That not until 2017.
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Old 06-01-2016, 12:06 PM   #6
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When we went to Yosemite we felt like the whole part was just trampled by crowds of people. The infrastructure couldn't handle the sheer numbers... Some of the bathrooms in the campground we were in were backed up making them useless and unpleasant... Too many people. (And this was a couple years ago...I can only imagine now.) We hesitate to even try to camping inside ad National Parks now...we'd rather camp outside and drive in. We just got back from Arches and Canyonlands. They did route pass holders around the entrance gate, which which cut down the wait to get in...it was very busy and the viewpoint parking lots were usually full. We have a handicapped placard, otherwise we usually would not have been able to park. And of course people were absolutely inconsiderate to others...often stopping right in the middle of the road or parking where it blocked traffic. It was both astounding and disappointing.
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Old 06-01-2016, 01:11 PM   #7
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While I wouldn't be a big fan of a lottery system, which is where this may be headed, I think there are probably ways that the NPS can encourage some load shifting to shoulder seasons at a lot of the parks. I know it will be harder with some of the northernmost parks like Yellowstone because winter sets in and would probably preclude lots of late or early visitors, but hopefully they will do some creative thinking.

I know that Arkansas did some creative things with a bond election to fund their state parks and they now have amongst the best I have seen with minimal user costs.

Perhaps instead of the $1 Presidential Campaign checkoff on the federal tax form, we should be able to choose amongst a handful of national treasures to help maintain.

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Old 06-01-2016, 01:17 PM   #8
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We'd totally check the box on our tax return if they had one to support the national parks with a small direct donation. WA state parks have a box on vehicle registration renewals for $5.00 to support state parks. We check that one, too.
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Old 06-01-2016, 01:25 PM   #9
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Obviously its time raise the entrance fees. Or charge out of state, or out of country, visitors higher rates.
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Old 06-01-2016, 02:31 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by kscherzi View Post
Obviously its time raise the entrance fees. Or charge out of state, or out of country, visitors higher rates.

...and I'm firmly in the other camp. I'd love to see national parks better supported as a critical part of "the commons" and accessible via lower fees so more people can appreciate the benefit of and need for saving the beauty and wonder of our open spaces. That would lead to more people acting on the understanding that National Parks and their preservation for future generations is truly relevant to their lives. If citizens perceive National Parks as refuges for those wealthy enough to pay the entry fees, sooner or later we'll be cutting, drilling and mining them into oblivion.
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Old 06-01-2016, 02:34 PM   #11
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Well said, Rocinante.

The entrance fees are prohibitive for some, already, and an annual pass certainly out of reach.

I don't know what the answer is, but I don't believe raising fees is it.


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Old 06-01-2016, 02:53 PM   #12
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If you can afford to drive to a National Park, stay a couple of nights in a local motel, buy food then the park fees are an insignificant part of the total cost. People will pay a ton more to go to a man made park like Disneyworld.

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Old 06-01-2016, 02:57 PM   #13
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If you and a friend or two can just afford to drive to a national park in your beater car and camp in a borrowed tent for a night or two while hiking trails, etc., the high entry fee makes a difference. This isn't Disney, it's a natural, national treasure that all should be able to at least imagine themselves enjoying.

Hey, if I had to wear a visitor cap while there, I might even consider that.
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Old 06-01-2016, 03:37 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rocinante View Post
...and I'm firmly in the other camp. I'd love to see national parks better supported as a critical part of "the commons" and accessible via lower fees so more people can appreciate the benefit of and need for saving the beauty and wonder of our open spaces. That would lead to more people acting on the understanding that National Parks and their preservation for future generations is truly relevant to their lives. If citizens perceive National Parks as refuges for those wealthy enough to pay the entry fees, sooner or later we'll be cutting, drilling and mining them into oblivion.
Getting back to the original complaint, that some parks are being overwhelmed by too many visitors. The mission of the Park Service is preservation. At some locations visitation and preservation are in conflict. It costs money, lots of it, to deal with crowds in these remote places. In a beautiful world the US Government would grant much higher funding to the parks, while not continuing to run large deficits. Since that's probably not happening any time soon, then raising fees or finding some way to fund ever increasing operating costs needs to be met.

Assertions that a $10 or $20 dollar day pass is a hardship ring hollow. Especially for those that spent many thousands to fly across the oceans and spend a pretty penny (or euro) for their Cruise America RV. Been to see a movie lately? Gone out for lunch with a friend? Been to Disneyland? I live just 80 miles from Yosemite but the entrance fee is the tiniest piece of my cost to visit there. Lets keep this in perspective.

Also, at least in Yosemite, there's no lacking of people "appreciating" the place. Most look and sound as if they are from somewhere outside the country, and the way many of them treat the place, don't ever plan to return.
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Old 06-01-2016, 03:54 PM   #15
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"Assertions that a $10 or $20 dollar day pass is a hardship ring hollow."


Spoken by someone who has likely never experienced real financial hardship, particularly as a family, kscherzi.

If you think those entrance fees don't keep some people out, you are simply wrong.

There may be a lot of international visitors, and others with plenty of money to spend, in our national parks, but there are also families that save and save and save, just to afford a day trip or a couple of overnights in a tent.

Others who might enjoy the parks, and showing our national wonders to their children, simply don't have the available cash to pay for fuel and entrance fees to do so.

We can argue this, but I know that I am right.

And, I'm not saying there should be no entrance fees.


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Old 06-01-2016, 04:15 PM   #16
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To put things in perspective, the sale of guns and ammo contribute 11% to the federal government via excise taxes. Archery is 11% and fishing gear is 10%. SUP's, kayaks, bicycles and camping gear excises taxes are zip. Since Airstreams are already overpriced, nobody would notice a 5% excise tax to go towards NPS and NFS campground maintainence. BTW, my tongue is only partially in my cheek!
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Old 06-01-2016, 05:24 PM   #17
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National & state parks used to be supported by (heaven forbid) taxes!
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Old 06-01-2016, 05:30 PM   #18
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Park Service Considers Visitor Caps

I of course agree that preservation is a critical component of what the National Park Service does. However, that's only part of it. It's also about ensuring enjoyment, education, inspiration, etc. So, to balance the two objectives most parks have heavily and scarcely visited areas. I would certainly agree that we're loving the heavily visited areas of our parks to death, though we may not agree on the cause. I blame severe and chronic under-funding. The percentage of the national budget dedicated to the NPS is so small as to be nearly invisible and that budget could be multiplied by as much as 10 before it would become an interesting bottom-line cost. But I won't go into details here because I don't want to stir a pointless and likely heated political debate.

Anyway, here are a couple of takes on the mission statement from NPS documents:

From https://www.nps.gov/aboutus/index.htm "The National Park Service preserves unimpaired the natural and cultural resources and values of the National Park System for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of this and future generations. The Park Service cooperates with partners to extend the benefits of natural and cultural resource conservation and outdoor recreation throughout this country and the world."

From an interesting document that is apparently handed out to VIPs (Volunteers In Park) at Mt Rainier NP (https://www.nps.gov/mora/getinvolved...20Handbook.doc).
"On August 25, 1916, President Woodrow Wilson signed the act creating the National Park Service, a new federal bureau in the Department of the Interior responsible for protecting the 40 national parks and monuments then in existence and those yet to be established.
"This 'Organic Act' of August 25, 1916, states that 'the Service thus established shall promote and regulate the use of Federal areas known as national parks, monuments and reservations . . . by such means and measures as conform to the fundamental purpose of the said parks, monuments and reservations, which purpose is to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.'
"The National Park Service still strives to meet those original goals, while filling many other roles as well: guardian of our diverse cultural and recreational resources; environmental advocate; world leader in the parks and preservation community; and pioneer in the drive to protect America's open space."

The only visitors to our parks to whom I truly object are idiots and morons like the folks who got a bison calf killed by putting it in a car and taking it to a ranger station, those boneheads from "High On Life" who retreated across the border before LE Rangers in Yellowstone could arrest and fine them, and others who insist on "tagging" and ruining things of irreplaceable beauty.
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Old 06-01-2016, 06:35 PM   #19
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I don't understand how this is a budgetary issue. The Department of the Interior, which includes the National Park Service is generously funded. News of drastic budget cuts is largely a myth. NPS may have some difficulty related to the fact that every year new National Monuments are declared which take a piece of their pie. The budget cut propaganda is usually tied to cuts in the rate of increased spending. This year, the agency that I work for got more funding than they can spend. Many projects have been put into budget requests for many years, often with no real expectation that they'd ever be filled. All of a sudden, they're throwing money at anything they can, and project managers are finding their "extra" projects are funded. Now everyone is in a panic trying to figure out how to spend the money in short time periods that are allotted. I have no doubt that the NPS is in the same boat.

Money won't solve the problem that the NPS is trying to address. They are mandated to protect their resources and provide a quality visitor experience. They clearly have reached a saturation point of visitors in some parks at some times, and it is impacting resources. Spending more money on more parking lots, more roads, more campgrounds, more barriers, more buses, etc. detracts from a positive visitor experience that people come to the parks for, and negatively impacts their resources. That is definitely out of line with their mission.

The article tells me that they've concluded that they're going to have to limit the number of visitors in order to achieve their mission. I honestly feel sorry for the managers that are trying to work on this project. No matter what they do, it's going to be wildly unpopular and vilified. I agree with Maggie, raising entrance fees in order to keep those who cannot afford it out would be very wrong, and I don't think that it would get by the elected leadership. There are clearly no easy solutions. They may be forced to simply limit numbers of visitors in the park on any given day, or accept impacts to resources and quality of visitor experiences. Unfortunate options, regardless of whichever they choose.

For me, and many others that I know, the quality of the experience has already degraded to the point where I avoid National Parks except during the "off season". Old Faithful in July is just like a Rockies game in downtown Denver. I'll go elsewhere. Maybe if enough of us choose that option, the problem will solve itself....unlikely.
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Old 06-01-2016, 06:43 PM   #20
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We live right next door to the most visited national park in the United States - the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It averages 9 million visitors a year. There never has been an entrance fee to this park and there likely never will be. Why? Because a state highway cuts right through the middle of it. Although the park is huge most visitors don't venture far from the road and the many day hikes and waterfalls that are close by.

What's amazing is that - in spite of the number of visitors and lack of supporting fees - the park is pristine and low in crime and vandalism. Two large, successful charitable organizations have risen to the needs and volunteer time and money keep this park a remarkable place. It can be done if the stars align.
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