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balzaccom

The Guardian on our National Parks

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We've come to appreciate the perspective that the Guardian gives on many stories, and this one really hit home.  It's an excellent discussion of the issues we face moving forward with our national parks. And given the concerns it raises, we should think twice any kind of "destination marking" in our national parks...

 

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/nov/20/national-parks-america-overcrowding-crisis-tourism-visitation-solutions

 

We have always been of the opinion that encouraging people to visit the mountains is a good idea, because the more people appreciate our wilderness, the more they will vote for protection of our wild places.  But this article suggests that we may be well beyond the carrying capacity of some of our parks, and more people isn't going to help that at all. On the other hand, we never post geo-locations for any of our photos, and we don't usually recommend specific campsites for two reasons.  One of them is that we think you should find your own scenic treasures.  The other one is that you may prefer something different from what we like, and you should feel free to explore a bit.  At any rate, the story is sobering. 

 

And yes, we contribute to pay for the Guardian's work.

 

Our blog is at backpackthesierra.com

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"Back in Yellowstone, resource experts say the park is racing headlong toward a reality some might considered sacrilege: limits on people."

 

Why is this considered sacrilege? Campsites have been doing this for years. There are only so many sites available, there are only so many people (and vehicles) allowed per site, and therefore there is room for only so many people (and vehicles) total.

 

Of course, as the article pointed out, that can push "overflow" traffic to nearby locations that were previously unknown and previously had few visitors. So eventually, those locations will have to deal with demand as well.

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One closest to me has had limits on visitors since it opened.  Middle of a couple major cities mostly the issue I guess.

 - They want to go somewhere for the weekend,  and this is a short trip. 

One area in particular, we regularly cart back water bottles found all around a glacial lake that's at the top of the kittatinny  ridge.

Seems odd to us,  as we've yet to see most of these city visitors taking any water with them.   

 

Like niraD said, a string of very large creek n trail parks nearby have  been swamped enough with the overflow that locals can't go there anymore.

 - There simply isn't room.  One of my most productive fly fishing areas to boot...

The township charges a fee now for outta state licensed vehicles there.  They probably need it for clean-up overtime for their employees.

Monday mornings show those parks littered with foodstuff wrappers, bottles, diapers, and broken grills, on top of the "added to" filled cans.

Sheesh...

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2 hours ago, niraD said:

"Back in Yellowstone, resource experts say the park is racing headlong toward a reality some might considered sacrilege: limits on people."

 

Why is this considered sacrilege? Campsites have been doing this for years. There are only so many sites available, there are only so many people (and vehicles) allowed per site, and therefore there is room for only so many people (and vehicles) total.

It's sacrilege because it explicitly admits that the parks are for the elite. Originally that elite was simply the people that could afford to get to them and stay there, but for most of the time, the elite was made up of the people that knew about the parks, had enough vacation time to go visit them, a vehicle to get them there, and the ability to recognize the reasons for going there. Nowadays, that's basically everyone. I don't think instagram is specifically a driving force, but certainly the information superhighway in general has pumped up the image of going to the national parks so everyone thinks they need to do that.

 

Limiting access specifically invents a new elite class -- the people that get access, however they're chosen -- and admits publicly that not everyone can come. Sure, it's an egalitarian elite, but it still limits access to the chosen few. I don't put it that way because I think it's a bad idea -- it beats just paving the parks over to provide parking -- I just think that's the way to look at it if you want to understand why the idea is upsetting to many people. National parks are supposed to provide a place for everyone to come and enjoy nature and play, but now we have to face the fact that there's not room for everyone, after all.

 

A big problem the article brings out is that the majority of the people are going because they've been convinced they have to go, not because they actually understand why they're going and appreciate what they're seeing. But that's just the way our society has gone: being there is what's important, not experiencing where you are. That's why the selfie saying "I'm here" has replaced the photograph saying, "This is what I saw."

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14 minutes ago, dprovan said:

Limiting access specifically invents a new elite class -- the people that get access, however they're chosen -- and admits publicly that not everyone can come.

The local cinema uses a simple first-come, first-served system. Once all the tickets for a given showing have been sold, no one else is allowed to buy tickets for that showing. Does that mean that access to the cinema is specifically limited to an "elite class"?

 

I don't think so. And I don't think parks will be limited to an "elite class" either, unless they do something silly like limit access by charging exorbitant entry/parking fees that only the very wealthy can afford.

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Yeah--I don't see the issue as being elitist.  There are now limits to how many people can hike the John Muir Trail or climb Half Dome, but those are reservation systems, not based on money or power, but on first come first served and a lottery.  Equal opportunity speaks against elitism.

 

And I don't share any scorn of the people visiting these parks.  I think they are there to learn, observe and enjoy the parks just like me.  i do know how and where to visit some of my local parks to avoid most of these issues...but that's a short term solution, as our population grows and more people visit more places.

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52 minutes ago, niraD said:

The local cinema uses a simple first-come, first-served system. Once all the tickets for a given showing have been sold, no one else is allowed to buy tickets for that showing. Does that mean that access to the cinema is specifically limited to an "elite class"?

I think you've put your finger on it: many people will consider it sacrilege for national parks to be reduced to acting like cinemas.

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26 minutes ago, balzaccom said:

And I don't share any scorn of the people visiting these parks.  I think they are there to learn, observe and enjoy the parks just like me.

One of the problems, I think, is that they're nothing like you. They're just there because they've been convinced they have to go there, not because they want to learn, observe, or even enjoy. Did you read the article? Lots of people is the main problem, sure, but a secondary problem is that so many of those people don't respect the parks and understand why they're important.

 

I don't have any scorn for those people, I just observe that they leave a lot of trash behind.

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2 hours ago, balzaccom said:

Yeah--I don't see the issue as being elitist.  There are now limits to how many people can hike the John Muir Trail or climb Half Dome, but those are reservation systems, not based on money or power, but on first come first served and a lottery.  Equal opportunity speaks against elitism.

 

Yes.  When we hiked the Grand Canyon, we had to hike south to north because of reservations at the campgrounds.  And my brother made the reservations three months early.  

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6 hours ago, dprovan said:
7 hours ago, niraD said:

The local cinema uses a simple first-come, first-served system. Once all the tickets for a given showing have been sold, no one else is allowed to buy tickets for that showing. Does that mean that access to the cinema is specifically limited to an "elite class"?

I think you've put your finger on it: many people will consider it sacrilege for national parks to be reduced to acting like cinemas.

If it's "like cinemas" that's the issue, then pick something else. Campgrounds use similar first-come, first-served systems. So do other outdoor facilities that have limited capacity. Parks are no different.

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16 hours ago, dprovan said:

One of the problems, I think, is that they're nothing like you. They're just there because they've been convinced they have to go there, not because they want to learn, observe, or even enjoy. Did you read the article? Lots of people is the main problem, sure, but a secondary problem is that so many of those people don't respect the parks and understand why they're important.

 

I don't have any scorn for those people, I just observe that they leave a lot of trash behind.

 

I think you nail it on the head here.

 

The fact is, the influx of people being motivated to "Go out and experience the outdoors" has brought in the glampers and casual hikers. A lot of them who think camping in the woods still means anything despite spending the majority of their time watching TV in an RV. It really over saturates the park-goers, and causing considerate park goers-the ones who are more prone to follow the Leave No Trace guidelines- to now be a minority.

 

It would be nice if more people were taught to not treat the outdoors like their living room by not just leaving trash out where they go, but that's extremely difficult. Too many people are now in love with the idea of being in the outdoors and use it as an excuse to go out and party it up on a weekend. 

My wife and I now typically  hike and camp to spots that are much less known and plan our trips in the off-season. There is so much less crowds going on and makes the vacation much more enjoyable. I am not a fan of how the crowds make it impossible to go out on a trip in the summer, but there is nothing that can seem to be done. Camping in national parks like Devil's Lake requires a year-ahead reservation, and I just find that silly. 

Edited by CheshireCrab
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11 hours ago, niraD said:

If it's "like cinemas" that's the issue, then pick something else. Campgrounds use similar first-come, first-served systems. So do other outdoor facilities that have limited capacity. Parks are no different.

National parks are so much more than the campsites in them.

 

Anyway, I was just trying to help you understand why some people think it's sacrilege. You act like you're trying to convince me that it isn't sacrilege, but since I don't think it is, you're wasting your time. I don't think anything you've said would change their minds, although since I'm not one of them, I can't really know that for sure.

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5 hours ago, CheshireCrab said:

My wife and I now typically  hike and camp to spots that are much less known and plan our trips in the off-season. There is so much less crowds going on and makes the vacation much more enjoyable. I am not a fan of how the crowds make it impossible to go out on a trip in the summer, but there is nothing that can seem to be done.

Agreed.

Most my day-hiking and caching these days are week days, when the trails have less (or no) folks on them.

I've also taken to hunting (on lands allowed) while caching, most hikers pretty-much staying away when those seasons open.

The easiest (for me) way to get away from the crowds while walking/caching is simply going further along the trail. 

 - Any weekend, where the bunch gathers to show the name brands they're wearing, that often seems to only be about two miles.  :D

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