View Full Version : The Parks are ruined

Jason Kefover
20-Jun-2005, 10:26
I drove across the country this summer. I'm supposed to still be out west except some people thought my 8X10 tripod would do better in their hands rather than mine.

The parks, especially Yosemite, are in really bad shape. Yosemite is ruined. The NPS has turned that park into a Disney dump land.

The parks should be made far less accessible. They should exist as pockets of pristine nature...not for photographers or anyone else..but for themselves. As is stands they are being destroyed by the people who go to see the very thing they are destroying.

It seems that the single most important prerequisite for employment in any of the national parks is the ability to be an asshole. This is especially true if one wishes to be a ranger.

The way I see it, all access to all the parks ought to be cut off for at least three years. All infrastructures, services, paved roads, etc. should be removed from all the parks except for a single visitor's center in each one.

I'm not saying this so that the photographer's can have nice places to go to. If the photographers had to be banned from the parks forever to get them back to pristine condition I'd be all for it. 25,000 people in Yosemite Valley every day is just too much.

Jason Kefover

Donald Hutton
20-Jun-2005, 10:34
Yeah - that'll fix everything - stop everyone from going into them and they will "rescue" the parks with what funding? A little naive...

bob woitaszewski
20-Jun-2005, 10:43
I agree that the Parks are terribly under-funded and BUT U should be harassing your Congressman about that.
BUT having lived in Northern CA for 12 years, I believe that U can find wonderful opportunities just get your but out of the most popular toursit traps. I used to drive to Yosemite for the day just to admire the beauty. As a photographer, you can find solitude just by getting out early in the day, gest out of the valley.
I spent several summers touring all the parks in the West and ya know I really had no problems taking any photographs without just waiting 20 minutes ot so. Except for Delicate Arch, had to wait almost 30 minutes to get the tourists out of the way

I now live in Arizona and ya know what, I still get the "favorite" places to take sunrise and sunsret shots of the Grand Canyon. Just sometimes you need to move up the trail a few yards or wait for the "crowd" to pass
I was recently at the Bisti Badlands and Aztec Ruins near Farmington NM. At Bisti I saw 3 other people in 2 1/2 hours.
So just get out from the toursit traps and enjoy and start complaining to Congress to spend some of the $80B we have allocated to Iraq to the NPS. On this thread before somesone said that the NPS needs $9B to get rid of all the needed renovations.

That's my 2 cents

20-Jun-2005, 10:54
The trouble lies in the definition of a national park. Their charter is for land to be set aside for recreation and public enjoyment. They were not intended to be wilderness areas (and wilderness areas aren't even wilderness, but that's another topic).

I would love to see more nature, less disney, but that will only happen if the park service is made to think that's the prevailing view.

The good news is that Bob is right ... walk 20 feet off the paved parking lot and you'll leave most of the fat and loud tourists behind. Last I saw, only like 1% of the visitors to Teton National Park (my favorite stomping ground) ever leave the road. Unless you're on one of the most popular trails there, you can hike or climb all day, and only run into a handful of people. This is even more true in yellowstone. There are vast tracts of real wilderness there if you're willing to walk and to be very polite to the bears.

20-Jun-2005, 11:06
The park service take a lot of their orders from the elected officals we put there. A friend who just got back from Alaska told me that the privitizating of the parks up there is a disaster. To paraphrase Smokie Bear, "Its up to you (and me) to stop destruction of the National Parks".

Hugh Sakols
20-Jun-2005, 11:07

As a resident of El Portal (the border town), I understand your frustration but would like to clarify some facts. First of all I agree that construction in the valley is horrendous and is especially untimely. The orange fencing everywhere is a photographers nightmare not to mention the traffic jams. The sewer system is in much needed repair - better fix it than having people go in the river. I just think the timing of the repairs is terrible.

I'd like to point out that most of Yosemite is undisturbed at this point. In fact Yosemite Valley makes up less than 5% of the entire park. In fact I promise you if you hike ski to the Clark Range this week, you will be the only one there.

The valley's meadows are in much better shape now than they were say 30 years ago. Today you cannot drive or camp in the meadows as people did in the past. Today the trails division is doing an excellent job protecting the parks wetlands and revegitating disturbed areas. Beaches that only 20 years ago were complete eye sores have been fenced off are revegetated with native saplings shrubs.

Once again I understand your concern and frustration. As stated above congress must hear you loud and clear. Many essential resource projects have been halted due to the new republican agenda that does not include the preservation of our parks - the $$$ has dried up for anything that is the least bit controversial eg. owl studies.

Ted Harris
20-Jun-2005, 11:26

As an author of one book on the history of the conservation movement in the US and with another in the works I think you are being very unfair to the Park System as per the earlier posts, find out more about it and do some more exploration. Also explore the National Forests and other more pristine protected areas.

Finally, give the Park Rangers a break. No doubt there are jerks out there but I think you will find that the vast majority of them are knowledgeable and caring. I see 30 to 50 of them a year in seminars on Stewardship and they are definitely far from jerks. Many have advanced degrees in forestry,biology or ecology and most are very caring. On a more personal note I was on a casual visit yesterday to the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical park in Vermont and got into an offhand conversation with one of the rangers about the Hudson River School of painting, early landscape photographers, etc. She blew me away with both her knowledge and interest. I am doing some research work their with their curator but will definitely look up this ranger again. Nor was she the only one, had another discussion later with a different ranger on pathogens that attack various species of Eastern trees. These folks area not ignorant. Nor are they unhelpful or uncaring. All civil servants should be as caring and helpful as National Park and Forest Rangers.

Al Seyle
20-Jun-2005, 11:35
"The valley's meadows are in much better shape now than they were say 30 years ago."

I recently drove from Lee Vining to Lake Tenaya for the first time in 35 years. I was amazed to see how many more trees there are in what used to be meadow. Tuolumne Meadows is now forest! The difference is just dramatic.

Brian Vuillemenot
20-Jun-2005, 11:36
I completely agree with you on the limiting access to some of the parks. Only a limited number of people should be allowed in each day to places like Yosemite, Yellowstone, Zion, and Grand Canyon- perhaps they should have to make reservations weeks ahead of time? I don't bother going near any of the "household word" national park in the summer- it's just not worth the aggravation. Plus, the light is usually the worst of all year.

I moved to the SF Bay Area a few weeks ago, but I can forget about going to Yosemite until the fall or winter. I was in Arches late last October, and was surprised by how crowded it was that late in the season. There were about 100 people crowded into the slickrock depression area below Delicate Arch. Everyone just has to have a picture taken under it! There was even a couple with two young children who encouraged there 8 year old son to try to climb the arch! other than me, there were probably about 10 other photogs with tripods, and even one other LFer. Fortunatley, everyone left immediately after sunrise, leaving the place to myself. My best photographs of the arch by far were made at that time, and then I had this great transcendental moment, enjoying the solitude and ambience of the place!

There are still numerous national parks that no one has heard of- you just have to go to those. Even in the popular ones, most people don't venture very far from the visitor center or roads- you can have the backcountry all to yourself.

David A. Goldfarb
20-Jun-2005, 12:12
I have to agree with the comments above--the backcountry trails are well managed. You have to be willing to plan in advance, apply for permits when necessary, and hike on foot to the places that are hard to get to if you want to avoid the crowds, and there are many such places.

Brian Ellis
20-Jun-2005, 12:21
We have "pockets of pristine nature that are not for photographers or anyone else but only for themselves." They're called wilderness areas. The parks aren't supposed to duplicate wilderness areas, by design and intent they're reasonably accessable to anyone . The Park Service may be doing a good or bad job, I don't know I'm not an expert on this subject by any stretch. But with budget issues and manpower issues and environmental issues and competing interest groups and politicians and bureaucrats all thrown together into the mix this strikes me as a complex subject and not one susceptible of simple solutions like closing all the parks for three years.

Steve J Murray
20-Jun-2005, 12:30
Here in MN we have the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. Only a set number of people get permits to camp each year. Motors are not allowed on boats. People hike or portage canoes, carrying all their stuff in and out. Its still pretty pristine up there. When I was a kid you could literally drink right out of the lakes. Can't do that now due to pollution.

tim atherton
20-Jun-2005, 12:38
the whole concept of the Parks is basically to exist a a mangaged landscape/environment, not as a pristine, untouched wilderness (in many cases, I'm not even sure what theat woudl be).

Yosemite, for example, wasn't a pristine wilderness when it was set aside for the nation at the time of the Civil War. Indeed the particular "look" of the Yosemite valley as it was discovered by the early explorers and travellers West was very much a part of it's being cultivated and "managed" by the the aboriginal/first nations inhabitants. Yosemite valley in European memory has never really been a pristine natural environment as such. It's always been managed to a greater or lesser degree to fit variously with our imagination of what such a landscape should be.

tim atherton
20-Jun-2005, 12:40
(wish the site had a spell-check...)

the whole concept of the Parks is basically to exist as a managed
landscape/environment, not as a pristine, untouched wilderness (in many
cases, I'm not even sure what that would be).

Yosemite, for example, wasn't a pristine wilderness when it was set aside
for the nation at the time of the Civil War. Indeed the particular
"look" of the Yosemite valley as it was discovered by the early
explorers and travellers West was very much a part of it's being
cultivated and "managed" by the aboriginal/first nations
inhabitants. Yosemite valley in European memory has never really been a
pristine natural environment as such. It's always been managed to a
greater or lesser degree to fit variously with our imagination of what
such a landscape should be.

mark blackman
20-Jun-2005, 13:24
So this is a conversation about a foreign country's (a sparsely occupied country for that matter) attitude towards its recreational areas. Hardly a concern peculiar to LF photographers? I'm sure there are more relevant forums for such a debate?

Glenn Thoreson
20-Jun-2005, 13:46
I agree in a sense that the parks are much too crowded and I'm sure you can find rangers that are in a foul mood. I would be, too, if I had to deal with some of the things they do on a daily basis. Thee are things you can do to help and get great photo ops at the same time. VOLUNTEER! There is always a need for volunteers in every aspect of park operations, from greeting folks in a visitor center and answering questions, to maintenance projects, and photography, too. I have put in over 4,200 hours of volunteer service. Mostly running heavy equipment (my real trade) doing major habitat restoration, to photographing wildlife and historic structures for educational programs. I am now too decrepit to do much of that, but I take great pride in the things I accomplished and wouldn't trade those experiences for anything. My experiences were and still are with the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Parks need the same things. I am proud to have many awards and have photos on permanent display at various refuges. Don't gripe! Do something! It feels good.

Kerry L. Thalmann
20-Jun-2005, 14:20

Sorry to hear you had a bad experience at Yosemite, but don't let that experience sour you on all parks, or even Yosemite in particular. As others have mentioned, Yosemite Valley is in better shape now and less crowded than it was 30 years ago (or even 15 years ago based on my personal experience). As Tim pointed out, back when Yosemite Valley was first designated as a park in 1864 (signed into law by Abraham Lincoln), it was far from a wilderness. In fact, it was being homesteaded and settlers were grazing their livestock in the Valley. Yes, Yosemite Valley can seem crowded and over run by automobiles and tourists, particularly during the busy summer months, but over 95% of the Park is designated wilderness. That means no roads, no cars, no throngs of tourists. Did you only visit the Valley, or did you venture into the high country? Even in the Valley, I have found it easy to find pockets of solitude during the most busy times of years. If you want to get away from the crowds, get away from the roads. Did you do any hiking? Other than the very popular Valley trails (Mirror Lake, the Mist Trail, etc.), if you get a 1/2 from the tailhead, you will get away from the crowds. It's really easy to get away from the crowds if you're willing to abandon your car and use your feet to get around.

Also, keep in mind Yosemite is one of the crown jewels of the National Parks System. It is within a few hours drive of multiple major metropolitan areas. So, it's bound to attract crowds - especially during June, July and August when the kids are out of school and families all over the US are taking their annual summer vacations. Like Yosemite, most of the heavily visited parks contain true wilderness that is almost entirely devoid of humans and their impact. In many of the popular parks, 99% of the people never venture beyond the developed areas.

Yosemite is also an older, more developed park. Starting about 35 - 40 years ago there was a big shift in the way new parks were developed. Most of the older parks like Yellowstone, Yosemite, Mt. Rainier, Crater Lake, Glacier, etc. all have large lodges and networks of paved roads. Many of these lodges are quite luxurious. Some were built by the railroads as the only people who could afford to travel to these remote places 100 years ago could also afford, and were accustomed to the finest accomodations. Almost all of the newer parks lack lodges. Some don't even have developed campgrounds. Some don't even have any paved roads. If it is a wilderness experience you seek, try visiting one of these parks. I have spent multiple days in several parks without contact with another human being. Many of these parks are BIG. If you spend all your time in the 1% - 5% of the area with paved roads and developed facilities you are going to share those facilities with the 95% - 99% of the visitors unwilling to venture more than 1/4 mile from the comfort of their automobiles. Don't blame that on the Park Service, that's just human nature. If you want to leave the crowds behind, it's up to you to do so.

I actually think the Park Service is doing a GREAT job managing OUR Parks, in lieu of the abyssmal level of funding they receive from OUR federal government. In spite of increased visitation levels, all of the Parks I have visitied in the past couple years seem to be in better shape than they were 10 - 15 years ago. Could they be even better? Sure, but that takes money - money our elected officials seem to think is better spent in far off lands rather than right here in our own country. If you don't like the way the Parks are administered, start by voting for politicians that actually seem to care and vote out of office ones that clearly don't.

Finally, regarding rangers... Like all other segments of the population, some are great and some are jerks. My experiences with rangers have been overwhelmingly positive. Keep in mind there are different types of rangers. Some are "interpretive" and some or "law enforcement". They have different skills, educational backgrounds and most importantly different job descriptions. The guy who gives you a ticket for parking illegally has a different set of priorities and responsibilities than the ranger who leads nature walks describing the parks geology, flora and fauna. In general, I have found if you give a law enforcement ranger attitude, you well get a healthy dose of attitude right back - just like any other "cop", this doesn't change because of the color of the hat he's wearing. For best reults, address NPS law enforcement officers with the same respect and courtesy you would other police officers who are just trying to do their jobs. Like most other officers, they are likely overworked and understaffed. I'm not trying to excuse rude behavior, but I have found that a friendly and courteous attitude is usually repaid in kind. Be nice to them and they will (usually) be nice to you.

Finally, don't let one bad experienec in the most crowded part of one of our most heavily visitied parks during a time of peak visitation clound your opionion of the entire National Park system. That's a bit like judging a photographer to be a talentless hack based on one poorly exposed out of focus image. We all have our good days and our bad days. Give the Parks another chance. I'm sure you'll be glad you did.


Kerry L. Thalmann
20-Jun-2005, 14:28
So this is a conversation about a foreign country's (a sparsely occupied country for that matter) attitude towards its recreational areas. Hardly a concern peculiar to LF photographers? I'm sure there are more relevant forums for such a debate?


Many of the photographers who participate in this forum also happen to photograph in the US National Parks. This includes our gracious host, who has authored an article titled "Photographing in US National Parks and other federal public lands" for the static pages of this site. This is obviously a topic of interest to many who particpate in this forum. If it is not of interest to you, it should be easy enough for you to ignore it should you so desire.


Paul Cocklin
20-Jun-2005, 14:30
Nobody goes there anymore, it's way too crowded...

I'd give my left arm to be ambidextrous...

Neal Shields
20-Jun-2005, 15:07
I believe that there is an organization called the Nature Conservancy.


that does just that. It buys up land for the exclusive purpose of saving it for the future. No one can use it for anything after that.

The National Parks are just that "Parks". The people that pay for them want to use them. More and more however, the parks are makeing larger and larger sections very difficult to get to which is putting a much greater strain on the areas that are accessable.

I for one, will not contribute to the National Park system (other than the obvious taxes I pay) because we have pets and big cameras and the government has chosen to make the Parks very unfriendly to people like us.

Furthar, some of the National Parks like Big Bend are getting down right dangerious and the Federal Government has a policy of not allowing law abiding citizens to protect themselves in while in the parks. There is a urban legend that even park rangers are instructed to stay out of certain areas of Big Bend near the border.

The simple expedient to accomplish the poster's goal is not to try to fix problems with other people's money but to use your own and send a check to the Nature Conservancy.

20-Jun-2005, 15:33
I can't enjoy wilderness amongst huge crowds. That's why I only go to Yosemite in the dead of winter. Still quite spectacular, and not so crowded. Nor too hot...

Jeffrey Sipress
20-Jun-2005, 15:52
Apparently, you're pissed you let your tripod get stolen. And, I'm sorry you're having a bad national park day. The real problem here that no one ever addresses is overpopulation. That (and greed) are the two worst problems plaguing mankind and this earth. Even worse than the current presidential administration. Someone posted a good piece of advice here. Get out in the parks early, do your shooting, and get out before the masses fill the place.

Eric Leppanen
20-Jun-2005, 15:53

I visited Yosemite in May, and I think you were bit by a unique confluence of events this year. The amount of construction underway in the Valley is extremely unusual, but it is supposed to be completed this year and is only an interim nuisance. I also ran into road resurfacing around El Portal (all the turn-outs I like to use to photograph the Merced River were closed!) so I too got a bit frustrated. But as others have said, overall Yosemite Valley is not in bad shape, and has actually improved versus past years.

If you want to photograph the standard sites in the Valley, then simply don't go during the summer. I prefer March or April at the latest weather permitting, or after Labor Day.

Aaron van de Sande
20-Jun-2005, 16:02
In NM you only see a handful of people at the different parks, and there are millions of acres of blm property where it would be unusual to see anyone.
There are real wilderness areas, you just need to work a little more to get to them.

20-Jun-2005, 17:31
Our parks and wilderness belong to the country and all the people. Are there to many visitors? Apparently so, reading this thread, but as some seasoned park photographers here have mentioned timing is everything and especially so the parks in summer!

I bet you can go to many parks in Florida right now and see a hand full of folks during weekdays. Weekends folks want to swim in the rivers and lakes associated with many of our parks.

Temperatures in the 90's and humidity as high allows Florida folk a chance to have their state back during the summer months. From September to April my home state is under assualt from folks from up north all the way to Canada and around the world. (Up north for me is everything north of interstate 10 -GRIN-)

And! Our poor park rangers are not required to be college grads or take sensitivity courses when dealing with tourist. Most work hard to please their visitors for really low wages! With funding cuts being the norm from Washington DC they are most likely understaffed and overworked like so many of the White House remedies for America there is just another addition to the list that must be cleaned up after the current administrators return to where they come from.

As for the quality of tourist, if they are anything like those I see coming to Florida, I wish they would go to the Mall of America instead of coming to this state. However, our gator population has recovered and although the sharks are dying off the gators should be able to fill the gap and cull out the really stupid ones. Medicines intervention in the "survival of the strongest" has yeilded a ton and a half of stupid tourist and their heards of stupid tourist offspring!

My extremely biased 2 pennies worth! Paul

20-Jun-2005, 17:56
And before I get slammed I did not run a spell checker!!!

Dan Fromm
20-Jun-2005, 18:58
Paul, the FL park rangers I've chatted with have all been very nice, usually delighted to meet someone who's interested. And the fish and wildlife people who've stopped to check that I had a valid FL fishing license -- don't fish without one in Florida, especially if your car doesn't have FL plates -- have all been very polite, friendly, and willing to chat. But then, neither my wife nor I is agressive and we both seem to come across as interested and not totally ignorant. Another benefit of age and experience.

As for the gators culling tourists, dream on. The gators know the rules. For example, this Feb. when Pat and I went down to Flamingo, we stopped at one of the ponds to enjoy the birds on the other side. I even took a few pictures, Questar 700 time, none of my lenses for 2x3 has the reach. Anyway, there was a gator hauled out dozing in the sun. We gave it considerable room, on the grounds of why not. As I was standing there shooting birds, a Canadian idiot walked up to the gator and kicked it. Instead of attacking the man, it just went into the water. Remarkably tolerant animals, gators.

Hugh Sakols
20-Jun-2005, 20:29
"recently drove from Lee Vining to Lake Tenaya for the first time in 35 years. I was amazed to see how many more trees there are in what used to be meadow. Tuolumne Meadows is now forest! The difference is just dramatic."

According to Carl Sharsmith (former yosemite botanist) Tuolumne Meadows sits on stream deposites rather than lake deposites. The water table does fluctuate below the meadow. Sharsmith (1972) suggests that changes in the water table ( i imagine a drop) accounts for invasions of lodgepole pines. Massive invasions have been documented prior to 1920 and in 1903 and 1905. Plant communities certainly are not static in nature.

20-Jun-2005, 21:02
Hello Dan,
I must agree with you 100% I have always enjoyed meeting with the Florida Park Service folks as well as the Fish & Game, and to be quite honest the Florida Highway Patrol as well. We Floridians love our state and all its natural beauty so most service folks share their knowledge with visitor so they can appreciate this garden as well. Tourist like to go to places like Orlando and the beach scene. Floridians head to the springs and crystal clear spring fed rivers and lakes `cause we keep em hidden from ya all'

I think this thread and the other concurrent one "hassled by the man" are presenting opinions both + & - but we have to remember these folks in uniform at the parks are everyday folks like the rest of us. If someone approaches you with their hackles up I do not think you are going to be real passive and gentile.

Dan, please allow me to pass on a tip to you from experience? I wish to do this because I truly value you as a member of this community who shares his knowledge. When in a canoe, never get between a nesting gator and its mound! If I had a recorder you would hear it was "Jurassic Park!!!" bubbles blowing snorting and growling. I inched out backwards with as little ripple as possible. Gators are fascinating but they have once more established themselves in full and a 8 to 10 foot gator is more common than the last 50 years. The most dangerous of all gators are those who get fed by humans. Once a gator looses it fear of humans they have to be destroyed. The next thing is aggression and if a gator can get your hand it will. Very similar to the problems other areas have with the bear and wolf. It is not the animals fault at all, it is people closing in on the wilderness edge. So look before you leap!

20-Jun-2005, 22:06
I believe that there is an organization called the Nature Conservancy.


that does just that. It buys up land for the exclusive purpose of saving it for the future. No one can use it for anything after that.

I'm not sure what that is supposed to mean, but TNC buys unique and ecologically important properties, which are often open to many uses including hunting, hiking, etc.

Jason Kefover
20-Jun-2005, 22:58
Hey Don Hutton..."naive"?

They are called taxes moron. We spend quite a bit of them in Iraq. The problem is humans don't know what is really important and what is not. So we spend lots of money on the wrong things and not enough on the right things.

Besides, if there were not all the infrastructures in the parks and access were limited...what would they cost? I guess there might be some trail maintenance..that will not cost too much.

Jason Kefover

20-Jun-2005, 23:22
From the NPS web page:
"...to promote and regulate the use of the...national parks...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."

National Park Service Organic Act, 16 U.S.C.1.

I have to agree in part with Jason. Some of the parks seem to have roads with huge parking lots to allow easy acess to some of the most wonderful vistas in these parks. Going to some of these awe inspiring vistas with mobs of people contstantly coming and going does take away from the experience. In trying to accomodate people the NPS has in part failed part of it's mission which is to to leave the parks unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations. I personally wish they didn't have so many permanent structures, like luxurious sleeping facilities, the multitudes of visitor centers cramed with goodies for the tourists etc. Luckily they havn't built a tram down into the Grand Canyon...yet.

That being said as others have pointed out you can still get that "wilderness" experience with some forthought and sometimes luck. If you are willing to forget car camping for instance at Glacier NP in Montana and grab your backpack and hit some of the 700 miles of trails you will quickly leave the throngs of people behind. Two summers ago I did a day long hike which I saw plenty of people well into the day but as evening approached I had it all to myself, along with another photographer I happened across as well as a much too close encounter with a grizzly. On my first ever visit to Yosemiti some 12 yrs ago I was lucky to find a campspot. It was Thanksgiving weekend and it was just mobbed with people. However come Monday morning it seemed 99% of them had left and the valley had a whole different atmosphere that we all look for.

I agree that one solution could be to limit access. As pointed out some parks have already done this to certain areas but there is no easy solution. With funding being cut and the human population ever growing this is an issue that will not go away. Things could be better but all considered we are lucky to have them as they are.

Dan Fromm
21-Jun-2005, 07:10
Hi, Paul.

Thanks for the sage advice re gators. I treat them with great respect.

An 18-incher at the Cleveland Aquarium bit me lightly many, many years ago, and that was enough for me. Short version, I was finding out for myself whether holding a gator upside down and stroking its belly puts it to sleep. That myth doesn't work. Little bugger went limp but as soon as I relaxed my grip it nailed me.

21-Jun-2005, 08:04
Hey Dan, that was real dedication there to your scientific research but I thought we agreed to end the sacrificial part!!!

John Cook
21-Jun-2005, 08:21


Even though I have not lived in the West in 35 years, I suspect you are experiencing what I observe here in New England.

The other day I ran across the old dictionary I used in high school during the 1950's. It states that the population of the USA is 140 million. So we have more than doubled in size since I graduated.

Last week CNN did a piece on increased traffic since 1980. Their figures show that the number of vehicles is up by almost 50%, the number of miles driven by each vehicle up by nearly 90% and road capacity up by only 5%.

In my youth, only half the families in my suburban neighborhood had cars. Almost all either walked or rode the bus to work. Normal mileage was 5000 or fewer per year. Women didn’t drive at all. Who would watch the kids while they were gone? Hubby was at work at the factory. Actually manufacturing something!

In spite of all the negative talk about the horrible Bush economy by liberal media, my observation here in the Rust Belt is that people now have more money, more credit, more vacation time, and take more trips than ever before in my nearly seven decades on this planet. It must be even crazier in the Sunbelt where things are “better”.

The lawns of “poor” people are cluttered with boat trailers, ATV's and snow mobiles. Motor-home dealerships are booming. Once quiet country roads are choked with convoys of SUV’s out for a drive in the country. And the local airport is jammed with long lines of people, children and pets embarking on frivolous excursions, at the drop of a hat, to some far away theme park.

So it’s no surprise that many of our newly-acquired affluent fellow citizens are trampling the national wilderness areas to death.

What ever happened to simply sitting in the back yard, drinking iced tea and listening to the ballgame on the portable radio while watching the kids run through the sprinkler?

No wonder I prefer living in the past.

Are we there yet?

21-Jun-2005, 08:28
To John Cook, Thanks, now I know why I no longer enjoy driving!!!

tim atherton
21-Jun-2005, 08:41
"What ever happened to simply sitting in the back yard, drinking iced tea
and listening to the ballgame on the portable radio while watching the
kids run through the sprinkler?"

You might want to move north John... we had friends travelling through and did exactly this with my 14mth old and 4 year old running through the sprinkler (although we were listening to cricket via the internet and the ice teas eventually turned into G&T's...)

Glenn Thoreson
21-Jun-2005, 12:26
John Cook, welcome to my world. That's why, in my retirement years, I chose this remote little town in Wyoming. They still drive cattle down Main Street when moving to different pastures. After 8:00 P.M., it's hard to find a car on the streets. The simple life, the way things were. It suits me just fine.

John Cook
21-Jun-2005, 15:17
Glenn, it would be extremely poor form to inquire where you are.

So, being a gentleman, I won't.

Places like yours should definitely not be published under any circumstances. My family originated in backwoods Penobscot, Maine. Now polluted with condo's owned by what the natives call "strap-hangers" from NYC.

But don't be surprised if I show up in town one day...

Paul Butzi
21-Jun-2005, 15:37
I believe that there is an organization called the Nature Conservancy.

that does just that. It buys up land for the exclusive purpose of saving it for the future. No one can use it for anything after that.

There was a time when that was what the Nature Conservancy did. Back in those days, I gave them money. These days, alas, it's no longer the case.

I'd urge anyone considering giving money to The Nature Conservancy to first check out this story thoroughly: www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn?pagename=article&contentId=A9888-2003May3&notFound=true (http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn?pagename=article&contentId=A9888-2003May3&notFound=true)

Perhaps they've reformed. I don't know - I don't give charities a second chance. Once they screw up, they're off my list permanently. It's not as if there's a shortage of worthwhile charities, as far as I'm concerned.

Jim Galli
21-Jun-2005, 15:49
Jason, I also think you are naive if you thought you would pop into Yosemite Valley on any given day that was convenient for you and have an Ansel Adams moment. You're lucky if some little skin head didn't tag the side of the car with spray paint while you were being reflective and serene. Problem number 1 is there are too many people on earth. Problem number 2 is there's no workable solution to problem number 1. #3 it's getting worse each minute. #4 is we are all depraved.

The fact that there's a park at all is a small miracle.

Sorry about your tripod.

james mickelson
21-Jun-2005, 16:49
It's interesting but without the Natl Parks there would be no national anything. Most rangers I've met and I've met 100's have been very nice. I agree that most everything should be taken out of the Parks but not the roads. How are the old, crippled, blind, yes the blind love Natl Parks too, and myriad others who can't walk around much. What about them? Aren't they just as important as the young and strong? Congress put 100's of 1000's of acres of deserts and mountains off limits to everyone except those who own horses or can walk a 100 miles. I thought that was unfair to all those like myself who can no longer do 50 miles with a large pack on their backs. They put the desert off limits to all those who are law abiding but don't have the manpower to police against the very individuals who still go out there and trash it. Nothing has happened in Yosemite except a little damage from people's feet. The roads that are there have been there longer than any of us have been alive. I'm sorry you were so inconvenienced by all of those people who came to enjoy the park "WITH" you. Those parks are for everyone. I go in the fall/winter/early spring and it's pretty empty. The reason we as a society have what we have as far as an ecological ethic is precisely because we have a Yosemite/Blue Ridge/Garnd Canyon National Park system. Those parks and all the others have given us something to cherish and that spills over to the rest of the land. I have a good suggestion for you. Why don't you stop going to the Natl Parks so there is one less person there when I go.

mark blackman
22-Jun-2005, 02:25
It would seem that many people on here just don't realise how lucky they are. The USA is one of the most under-populated countries in the Western world (average 31/Km2), and in the rural states far lower (Arizona 17, Nevada 7, Wyoming 2 etc). Compare that with England's 377/Km2, Germany's 242 or Italy's 197! I'm sure it's still possible to find a piece of unspoilt wilderness if one is prepared to move away from the popular spots. Bill Bryson, in his book "A Walk in the Woods" about the Appalachian Trail describes how easy it is to get away from the masses, and in Maine there's the 100 mile wilderness where walkers can be 5 days away from the nearest settlement, try doing that in England!

If you still think the USA is crowded, how about travelling further North to Canada (density 3.5/Km2)? There are parts of Nunavut (0.01/Km2!) where you are hundreds of Kilometres away from another person, now that's wilderness

22-Jun-2005, 08:55
you call 300 times more populated than Nunavut "lucky"? I agree it could be worse, and it will be. That doesnt make it good. I'm looking forward to my trip to NWT this summer.

David Karp
22-Jun-2005, 16:48
Having been to Yosemite many times in the past few years, I find it beautiful, breathtakingly beautiful. This is true of the valley, and the high country. Without fail, I have been able to find wonderful areas of solitude and beauty, even in the valley, and even during the height of the tourist season. Just go where the people are not. (They are mostly crowded at the popular locations. There are a lot of other things to see there.) Most park personnel have been helpful and kind. Sorry you had a bad experience. I am going back in July, and hope to go back again in the winter.