Sunday, August 30, 2015

Killing Our National Parks With Love

Travelling in my RV last March I visited two of the Mighty Five National Parks of Utah: Arches and Canyonlands, both located near Moab, UT. In choosing them I wasn't influenced by Utah's $12 million advertising campaign. I don't think I had seen any of the campaign ads, but was aware that the Moab area was no longer a quiet backwater for outdoor enthusiasts. I had arrived a day after the 39th annual Easter Jeep Safari took over Moab's streets and campgrounds, one of over 120 Moab tourism events held every year.

Delicate Arch
On my first day I visited Arches National Park and was amazed at the backed-up vehicle traffic. Perhaps I shouldn't have. Arriving the night before I saw a heavy stream of traffic exiting the park after sunset. Every campground, pull-out or attraction within the park had parking areas filled near or at capacity. There were no trails where one could fully appreciate the beauty in solitude.

Approach to Delicate Arch
After finding a spot along the road beyond the filled overflow parking area I found that the approach trail to the iconic Delicate Arch was a filled with people hoofing it up the sandstone mountain in their flip-flops following a plethora of  user installed trail cairns. Once at the Delicate Arch there was no way to get a photo of the Arch sans people as there was a constant queue of people wanting to take their selfie photo standing beneath the arch. It felt more like a day at Coney Island than a trip to one of the most revered sites with the national park system.

I am not advocating an elitist approach to park use, it's that we know all too well that humans can love something to death. I wouldn't be leading wilderness trips for the Sierra Club's Outings program of writing this blog if I wasn't interested in promoting exploring and enjoying the National Parks and wilderness areas.
Preserved wilderness is a gesture of restraint on the part of species notorious for its greed. It's a symbol of hope that a species might turn out to be good ecological neighbors after all.  Wilderness And The American Mind,   Roderick Frasier Nash
In this 99th year of the National Park system, many of the systems units are experiencing significant increase in visitors. E.G. YTD Increase: Arches NP=14.9%. 1,051,507 , Zion NP = 17.3%, (2,781,999); Dinosaur NM = 15.2 (206,458). Source: NPS Stats The NPS budget is going up, but not fast enough to keep up with the growth in visitors or addressing the backlog of deferred maintenance in the park system costing $11 billion. 

The NPS is increasingly dependent upon Volunteers in Parks (VIP campground hosts and volunteer rangers), as well as cost sharing programs with public and private organizations. RV-based users have an important role in supporting park operations. Please consider becoming a volunteer. Here are some options.

Suggested Read: Killing Our National Parks With Love (Source: High Country News)

Then again, some people don't like National Parks and give them bad reviews in social media. these people probably wouldn't be interested in volunteering.

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