Category Archives: National Parks

Government shutdown again?

Sometimes it’s not difficult to become discouraged.

So here I am letting people know about the potential hike in National Park entrance fees and asking them to comment. A public comment period on the National Park Service entrance fee proposal is open until Nov. 23, and comments can be filed at https//parkplanning.nps.gov/proposedpeakseasonfeerates. Written comments also are accepted by sending to 1849 C Street, NW, Mail Stop: 2346, Washington, DC 20240.

Then on Friday  I open up the Asheville Citizen-Times – yes, the physical paper – and one of the stories on page one is Crush of tough issues could bring government shutdown. And when the government shuts down, the first thing that closes are the national parks.

My reaction is ? What again?
It turns out that this was a threat in 2013. Actually in October 2013, the government did shut down for about two weeks. See my blog post about that shut-down.

It happened again in 2014, 2015 and 2016 . Maybe I’ve been blogging too long – ten years – but I’ve run out of anything new to say about these impending shutdowns.

See what the popular media has to say about it.

Me?? All I can say is that we, as a country, voted this Congress in and they can’t seem to do their job, which is to keep the government funded and running. Let your representatives know what you think.

Letter to my Congressperson

NPS flat hats

Representative Patrick McHenry, my Congressman, was scheduled to hold an public listening session today in Western North Carolina.

He got sick and had to cancel his appearance. I am putting this letter in the mail. Here’s what I was going to tell him.

Rep. Patrick McHenry
North Carolina 10th District
2334 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Mr. McHenry:
Thank you for coming out to speak to your constituents today. My parents didn’t take me to national parks when I was young. But I made up for it as an adult, going to parks on vacation, taking our son and now our grandchildren to parks.

At Alum Cave

I am very concerned about funding for the National Park Service. In North Carolina, we have nine national park units. Three of them are in your district or very close: Blue Ridge Parkway, Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site, and Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Last year, Americans and visitors all over the world flocked to our national parks because of the National Park Service centennial. This year promises to be another record year.

Yet, the proposed budget for FY18 is only 2.55 billion dollars.

a. This is a 13 percent cut to the Park Service, the largest cut to the agency since World War II, if enacted. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke’s budget would decrease funding for deferred maintenance, which the Smokies needs desperately.

b. The NPS would have to cut 1,242 in staff, or 6 percent, compared to last year. I am particularly concerned about cutting the number of national park rangers. Volunteers make an important contribution to parks. However, visitors want to see green and gray uniformed rangers who understand the park – its history, legacy and hiking trails.

Isa at Carl Sandburg Home

c. Look at these numbers which I plucked from the NPS budget document.

In 2016, the actual allocation was 2,852,413. The NPS FY 2018 discretionary budget request of $2.55 billion is $296.6 million below the FY 2017 Continuing Resolution. Isn’t it sad that even the requests get lower and lower?

Speaking of Continuing Resolution, our government is only funded until the end of September 30. And you know that when the government shuts down, national parks are the first thing that gets closed.

So, please, Rep. McHenry, fund our national parks properly and work on a real budget. Thank you

PS Thank you to Nick Lund of the National Park Conservation Association (NPCA) for some good discussion and information.

Hiking in Saguaro National Park

Danny, Priscilla and Hannah

Can Tucson be the Asheville of the Southwest?

Although Tucson is so much bigger than Asheville with over 500,000 people, it’s cool and artistic like Asheville. And it had a national park, Saguaro National Park which borders the city on both sides.

I’m on a short vacation with my granddaughter Hannah.

Today,  our first full day in Tucson, we climbed up Wasson Peak, elevation 4,687 feet, the highest point in the Tucson Mountains. The  variety of cacti is the big attraction.

Saguaro Cactus

The Saguaro cactus is the one with all the arms.  It’s supposed to be the symbol of the Southwest Just like couples with varying number of children, some have no arms and others can have four or five.

They’re everywhere, which was the big surprise. I thought I would have to hunt them up.

Saguaro NP was created in the 1930s to protect the saguaro cactus.  The park has a modest number of trail miles.

The trail to Wasson Peak was well maintained and signed. But I find the openess of a western trail disconcerting. I want the security of walking between two  rows of trees.

But Hannah and I weren’t on our own. Priscilla from Carolina Mountain Club who lives in Black Mountain is spending some time in Tucson at the Desert House of Prayer, a contemplative Christian retreat. She joined us on the hike.

It may be just the beginning of March but this is the desert – hot and dry. So we started early and loaded up with two quarts of water each. And we drank most of it. Just like in the Smokies, we met people who started to go up just as we were coming down.

But unlike the Smokies, Saguaro NP had put up a trail register at the beginning of the hike and at the top of Wasson Peak. I guess they want to see how many actually make it to the summit, as well as use the information for possible searches and rescues.

It took us five hours to walk about eight miles, with lots of stops for photos and talking to fellow hikers. When we signed out, we saw several groups who had started after us and signed out way before us. Some could have been runners but others might have just turned around.