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Thursday, October 17, 2013

National Parks Re-opened, But to What End

I started thinking about the issue of government and private business owning/managing natural resources and beautiful sites long before the government shutdown. But the 16-day debacle did not help my opinion that these treasurers should be open to the public, without restrictions.

It might sound a bit like an anarchist's philosophy but I guess that's what I get for watching so many post-apocalyptic movies with my boyfriend.

So, the "good" news: Yosemite, Yellowstone, Badlands, Zion, Bryce Canyon, Arches, Acadia, Valley Forge, the Statue of Liberty, Rocky Mountains, Shenandoah, etc, etc, etc are all once again being funded by the federal government. While some were able to open using state funding, others - like Yosemite and Valley Forge - were not since the states said they did not have the extra resources.

The better new: is that they are all once again open.

These closures, temporary or otherwise, resulted in lost local and state revenue from tourists and some people were even ticketed for trespassing on the property. Now, let's think about that for a second - some people were ticketed for enjoying a natural wonder that they probably traveled hundreds, if not thousands, of miles to see. And, even if they weren't visiting the park as a pre-planned trip, they were ticketed for taking a hike, a walk, a run, or a bike ride in a world renown park.

I started thinking about how absurd it was to have the government or a private/for-profit entity manage natural sites back in September when, after a hike at Poke O Moonshine in the Adirondacks, my friends and I went to Ausable Chasm. All the commercials and ads had finally piqued my interest and we were only 20 minutes from the chasm after the hike.

When we got there, the after-peak season ambiance of the facility reminded me more of a theme park than an Adirondack treasure. Tickets were around $20 to gain entrance onto the trails along the chasms, which were entirely fenced off from the public save for a slight view from a public bridge. And the storied rafting trips and other tours were extra. My friends and I had not planned to spend much time there anyway - and we were already pooped from our steep hike - so we took what photos we could and figured we might come back.

About a week later I found myself at Howe Caverns in Schoharie County. Having gone to the caves before, I knew there would be a fee and I was prepared to actually spend more than the adult ticket price of $25. But, later, I realized that once again I was being charged for something that the people managing the site had almost nothing to do with creating. While the owner did put in the infrastructure to view the caves, the caves and underground river were pretty much always there.

I don't really know what I am proposing. Overall, I have found the national park fees of $20 or so for a week's visit to be reasonable enough and the $80 season pass is more than fair. But then, in turn, when a beautiful resource is managed by the government - it has to succumb to the government's weaknesses, including an apparent inability to come to a balanced solution in a timely and civilized manner. And the parks' funding and access becomes compromised.

Maybe this makes me a Teabagger, maybe it makes me a Libertarian, or anti-American, or a hippie. Really, this just makes me a nature lover. I'm Danielle, I speak for the people who want to see the trees.


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