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Kirk Wood

What future for our national parks?

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I have always thought that our National Parks belong to us, the people of the USA. I am troubled by the trend to privatize our parks. That will result in higher costs and most likely lower wages for the workers. I remember in Texas when they privatized the public assistance process. It is usually done via the internet or phone calls. They did a very bad job and the only savings were the lower wages for the workers. The company got profits which they used to support the politicians who gave them the contract. The same workers still did the work but at lower wages.

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Going back to the National Parks......

There is no way I see that charging only $70 for 7 days of access for everyone in the vehicle as costing too much!  That is only $10/day.  Granted most people don't stay for 10 days so it wouldn't be quite as much of a bargain for them.   Just try going most anywhere for $10 for a carload of people.

Considering the cost of fuel to drive to the park, the fees to get in are a bargain. No one complains about the $50-$300 in fuel to travel to the park.  You don't see people demanding free transportation so they can go to the park.

There needs to be a way to fund the parks.  I tend to support the thought that people who want to use or have something should directly contribute to the support of that thing.  So, within reason, fees should increase to help pay for the park.  Mind you I don't advocate trying to increase entrance and camping fees to the point that is totally supports the maintenance of the park. 

Also I would hate to see privatization of the parks.  That is NOT the way to go. 

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I have said it a number of times before on this and other forums that patrons of public lands like RVers, campers, hikers, outdoor photographers, etc. need to take a lesson from hunters and fishermen who decades ago set up systems to at least provide some permanent sustainable funding for the public lands that they use and enjoy. If an excise tax was charged on all camping/outdoor equipment such as is charged on hunting and fishing gear, it would amount to millions of dollars a year. This was proposed decades ago and as far as I know no major outdoor/conservation organization supported it and most of the industries/retailers with the exception of Cabela's and Bass Pro opposed it also because they were afraid that it might result in a small increase in the cost of backpacks used for school book totes and urban sheek camo outfits.

I have seen comments on RVing forums asking why public marinas are often so much better kept than some public campgrounds. The answer is that the excise tax on boats and boating equipment is returned to the agencies to help maintain and improve facilities. You get what you pay for and if you don't want to pay for it then you may not get what you want.

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I think a big error was done long, long ago when the parks were not left in their natural state.  It was a mistake to build massive hotels, restaurants, gift shops and campgrounds. The parks should have been 'preserved' in their natural state with a limited amount of people allowed each day.  Wishful thinking, I guess.  The lack of money needed nowadays to keep all the facilities in repair and the millions of people using the parks contribute to the problems we have now.  As the Rangers always say, "Our parks are being loved to death."  They can't be operated in the manner that visitors want on the limited resources the parks have.  I don't think the public realizes just how much money it takes to run these parks.

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The main argument is false. National parks have free days every year when those who otherwise could not afford to go can then do so. Back when we were young and broke free days at historical and cultural sites were a real boon. Now that we can afford to pay we don't mind doing so. If paying more for each park means we can't go to as many parks in one year, that's OK. Maybe we'll go to different ones next year. Maybe we'll even go to lesser known parks if their rates are less. If fact, having to pay more per popular park would, I think, help reduce over use while improving the experiences we do have. How many of you have been to Pipestone National Monument?

Linda Sand

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I don't think the public realizes just how much money it takes to run these parks.

In terms of the total federal budget and government spending in general, the Park Service Budget is minimal. The current park Service budget is less than the budget of the city of Austin, Texas. Even to make the Park Service whole the cost is miniscule in comparison to the total federal budget. Congress has little incentive to fully fund the Park Service or any other federal lands as the percentage of the population that uses them is a relatively small proportion of the 340 million total population. The large environmental and preservationist organizations and their legion of lawyers have been trying to get the parks to reduce visitor access and facilities for years and fight fee and funding increases as a way of limiting services and access to all but foot traffic. RVers and their organizations need to wakeup or the big money lobbiest and lawyers of the "Green/environmental groups" will dictate the future use of our public lands.

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39 minutes ago, TCW said:

In terms of the total federal budget and government spending in general, the Park Service Budget is minimal. The current park Service budget is less than the budget of the city of Austin, Texas. Even to make the Park Service whole the cost is miniscule in comparison to the total federal budget. Congress has little incentive to fully fund the Park Service or any other federal lands as the percentage of the population that uses them is a relatively small proportion of the 340 million total population. The large environmental and preservationist organizations and their legion of lawyers have been trying to get the parks to reduce visitor access and facilities for years and fight fee and funding increases as a way of limiting services and access to all but foot traffic. RVers and their organizations need to wakeup or the big money lobbiest and lawyers of the "Green/environmental groups" will dictate the future use of our public lands.

Wouldnt raising fees substantially tend to reduce usage of the parks?  Isnt it the environmentalists who oppose raising the fees?  What am I missing?

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7 minutes ago, pjstough said:

Wouldnt raising fees substantially tend to reduce usage of the parks?  Isnt it the environmentalists who oppose raising the fees?  What am I missing?

Raising fees is not the only way to fund the  parks. Read my other post and research the history of the Migratory Bird hunting stamp, Dingle-Johnson, Pitman-Robertson and Wallops-Bordeaux excise tax acts.

Yes the environmentalists oppose raising fees, but in my opinion their motive is not to promote economical access but rather to force the agencies to decrease services, close facilities and thus achieve their goal of limiting motor vehicle access, eliminate campgrounds and other visitor facilities. Research their track record of comments and law suits.

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2 hours ago, sandsys said:

 How many of you have been to Pipestone National Monument?

Linda Sand

Me! I have stayed in the campground close to there more than once! Actually quite interesting!

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8 hours ago, Al F said:

There is no way I see that charging only $70 for 7 days of access for everyone in the vehicle as costing too much!  That is only $10/day.  Granted most people don't stay for 10 days so it wouldn't be quite as much of a bargain for them.   Just try going most anywhere for $10 for a carload of people.

To some perspective on this fee here is what it costs to drive to the summit of Pikes Peak which is essentially a CITY park as it is run by the city of Colorado Springs. During the summer season - per person (16 and over) $15, per person (6 to 15) $5 or a family deal of $50 per car (no more than 5 people). This fee is for ONE DAY ONLY!

That makes the National Park admittance seem very reasonable. After all these increases only effect 17 parks out of 58.  

Edited by Chalkie

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I alwas take the cog railroad to the top of Pikes Peak. The last time it cost the same as driving up and you get to see much more+ you have a guide who does what guides do.:D

I got my Senior Pass for $10.00  before it went up, but $80.00 for ever is a good deal.

The problem with the parks that I have heard from people working at parks is the fees all go to Washington then some is sent back to the parks. There is a movement to keep the fees in the park that genarated them.

Bill

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I don't believe raising the fees to $70 for 7 days of access will reduce the number of visitors.  Yes, for a short period of time, several weeks or few months, the number of visitors may be reduced by some small amount.  However it is almost universal, at amusements parks for example, raising the fees only deters a few visitors for a while, until people accept the higher prices and crowds continue to come.  Pretty much the same with groceries, raise the price of something and people will stop buying for a short period then get used to the higher prices. 

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9 hours ago, WILDEBILL308 said:

The problem with the parks that I have heard from people working at parks is the fees all go to Washington then some is sent back to the parks. There is a movement to keep the fees in the park that genarated them.

Since the Fee Demonstration Program in the 1990s and then with the passage of the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act in December of 2004, 80% of the fees collected remain in the park where they are collected. The other 20% is put in a fund that can be spent within the fee program guidelines at any park including the one where they were raised. Of course being that the parks are run by a federal agency there are rules regarding how the fee money can be spent. It is not just an open pot of money to be spent at the park superintendent's discretion. 

It is my understanding that this law expired Sept. 30, 2017. Not sure of the status of any extensions or reauthorization.

Edited by TCW

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10 hours ago, WILDEBILL308 said:

There is a movement to keep the fees in the park that genarated them.

If this turns out to be the case, I wouldn't have too much of a problem with the huge increase in entrance fees; however, I don't think that will actually happen.  I believe that the money, just like it is now, will go into the federal government's coffers.

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One interesting point in the article was to compare the National Parks to Disney World, or was it Disney Land.  To me, that says, the real aim of this group, and no doubt, some people in government is to use the National Parks as profit centers, just as Disney World and Disney Land are profit centers.

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It might be worth looking at a couple of realities concerning the increases & budgets.  First, the estimate is the increased fees will bring in $70 million additional dollars.  Second, the Deferred Maintenance as of 2016 is $11.331 billion dollars.  Third, the proposed budget for 2018 is $2,553 million dollars, a $297 million dollar decrease from 2017.  

Somehow I don't see the additional $70 million dollars from the proposed fee increase even making up for the proposed 2018 decrease, let alone  having much effect on the National Park System's operating budget, and, let alone do much for the deferred maintenance problems. Instead,  It will hurt those that make one day stops at the parks with the increased fees, likely cut down the number of visitors, and make it more difficult for low income families.

Personally, I don't have to pay the increase since I have a Senior Pass, however even if I had to pay the full fare, I wouldn't complain since I can afford the increase, and far prefer going to our National Parks rather than Disney Land.  Still, I don't believe the additional revenues will have much effect on the problems of the National Park System.

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As someone else said, "folks may boycott somewhat the parks at first", but eventually with short memories by the majority they'll filtrate back to them = maybe not all steadfasters, but there's enough youngsters coming behind that won't have been affected by such a huge change/hike who will fill that void.

I remember in the early 80's hubby and I would go to Disneyland every year, partially to do with the children's ages but moreso stopped when prices got out of control to the point of greed in our books.   Only going once in the 90's for the millennium and once when family visited with us in 2015.   My old hometown in the UK, now charges to park at beaches, POI etc, so our last couple of visits back, we've visited whilst one stays in the car/drops off, and the others have a look see, brief walk/dip in the ocean and vice a versa.   For us it's a principal thing and the privatizing of everything has gone wacky, as they all want to make a profit on top as well of course.  

It sounds like the problem with the budget being so high, is maybe what we evidence at City Level, Provincial Level, federal level of varying governed bodies here = Too many chiefs in fat cat positions, not enough Indians and those of which have no accountability to retain their work positions, getting away with doing diddly squat.    I can't begin to convey, how many clients over the years I've worked with in these type of positions, that basically all said "it's a cushy job for the money" or spend countless working hours on "personal calls, texting, FB, bored, reading, hobbies"...... fill in the blank here".    Makes one's blood boil when you know it's "you" that's paying their salary in reality!    The day's of dedicated employees/worker bees in these type of positions has long gone sadly.

Bottom line is those that pay any form of fees/taxes etc need to stand united (no good just a handful doing so) and demand more accountability, or vote with their dollars.    Trouble is we're all great at talking the talk but unitedly not so good at walking the walk so to speak.

Sigh ..........

Sorry ......... off my soapbox now.

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4 hours ago, FULLTIMEWANABE said:

It sounds like the problem with the budget being so high, is maybe what we evidence at City Level, Provincial Level, federal level of varying governed bodies here = Too many chiefs in fat cat positions, not enough Indians and those of which have no accountability to retain their work positions, getting away with doing diddly squat.  

 

Interesting comments, as there is little evidence of this in any of the 5 national parks or the 9 national wildlife refuges where we have lived and volunteered for a season or longer. What we have seen has been mostly very dedicated, hard-working employees who believe in the work that they are doing. I'm sure that there are a few bad employees in places but we saw very little evidence of that. 

National parks are very expensive to operate and that is especially true of those that are most popular and visited, such as Yellowstone, Yosemite, Grand Canyon and several others. The fact is that we must be willing to pay the costs or not have the parks. 

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During our volunteering gigs we didn't see slacking off.  Park employees don't make much money and it takes them a long time to go up a level. New ones rarely are permanent full-time. They have to move across the country to fill in hours. New ones go to the least desireable parks.  Many have college degrees and could be making more money elsewhere and could have a full-time job.  These are dedicated people who stay in these positions because this is their mission.  They truly love the parks and what they're doing.  They want visitors to enjoy the parks yet It hurts them to see the way some folks treat our beloved parks.  If it weren't for the many thousands of volunteers the parks would be in worse shape.  The employees just don't have the time to deal with smaller things needed and lack funds to fix what needs to be fixed.

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I too have volunteered in State and National Parks. Most of the full time employees are extreamly overwhelmed and overworked. To become a full time employees most first have to work several seasons as a seasonal worker.  The pay is decent but not great until you get to a level of supervision where the pay is better. The benefits are great. Most of the problem I saw was that it took so long for anyone to make a decision and or get approval to do anything that it always took two or three times as long to get anything done which increased the costs. They as government workers have never had to be accountable and make a profit. 

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33 minutes ago, Twotoes said:

I too have volunteered in State and National Parks. Most of the full time employees are extreamly overwhelmed and overworked. To become a full time employees most first have to work several seasons as a seasonal worker.  The pay is decent but not great until you get to a level of supervision where the pay is better. The benefits are great. Most of the problem I saw was that it took so long for anyone to make a decision and or get approval to do anything that it always took two or three times as long to get anything done which increased the costs. They as government workers have never had to be accountable and make a profit. 

We concur two toes, that's been our experience in many areas of governments as well.   The biggest waste of time/money is from when a decision needs to be made to making that decision and then actually implementing it in a timely fashion.   Generally speaking, and I've worked for a major corporation and otherwise, is the person we've nearly always found with the most knowledge and typically strong work ethics, that rarely gets heard (but should be listened to), is for want of a better description the "guy that sweeps the floors".    It's the waste of time and money with lack of accountability in many "god palace" positions,  that cost us "the lay person/consumer" so to speak that frustrates the living daylights out of us.

Obviously you and Kirk are blessed that you have experienced folks "genuinely being overworked" (just terming, your words, I mean conscientious in their roles), in your state and national parks.   I'm not about folks being overworked, I'm just about people being conscientious in their roles, and giving a good days work for a fair days pay (and accountability), as it felt it used to be more years ago.   Instead of all the bureaucracy and red tape that invariably filtrates to costing the end user/people more monies so unnecessarily in so many areas today.   

Since for our Provincial Parks they started bringing in outside companies (some of these consortiums have found a way to amass many provincial parks and they aren't even based for taxation in our province, so the profits don't even filtrate back to the people so to speak), we've seen our fees go through the roof on the profiteering side, and little concern for the general preservation/repair/renewal of the park except those areas that might directly affect "their profit margins".   By the way, many local tax payers bid as individuals for these parks of that we know for sure = Head shakes

Years ago one of our local PP, for over 12 years was run by a lovely FT RVing older couple, taxes paid in Alberta.   There was no electric or sewer hookups, it was affordable for many families to benefit, and those folks painted, cleaned, aerated, put on small events for a small coverage fee as entertainment, and did not just the immediate sites but the surrounding areas of the park further away.   They showed pride in that particular park and in turn many of us volunteered a few hours each season with clean ups because of that.   They were so helpful to campers with issues like slides stuck needing fluid they even provided, or other wise.   Now it feels its just about adding alien items to the parks to increase traffic and the charges ++++   Just saying, not all changes are for the better, and we are starting to very much question the "protect the parks for future generations".  

Irrelevant to this but same concept kind of applies:    It  just feels everything today is about profiteering more and more = don't even get me started on the hospital high parking fees, now using outside companies where none or hardly a dime of it goes back to the actual hospital.   Last thing someone needs when dealing with someone dying or in ICU, Oncology is to come out and find their vehicle towed/clamped because they ran over their paid time limit - or worse still those that can't afford to daily pay $15/20+ to park to visit their loved ones at the end of their days.   Sheesh, even our medical staff can't afford the rates, and have to park and catch shuttle buses into work.   

Certainly sounds that your National/State Parks have things more right than wrong, which is wonderful to hear Kirk.

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