August 14, 2009

How to make national parks more popular

Do what the Swiss do: make the mountains a little less wildernessy.

President Obama is visiting Yellowstone and Grand Canyon national parks this month to promote Free Weekends (part of his stimulus package). So far, free admission isn't doing much. The Washington Post reports, "Free Weekends Having Little Effect on National Parks."

Obama's got the economic equation backward. The National Parks need more expensive amenities to make them more accessible to our increasingly diverse (and increasingly sedentary and obese) population. This would require taking on the wilderness ideology that emerged in the 1960s and is becoming increasingly outdated.

In the 1960s and 1970s, the government view was that the most important thing was to protect the high country from the ever-growing hordes of nature-lovers wanting to trample it. But, in the 21st Century, the hordes of wilderness-wanderers aren't growing. To get people back to the National Parks, they don't need cheaper admissions (which max out at $23 per vehicle, which is cheap). They need more luxury.

For example, in the roadless high country of Yosemite National Park, above Tuolumne Meadows at around 10,000 feet in altitude, there has long been a circuit of about five High Sierra Camps, with tent cabins and dining halls, each a day's walk (6 to 8 miles) apart. So, you can take a five night hiking trip without carrying your own food and fuel, you can sleep in a bed, and have a hot shower (at three camps): it's $136 per person per night for food and lodging. This circuit is very popular with aging nature lovers who don't want to put up anymore with the rigors of sheer wilderness backpacking at high altitude. So you have to apply in a lottery each year in the autumn for the next summer. My aunt and uncle applied every year for about a decade, but never got chosen, and finally gave up when they got too old for high altitude hiking.

That's just sad.

Considering how popular this amenity is, you might think the National Park Service would have expanded it, adding more High Sierra Camps in Yosemite, and setting up similar circuits in Kings Canyon and Sequoia to the south. In truth, the more remarkable thing is that the NPS hasn't dismantled the High Sierra Camps. Ever since the 1960s, the dominant ideology in Sierra circles has been that pure wilderness is best and things like wooden floors for permanent tents are probably evil. So, we're lucky the National Park Service didn't burn down the High Sierra Camps.

Similarly, if the Grand Canyon were in Austria, there would be a gondola cable car ride to the bottom (and, more importantly, back up again -- trust me, from my experience at age 12, getting in the Grand Canyon is a lot easier than getting out of it).

My experience with the Palms to Pines aerial tramway that whisks you from Palm Springs to 8,500 feet up on the edge of the Mt. San Jacinto Wilderness is that the crowds at the top are, despite the high price ($23 per adult), much more diverse than the backpackers who clamber up from Idylwild on the other side.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

52 comments:

Simon said...

Yeah, um... I'm just back from Scotland, where we took the car & (for £9.50 pp) the cable railway up to the top of Cairn Gorm mountain in the Highlands, to a sealed 'visitor centre' from which no exit was allowed! It felt like paying to be imprisoned, it was horrible! Plus all the lectures about why scum like us shouldn't be allowed out of the jail to disrupt the delicate ecosystem.

It was the perfect SWPL set-up; caging the proles and having them pay to be lectured. Look forward to similar in your US National Parks

Henry Canaday said...

Maybe the Park Service could get the now long-in-the-tooth Chevy and Bev to do "The Griswolds' Wilderness Vacation" to advertise the splendid misadventures and chaotic fun offered by the parks.

Bev: Clark, I think it is a bear.
Chevy: Weeeer the Griswolds.

That ought to get the aging boomers out in force.

sabril said...

I remember taking a trip to the Jungfrau in Switzerland on my honeymoon. The train took you all the way to an enclosed rail station at the top of the mountain, where there was a huge enclosed visitor center complete with restaurants and viewing areas.

On my train, there were 2 oriental women wearing miniskirts and high heels.

That should be the goal of our national parks -- that people can come and enjoy them while wearing high heel shoes.

Graham Asher said...

I recommend the Pyrenees as a model. Wild camping is usually allowed for one night only. There are mountain huts with beds, meals, and importantly wine and beer, about half a day apart on all the trails. We tend to take lightweight tents and wild-camp where possible, but if we're feeling tired and there's a refuge coming up and we feel like having a meal cooked for us and wine served, we look in.

And there are hundreds of miles of marked trails of various levels of difficulty, varying from easy foothills walks up to the Haute Route Pyrenéenne. And of course no lotteries, entry fees, or anything like that.

Pretty much all the trekkers you meet are Caucasian (apart from one of my walking partners of last year, who's originally Iranian but now British): I've met other English people, Scots, Swiss, Canadians, Germans, Dutch, Scandinavians, and French and Spanish naturally. No Americans; but it's not such a crazy thing to do if you're from the US East Coast, I think - well worth it in terms of landscape beauty and tough walking.

silly girl said...

Steve,

Could you please, SHUT UP?

I mean that affectionately of course.

I pay sky high taxes to the damned Federal gov't and I love to go to National Parks that are clean beautiful and not full of folks. So what if maybe some heavier folk don't want to go? They can visit Disneyworld or whatever. It is a free country, people shouldn't be pressured by the we-know- what-is-best-for-you gov't into leisure activities they aren't interested in. Let's not spend gov't $ on ad campaigns, or worse facilities, to encourage people to turn out and trash the National Parks. I just wanna love nature. Is that so wrong?

Jeff Burton said...

Sorry, Steve. I'm one of those backpackers who doesn't give a flying flip about the fatsoes who need a paved, flat trail for their electric mobility devices or whatever they call those things. Declining National Park attendance is fine by me.

Anonymous said...

This is really puzzling to me. Having hit GC, Bryce, Zion and Capital Reef last Fall, I vote for fewer prople. How about doubling the fees for foreigners?

Anonymous said...

Frankly, Steve, I'm glad the Park Service stopped at the Five High Sierras cabins. As a 70s backpacker on the Muir Trail (e.g., North Lake to Whitney Portal) and a lot of trail-less cross country (e.g., The Enchanted Gorge) I'd have hated to run across tent cabins and a bunch of folks who couldn't carry their own food and lodging on their backs.

Anonymous said...

This circuit is very popular with aging nature lovers who don't want to put up anymore with the rigors of sheer wilderness backpacking at high altitude. So you have to apply in a lottery each year in the autumn for the next summer. My aunt and uncle applied every year for about a decade, but never got chosen, and finally gave up when they got too old for high altitude hiking.

Oh. My. God.

You're related by blood to aging SWPL high-altitude hikers?

Where do I go to get back all the years I spent reading your blog?

If nothing else, it certainly explains a lot that I had been wondering about.

Black Sea said...

Is there a problem with too few people visiting our national parks? I worked in Yellowstone Park in the early 80s, and the visitation then was 2.5 million per year.

The only way that Yellowstone could maintain such wilderness as it did was due to the fact that its land area was huge, and the vast majority of visitors stayed on the roads and in the campgrounds or hotels. If even 1/5 of the visitors had ventured into the backcountry, it would have been a disaster.

Swiss national parks really aren't the same thing as American parks. No potentially lethal wildlife, for one thing.

Anonymous said...

The question is who to make the national parks more popular for - the traditional white parkgoer or the non-trad non-white non-parkgoer? I know who Ken Burns and Obama want to see going to the park.

As euro whites become an increasingly smaller demographic, the nat'l park system, opera in the park, science/art museums, etc will become increasingly seen as giveaways to a shrinking historically oppressive demographic.

Nat'l Parks in particular seem to be a distinctly euro obsession with some possible historic interest shown by the Japanese. Even most Jews and Chinese seem to have little interest hiking into the back country where there are no good restaurants, theaters or book stores.

swokus said...

only blacks i ever saw in the mountains were local herdsmen, drug traffickers or dragalongs of some diversicrat swpl crowd. i'm talking the border between south africa and lesotho that is.

Anonymous said...

Your aunt and uncle should've gone hiking in the Alps where they have a similar setup to what you described in the high sierra camps.

Eurowhites and (to a far lesser extent) the Japanese) are unique in their love of the outdoors. What other culture has sent thousands of idle rich to hike and climb every conceivable thing on earth just for the fun of it?

From Stuff White People Like - Political Prisoner Edition:


Summary:
Two white people from the Somerville, MA created an organization called “TEAL: Typo Eradication Advancement League,” and vowed to travel across the country fixing typos. This is especially interesting since every other time two late 20s white males have traveled across the country it has been to visit all 30 Major League Baseball stadiums.

All was well until the two men defaced a hand painted sign in Grand Canyon National Park. They were caught, arrested, fined, and banned from National Parks for one year.

While white people have little trouble paying fines of $3,000, the ban from public parks for one full year is considered especially harsh considering white people’s need for camping and other outdoor activities.

Questions for discussion:
When there is a typo on a vintage sign, what is more important: Grammar or character?
Once all typos have been corrected, what will be the next cause for white people to solve? (side note: do not say Africa, white people Men banned from national parks after vandalism.

airtommy said...

When I first read this, I thought it was a parody. Since when have our national parks been too empty?!?!? The main problem with them is that they're overcrowded. Here's an example (posted by a guy named Steve):

"My aunt and uncle applied every year for about a decade, but never got chosen"

Stopped Clock said...

Youll never get die-hard nature lovers to agree to put elevators and stuff criss-crossing all over the virgin wilderness. (I put myself in this group, though I'd be willing to make some concessions if it would bring in a non-trivial amount of money which could then be used to bring taxes back down.)

Bix Beiderbecke said...

Wi-fi accessibility should do it.

Anonymous said...

Why do the national parks need to be more popular? Everytime I've been to one they seemed to be pretty busy. Has there been a big fall off in attendance?

James said...

The trams are a horrible idea. Wilderness should be wilderness.

Caledonian said...

Please tell me that this is a parody, meant sarcastically.

Coming from Steve, I'm reasonably sure that it is, but you can never be too careful on the Internet.

Anonymous said...

National parks were highly popular in the 60's because the G.I. generation loved to camp out. My parents took me and my siblings to Yosemite and to local skiing areas at all the time. But as the G.I. generation died out, parks ceased to be as popular, I think. I've never had a desire to camp out. One thing I've never understood is how each generation can have such a different Zeitgeist.

Chief Seattle said...

Steve, I can still feel my dissapointment at hiking Idylwild with camping gear on my back, only to find there was a bunch of lazy people at the top who took the tram. I think there may be similar SWPL social competition at work here. If the mountains were accessible to everyone, you might as well go to Six Flags for all the social standing you'd gain.

jody said...

i guess i don't understand why national parks need to be more popular, unless it's more of the same: the tireless, ultra annoying, and now permanent feature of american society where people in charge complain constantly and out loud about how there are "NOT ENOUGH BLACKS" in every single facet of life.

"NOT ENOUGH BLACKS"

"NOT ENOUGH BLACKS"

"NOT ENOUGH BLACKS!"

this extremely grating aspect of modern US life was one of the things that made me think about HBD. and how these people, the "NOT ENOUGH BLACKS" crowd, can insult and berate anything, absolutely anything, for being too white, but not a single thing on earth could ever be too black. or too anything else, but that's not what they care about.

heck, the indianapolis pacers were recently shouted at for "NOT ENOUGH BLACKS!" when 6 out of 15 players on their team where white. those lousy racist son of a guns, how dare they discriminate.

if it were not so pervasive, if so many people were not totally and completely brainwashed by now into this perspective, i would still be angry about it like i was 15 years ago. but there's nothing i can do, nor anyone, so i simply observe.

Anonymous said...

Why do we want to make them more popular? I think we should do the opposite - given how overcrowded they are.

Professor Hale said...

I have noticed a peculiar selfishness among naturalists that wants to make national parks off limits to everyone except themselves. You may be seeing some of that in the hiking lotteries. There are likely slots set aside for people with connections to the parks service. Just as in the old Soviet empire when the price is set and the productivity is set, the workers get bribes or influence by determining who gets the productivity.

Anonymous said...

More from Stuff White People Like

Outdoor Performance Clothes

David said...

Just what we need. More fatsos throwing candy wrappers and pushing perambulators everywhere. Why not a ski lift to Everest, complete with Starbucks and a multiplex on top?

beastmaster said...

Wtf?! No! We already have ATV and snowmobile tracks that go through wilderness areas, not to mention Fish and Game regulations that allow some fat bastard to sit his fat ass in a chair behind a blind in front of a large open field which is cultivated ONLY for the purpose of attracting game; the shithead, then waits for an animal to pass, then shoots it, then pays a guy to butcher it, then thinks himself a great outdoorsman. Government sponsorship of this crap has created a situation where in many parts of the south this is the only way to hunt: there are too many people with guns outside during hunting season, therefore it would be too dangerous for them to be MOBILE. How would you like to do the work in order to get in climbing shape, only to get to the summit where instead of finding EARNED solitude you find a bunch of seniors and VIBRANT CHILDREN on a school trip? The wilderness is not wilderness if you often have strangers in your field of view.

Anonymous said...

"But as the G.I. generation died out, parks ceased to be as popular, I think."

Having had G.I. parents who took me to Yellowstone often, and having recently visited myself with my own kids, I can tell you you are incorrect. The parks are MORE crowded.

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with Jeff. We don't want more people in the parks.

Anonymous said...

Booooo! Bad idea! The National Parks I've been to in the last decade are plenty crowded - Yosemite, Crater Lake, Zion, Bryce, Rainier.

When I hiked up to Half Dome in Yosemite there was a long slow-moving line up the rock to get to the top. There are mules rides for those unable to make the 16 mile round trip hike. Curry Village was more crowded than Disneyland at Spring Break - just awful! More over, it was very diverse - the non whites just stayed in the Valley riding their bikes and didn't make the effort to hike up into the hills.

Why do you think making access easier will bring in the minorities? They don't have much interest in easily accessible art museums, broadway shows, classical music, and Legoland.

Honestly, why does the outdoors have to be diverse? Can't white people have anything of their own?

kurt9 said...

I don't know about the rest of the country, but I can tell you that camping in the national parks is more popular than ever in the Pacific Northwest. Backwoods hiking and mountain climbing is as popular as ever as well. If anything, I think camping is more popular this year because of the recession. It is cheap. Surfing off the Oregon coast has become very popular in the last 2 years, again because it is cheap and lots of fun. Also, age is no excuse because I know guys in their 60's who are into both surfing and back country hiking.

It may be that Pacific Northwest and Mountain states people are more outdoorsy than people in the rest of the country (this is one of the things that makes us special). But, I think the decline in visitors to the national parks is a myth.

SF said...

As a 65 year old backpacker, I'm going to be on the other side of this argument. Maybe when I'm 75. . . However, the park service could let up a little on its rules for horse packing in some areas, making it easier for the less fit. And one of my pet peeves is that the Yosemite Sup. banned the four pound inflatable boats from backcountry lakes. Incidentally, it was Nixon who declared vast portions of the national parks to also be wilderness. He thought he could get some enviro points without having to take on the tnen powerful timber industry. I'm not sure whether or not it would take an act of congress to change this. Last time I was in Yosemite valley, it didn't seem any more diverse than the back country.

agnostic said...

Park attendance is indeed way down, since at least the 1980s. During this time, recreational visits are down, while non-recreational visits are up. But readers of my blog already knew that:

Decline of parks

Gus said...

I like the fact that there are not many people other at the National Parks. I do not want to see, hear or interact with the average American while backpacking. If I see anyone else, I want it to be other nature types such as myself. This is the same idea behind living in neighborhoods with similar demographics.

L said...

Wrong, wrong, wrong, Steve. We need to preserve these places as intact as possible until another generation comes along that can enjoy them. Being fat and lazy ourselves does not mean all future generations will be like us.

Anonymous said...

The National Park service took over all the resorts that used to exist in our park. Those that did not burn down. Otherwise there would be hundreds of more beds in our park. They also have taken over all the homes in the park (there were hundreds of vacation homes built before the park expanded). Those are used for the Park employees now or simply torn down.

I used to work for them and the Park Service sucks.

Anonymous said...

I love the great outdoors, and I am too disabled to get out there much. That's just tough for me. Keep it wild and free!

John Seiler said...

The best reform would be to privatize the parks. Sell them to Disney or Knotts Berry Farm and refund the proceeds to taxpayers.

Or turn the parks into a new, for-profit company run by Peter Ueberroth. In 1984 he turned the L.A. Olympics into the first Olympics not to lose money. He could do the same with the socialist parks.

Anonymous said...

OT:

AP is reporting that Bob Dylan was recently approached by police officers asking him for an ID, while he walked around alone in some town in NJ where he was scheduled to perform later.

""What is your name, sir?" the officer asked.

"Bob Dylan," Dylan said.

"OK, what are you doing here?" the officer asked.

"I'm on tour," the singer replied.

A second officer, also in his 20s, responded to assist the first officer. He, too, apparently was unfamiliar with Dylan, Woolley said.

The officers asked Dylan for identification. The singer of such classics as "Like a Rolling Stone" and "Blowin' in the Wind" said that he didn't have any ID with him, that he was just walking around looking at houses to pass some time before that night's show.

The officers asked Dylan, 68, to accompany them back to the Ocean Place Resort and Spa, where the performers were staying. Once there, tour staff vouched for Dylan.

The officers thanked him for his cooperation.

"He couldn't have been any nicer to them," Woolley added."

I've never thought of Bob Dylan as "nice", but apparently he's nicer (or at least less hot-headed) than Skip Gates.

Anonymous said...

The best reform would be to privatize the parks. Sell them to Disney or Knotts Berry Farm and refund the proceeds to taxpayers

You have no soul.

zylonet said...

--How would you like to do the work in order to get in climbing shape, only to get to the summit where instead of finding EARNED solitude you find a bunch of seniors and VIBRANT CHILDREN on a school trip? The wilderness is not wilderness if you often have strangers in your field of view.--

Well said. The parks are a last source of refuge for Americans who yearn to be free and to dream. Our parks are among the remnants of a once great nation.


--don't know about the rest of the country, but I can tell you that camping in the national parks is more popular than ever in the Pacific Northwest. Backwoods hiking and mountain climbing is as popular as ever as well. If anything, I think camping is more popular this year because of the recession. It is cheap.--

Maybe you are seeing the increase in backpackers because some people are seeking refuge from their minority-obsessed communities? There is very little left for good Americans. Nature is a last escape.

I myself am planning to take to the seas. The 3-year goal: http://www.shipman.dk/yacht-range/63-media-gallery.asp

I have a feeling that in the coming decades sailing will become exceptionally popular among WASPS. Backcountry trekking offers a connection to nature, and just as importantly - it offers a connection to our forefathers. I assume that our parks will become evermore populated and that the wrong people will start filling the parking lots in droves. When this happens, there will be only one last escape: the sea.

ironrailsironweights said...

Speaking of camping, it's my impression that trailer camping is prole while tent camping is mostly SWPL.

Peter

jody said...

"Speaking of camping, it's my impression that trailer camping is prole while tent camping is mostly SWPL."

well i'd say you're on to something. for instance i've dated mexican women, and when the topic of parks and camping comes up, they were usually enthusiastic. until we worked out that "camping" meant, for them, driving to a parking lot in a trailer and playing cards and eating hot dogs and sleeping in a bed, while "camping" meant, for me, going into the woods with a backpack and a tent.

SF said...

Agnostic's comments are based on per capita park use, but there are a lot more capitas now than there were in the l970s.

Anonymous said...

MAYBE white attraction to backpacking has to do with future time orientation, or something analogous?

Think about apocalyptic fears - isn't that kind of a white thing? The idea that all this stuff is nice, but requires ACTIVE MAINTENANCE?

Sort of the opposite of the cargo cult mentality. Maybe stuff like backpacking is the SWPL nod to survivalism.

In any event, my contribution to this discussion is that the federal government should not be sitting on half the land in America. The fedgov should pick out the nice spots for national parks and put the rest up for sale. This ain't the Soviet Union.

~Svigor

Dutch reader said...

A couple of years some left-wing politicians in the Netherlands also thought that public parks should be made more attractive to ethnic minorities. For some reason they though that might be accomplished by putting more trees with edible fruits in the parks, which would hence be renamed to (I'm not making this up - http://users.telenet.be/steve.herman/Actueel/20040417.htm) "smulbossen", meaning something like "gluttony forests". I seem to remember a pilot project failed to attract the desired number of migrant visitors and it was quickly forgotten.

Anonymous said...

zylonet: The parks are a last source of refuge for Americans who yearn to be free and to dream. Our parks are among the remnants of a once great nation...

I have a feeling that in the coming decades sailing will become exceptionally popular among WASPS. Backcountry trekking offers a connection to nature, and just as importantly - it offers a connection to our forefathers. I assume that our parks will become evermore populated and that the wrong people will start filling the parking lots in droves. When this happens, there will be only one last escape: the sea.


Man, it is so weird to listen to you left- & right-coasters wax rhapsodic about goverment-owned parks.

Out here in flyover country, we are surrounded by nature - deluged by it, really - if we don't mow the lawn aggressively, then Mother Gaia will quickly reclaim it as a jungle.

You coasters seem to have no idea what it's like to live in a small town, or out in the countryside.

I wonder if your naivete - the fact that you are clueless as to how the other half lives - will help or hinder the secession movement?

spacehabitats said...

My family just returned from a day of hiking at the Devil's Tower National Monument in Wyoming. We had planned this vacation for months and were totally surprised by the news that this was a "Free Weekend". We found out literally when we arrived at the park entrance.

Obviously the "free weekend" deal didn't play any role in our decision of what to do and where to go for this vacation. It might have made the park a little more crowded, I don't really know. If so, it would have only made our day a little more crowded and a little less enjoyable.

Steve is right about the entrance fees being cheap. The entrance fees to national parks are already inconsequential compared to the other costs of a family vacation.

Big Bill said...

You really must read this web page:

http://www.adversity.net/fed_stats/OPM2007/001_blacksFY2006.htm

It lists the massive overrepresentation by blacks in virtually every federal department EXCEPT Interior (i.e. national parks). Stats for each one. Truly breathtaking! I had not realized just how much white folks were squeezed out of Federal employment.

Search for "interior" on the webpage.

zylonet said...

--You coasters seem to have no idea what it's like to live in a small town, or out in the countryside.

I wonder if your naivete - the fact that you are clueless as to how the other half lives - will help or hinder the secession movement?--

I have lived in Ohio, Illinois and Indiana and Colorado. I never once felt overwhelmed by nature. Yesterday, I traveled to Boynton Beach, and I felt overwhelmed by humanity.

MoFo said...

Im just back from Tuolumne this week, from Wash D.C. It was gorgeous, somewhat remote, and crowded. I could barely get cellphone service. I forgot who was President, paid no attention to health care, and was woefully under educated on the upcoming tropical storms in Florida. The defintion of Wilderness is a place humans dont visit often. That doesnt need changing at all. I hope we keep a few areas wild in the U.S. About a half mile up the John Muir trail, from the Meadows a woman had fallen over from exhaustion. She was over weight, improperly dressed, and carrying little water. I applaud her for trying, I scold her for not taking hiking at 10,000 feet seriously. Best not let the obese graze to far from their living rooms and Costcos. We dont need to change the parks to accomodate them. Just the opposite.

@ 20$ for a week pass, though, I wouldnt mind paying a bit more. Bargain entertainment in todays world.

Anonymous said...

You really can't compare the USA to Austria or Switzerland or ANY other European country aside from Russia. Why? Because the USA is so geographically huge compared to the smallish nations located in Europe (again, aside from Russia).

The Swiss and Austrians can afford to pay more attention to their parks and such because there are so many people concentrated in a small area that they are frequently visited - literally every square inch of many smallish European nations has been mapped and trod over many times. However, the USA is just so vast and spread out that there is no way we could give so much attention to a particular park or area.