Happy Birthday Yosemite
"The National Park Service preserves unimpaired the natural and cultural resources and values of the National Park System for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of this and future generations." (Mission Statement of NPS)
In December of 1995, I had planned on skiing out Glacier Point Road in Yosemite but could not get into the park because of the U.S. Federal Government shut down. Today is another example of the National Parks closing because the Federal Government is shut down once again.
The National Parks are the “people’s parks”. They belong to us and we are being kept out. The parks are over-regulated to begin with. You need a special pass or entry fee when you enter the parks (If only these gate fees were used exclusively for the parks). After you are in the park, you will need to pay an additional fee for a wilderness permit to stay overnight along the trails. On the Mt. Whitney trail or the Half Dome trail, you are required to reserve and pay for a pass even if it is only a day hike. This trail permit requirement lends new meaning to pack it in pack it out.
The following statement is part of the shutdown contingency plans for the NPS.
“The shutdown process will take place in two phases. Phase 1 includes all activities to notify the public of the closure, secure government records and property, and begin winding down operations to essential activities only. Phase 1 will take place over a day and a half. Phase 2 will be initiated by the Director and includes the complete shutdown of all concession facilities and commercial visitor services. Overnight visitors will be given two days to make alternate arrangements and depart the parks. At the end of Phase 2 operations are expected to be at the minimum levels defined below. The entire closure process – both phases – will be completed within four days.” http://www.doi.gov/shutdown/fy2014/upload/NPS-contingency-plan.pdf
We are impacted in many ways by these decisions. Highway 120, an important trans-sierra road is closed. Those who made plans from around the world to visit the parks or travel the John Muir Trail will not be allowed to enter either Yosemite (North) or Sequoia (South) Parks. There is no provision for those already on the trail who continue to travel. Are they required to leave the parks also? Are those who work concessions such as the Delaware North Company folks required to leave the park?
I would be willing to bet that the current emergency staffing levels are not significantly lower than seasonal low emergency personnel staffing levels such as winter/spring in Yosemite. Thus, what is the point of shutting down the parks?
Finally, these parks were set aside “…for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of this and future generations.” It is not right that we should be kept out of our own parks; parks we have paid taxes and permit fees to access. My right of access is not secondary to those who wish to fly in and out of airports. The government has seen fit to ensure their rights by keeping on the air traffic controllers. The current situation does not involve my safety such as when trails are closed because of landslides or roads are closed for fires like the Rim fire. This is not an emergency that warrants a ‘no access’ policy.