Archive for October, 2013

Driving home from Flagstaff yesterday after a day of hiking and Barnes and Noble browsing, we noticed a highway sign stating the closure of the Grand Canyon. At the time we had no idea why the Grand Canyon would be closed, my first assumption was the possibility of a wildfire threatening the park. No it was something much more insidious and dangerous . . . politics.

The government shut down cut off funding for the national parks which are actually designated as public spaces. The original goal of my blog was to discuss techniques and practices for reconnecting with nature. The national park concept is a great concept currently managed incompetently. That the national parks and their personnel are considered non-essential by the inept politicians in Washington demonstrate the length of disconnectedness the nation has fallen. It is apparent that we live in a society that no longer values nature and culture. The national parks protect some of the wonders of the natural world (like the Grand Canyon or Bryce Canyon) as well as protect our national heritage sites, sites that allow visitors to connect with ancient ancestry, those First Nation people who lived in harmony with the land out of mutual respect.


Looking on the outside world from an ancient First Nation site. – Walnut Canyon National Monument in Arizona

According to their website, the mission of the national park service is “The U.S. Department of the Interior protects America’s natural resources and heritage, honors our cultures and tribal communities, and supplies the energy to power our future.” How can the politicians classify the national parks and heritage sites as non-essential? My guess is that these politicians see the sites as nothing but playgrounds or memorials and not for the important American cultural sites they represent.

I was curious last night and loaded up the list of 401 national parks, heritage sites, etc. to see how many I have visited in my short 41 years on our lovely planet and was surprised at the number of sites I have not visited. Maybe I can’t complain of the problems of funding management or governance if I fail to take advantage of these public spaces. Here is my list which I have now made a commitment to grow by at least one new site per year (we have a lot of great state sites around that I want to visit too).

Bryce Canyon National Park Canyonlands National Park  Grand Canyon National Park  Grand Teton National Park 
Mesa Verde National Park  Yellowstone National Park  Zion National Park  Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve
Dinosaur National Monument Montezuma Castle National Monument Timpanogos Cave National Monument Walnut Canyon National Monument
Golden Spike National Historic Site Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park City of Rocks National Reserve

I read an article last night trying to sort through the nonsense in Washington and why certain programs were cut off for the interim including the WIC program which I think is unconscionable, I starting thinking about alternatives to shutting down. If the program was self-funded then it was saved from the chopping block. The Grand Canyon sees an annual visit load of 5 million visitors per year. Is that not astounding? For a car to enter the park it costs $25. At an average of 4 people per car, then the Grand Canyon is bringing in approximately $31 million just in entrance fees alone. Zion National Park averages 2.5 million visitors per year so their income in entrance fees is about $15 million. Do you see where I am going with this? Could the national parks go independent of the government?

In all of my musings, I will admit that my inner anarchist was begging to be let loose. If the national parks are truly public space then would it not make sense for the public to manage the parks rather than the park management to be under the auspices of the all-knowing politicians in Washington? Seriously, where are all of the park fees going? Does the money all stay within the park system or is it being siphoned off to fund pet projects in the DoD?

Unfortunately the anarchist needs to stay within the confines of the asylum of my mind. In order for the public to successfully manage the parks and heritage sites would take a modicum of social responsibility which I fear is lacking in our current societal climate. I have no doubt that if the management of the park was relegated to the public that many individuals would step up and volunteer their time to upkeep these important sites. I also have no doubt that within two days the garbage cans would be overflowing and many of the sites would be marred by graffiti. I have witnessed the level of social responsibility in my own community recently and it leaves me sick inside. Yesterday we hiked a trail in the Coconino National Forest that ends at a petroglyph site. It is a beautiful hike that we have now done twice but both times a public notice was posted describing acts of vandalism committed at the site, one of which included the removal of artifacts. If left to our current society, would any of these sites even exist in 10 years (it might take longer to fill in the Grand Canyon unless another dam is built).

The Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon

During the process of reconnecting with nature, I believe a sense of social responsibility towards protecting natural sites naturally develops. I have found my inner social activist, he is in the room next to the anarchist, emerge with several issues surrounding wolf protection and the protection of other natural sites from capitalistic predators. I haven’t protested on the steps of the capital building or chained myself to the trunk of a tree, but in my own way, this blog is my protest to the exploitation of our natural resources.


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