Here are some links I've been hording, if you're interested.
A few about the Grand Canyon, one of my most favorite places, which is why this first story was completely annoying. Here's a link to an article by a guy who was thoroughly unimpressed by the Grand Canyon. He must have a heart and mind made of stone. Luckily, there were others besides me who disagreed with him. (Need a password for the LA Times? Try idahogolfer and mustang or go to BugMeNot, a wonderful resource!) Also from the LA Times, a sad story about being unprepared and not knowing your limits. Definitely worth reading! And finally, sad in another way, an article about how all of the new plans for the Grand Canyon, after the opening of the new visitor's center, have been backburnered, mostly due to lack of funding.
In the late 1990s, after years of debate, the feds agreed on a long-term plan: have people park farther from the rim and build a light-rail system to bring them in, at a cost of something like $170 million. Meanwhile, the Park Service and the foundation would together raise money and build a $31-million "greenway" — more than 70 miles of trails on the South and North rims for walkers, bicyclists, wheelchair users and a few bits for equestrians.
But then, in 2000, came the big detour. Look, said Rep. Ralph Regula (R-Ohio), chairman of the House Appropriations Interior Subcommittee, this is too bold and costly for a park whose visitor figures have gone nearly flat. So, just a few days after Alston arrived as superintendent, Regula's subcommittee gathered at the park and pulled the plug on the light-rail plan.
The bit about visitors is true; from 1994 to 1999, visitor numbers climbed less than 1% per year, and the numbers have since slumped further. But let me tell you, outdoorists, it's a uniquely educational moment to stand amid these fumes and idling engines and consider that, by the reckoning of Congress, this place and its parking lots just aren't crowded enough.
Oh, the irony, when every news story about the national parks for the last five years has been about overcrowding. The Grand Canyon was the 10th most visited National Park Service Unit and the 2nd most visited National Park overall in 2003.
Finally, one more National Park article. I didn't read this article until Monday morning, but the first thing that immediately came to mind was Dick Cheney's speech and political rally at Ellis Island on Sunday. Last time I checked, Ellis Island is still a unit of the Park Service and therefore a federal facility. Once again, the Bush administration is living by its own set of rules.