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Possible significant changes in National Parks


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Article from USA TODAY.COM


FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — Food trucks. Wi-Fi. Hot showers.


Those campground upgrades could be coming to a national park near you.


The Interior Department is considering recommendations to modernize campgrounds within the National Park Service.


The recommendations posted this week come from an advisory committee created under former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. It has been looking at ways for private businesses to operate on public lands.


Derrick Crandall is the vice chairman of the Outdoor Recreation Advisory Committee. He says many campgrounds fail to meet visitors' expectations and allowing the private sector to run them would free up money for maintenance elsewhere in the parks.


National parks have more than 1,400 campgrounds combined. About 6% are operated by concessionaires.


Environmentalists say the proposal would price out some visitors and benefit special interest groups.

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Coy, this is an important issue for a lot of us. For those who want to post their comments here on why this may or may not be a good idea, please refrain from getting political! Thanks.

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Part of the proposal is also to set limits and blackout dates for senior pass holders.


Personally, I find the NP campgrounds to be a bit too commercialized already, particularly those at the larger parks. I’ve always found the the park service run campgrounds to be clean, well maintained, and well run. In fact, I’d say that the only NP campground that we really didn’t like was one we stayed at in Yellowstone, which is leased to a private operator. One of our general rules with park amenities is that if Xantera or ARA is involved then we skip it, just because we know that no matter what it is - gift shop, hotel, restaurant, etc - we know it will be overpriced and poorly run.


I don’t really have an opinion on food trucks, so long as it’s a few and not trucks lined up along every popular viewpoint in every park. Unfortunately, though, that would almost certainly be the case. And with food trucks comes trash and generator noise, etc.


And the idea of adding ‘amenities’ like zip lines is to me the exact opposite of what these parks are about. It’s not the job of the NPS to entertain people. Their job is and should always be to preserve special places where people can go and find entertainment on their own. If you think that your trip to the Grand Canyon is somehow lessened without those things then I think you’ve missed the point of why you’re there.


The proposal also would loosen regulations on outside tour operators, meaning more pink jeeps, more busses, aerial tours, etc.


I guess it’s obvious that if I were in charge I’d do the exact opposite of this proposal. I’d limit the size and number of bus tours allowed in, place limits on RV length, add more primitive campsites, and just give the park service proper funding to maintain the parks and add more rangers.

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This saddens me greatly. National Parks were meant to preserve the land in its natural state. Think back 150 years. There were no zip lines or food trucks. The idea of commercializing these natural areas goes against the very premise of their creation. Providing camping spaces that welcome those who wish to be part of the natural beauty of our country is important, but to destroy the natural experience with ultra modern conveniences will be the beginning of the end in my opinion.

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I try really really hard to never visit the big National Parks, but in my limited experience the campgrounds are way too out of date for modern campers. Most were designed in the fifties and sixties. The access needs to be modernized with many more level sites that are unblocked by big trees and boulders. Glacier is a disaster if you have an average sized trailer. The inability to reserve a spot makes it really stressful at any Park. Who wants to tow a trailer far far into Yellowstone, only to find that there is nowhere to camp, because they all filled by noon, and there are no pull-offs along park roads large enough for your TV and trailer? Yuck....


I would hate to see commercial Branson or Dollywood “attractions” and luxury full hookup resort camping, like the IMHO ridiculous state parks in the East. But improving access for trailers and adding more reservation sites would be highly welcome.


The MASSIVE crowds and horrible infrastructure require permitting and metering the number of visitors for the most popular Parks. There is no way around that. Small Parks and National Monuments that nobody ever visits, like the wonderful Great Basin NP, can stay as they are, no worries. No crowds and no problems camping. I would gladly drive ten times as far to visit Great Basin, than to visit a nearby busy one.


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Another National Park with good balance is Shenendoah/Skyline, where we camped a few weeks ago.

The campgrounds and park are run by the National Park Service. Though the campgrounds aren't modern by any means, they're well kept. No hookups. Lots of pull thrus in Big Meadow and Loft Mountain. Smaller sites, many more suitable for tents, in Lewis mountain cg. The campground hosts wete all great, managing the busy leaf season really well by getting out and mingling and meeting everyone.


Concessionaires run the lodges and restaurants, and , within the campgrounds, the stores and coinop shower/ laundry are run by concessionaires. I'm sure the showers are welcomed by the many tenters.

We stopped for lunch at Skyland resort, which a decade ago was so wonderful that we changed campgrounds to eat there twice. The concessionaire has changed, I was told, and our meal was disappointing, based on previous experience, though service was good.




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One of my fondest childhood memories is living in California and taking a month long vacation to see National Parks that my father helped to build when he was in the Civilian Conversation Corps (CCC) before WWII. Later, when I was first married, my wife, daughter and I took vacations every year to visit national parks. I was appaled to hear low flying airplanes and helicopters overhead. The noise was more irritating than a swarm of mosquitos. I just returned from a Fall Break with with my daughter/husband, grandchildren and my wife. We visited the national parks in AZ and it was evident the areas of the parks that were run by concessionaires. The cost was significantly more, the service was significantly less and the crowds were ever more present. At Grand Canyon, we did not see one park ranger, not one. Congress is slashing the federal budget and many things are being privatized. There are federal lands and national parks around Las Vegas. The National Park campground cost is $8.00 per night. You can walk 25 feet next door and a concessionaire park is $40.00. It is not just about costs. We are facing admission restrictions, access restrictions (must ride mass transit buses) to see beautiful scenery.

I do not like seeing large commercial facilities, hotels and chain restaurants in the National Parks. If it is commercialized, I will visit but not financially support the concessionaires. Read the story of Fred Harvey and the Harvey Girls. It was about quality service offered in support of educating the US traveling population to learn about the beauty given to us. I have stayed in several Harvey Houses over the years, the El Tovar in the Grand Canyon being one. They complemented the surroundings, and taught visitors to appreciate Mother Nature, no chrome and glass frontage with bright neon lights.

Yes, I am upset with this effort to privitize our national parks !!! Coy Gayle

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I believe it is a good idea to upgrade campground on all the public lands to reflect today's RVs. And, where possible, add flush toilets, showers, laundry facilities, etc. where it won't interfere with the innate beauty and natural features of the area. But keeping the control within the federal system and employing Americans to oversee the lands would guarantee the conservation of these lands. I would hate to see a SmallMart or WagABag on these prized lands. If done correctly, upgrading the public lands would help to offset the costs. We all should take pride in America's Public Lands and work to conserve them and their wildlife, but privatizing the oversight and running of the parks and campgrounds would be a huge mistake. JMHO

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