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Williams Ranch Road closed to the public

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Offline Txlj

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Re: Williams Ranch Road closed to the public
« Reply #15 on: February 13, 2018, 06:44:59 AM »
Agreed

Sent from flat land


Re: Williams Ranch Road closed to the public
« Reply #16 on: February 13, 2018, 08:19:35 AM »

Indeed, you are correct.

I easily can do that.

But, a lot of other cannot or will not.

I am not an advocate of creating access where none exists, but I also am adamantly opposed to the closure of historical access, and especially without any justification for the action.

"It's Closed" does not adequately serve the public interest.

With the distances involved, the area is certainly "closed" to the majority of folks that might otherwise have visited using a perfectly adequate vehicle route that has been in existence for more than a century.

In the absence of compelling evidence not otherwise revealed, the present state of access can only be perceived as being at the whim of a bureaucrat with too much power and not enough common sense.

Oh, I'm sure there's justification for it; we just don't know what it is. It may be as much as a "cuz I said so" but it seems way to early to assume that is the motivation.  I can think of several reasons why it may be closed, it may be something as simple as a property owner doesn't feel like granting access any more. Or vandalism. Either of those might require immediate action and notification but be reason for delay in crafting a more detailed public notification. Obviously just speculation on my part.

Also, that road is questionably characterized as "perfectly adequate vehicle route" and was not historically a public road. NPS frequently mentions the maintenance requirements and it wasn't opened until the 1980s. In fact the original master plan for the park had that road being paved, as well as a series of tramways up to the summit of Guadalupe Peak from Pine Springs.  I, for one, am perfectly happy keeping those amenities limited to areas already choked with people enjoying "access".

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Offline TexasAggieHiker

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Re: Williams Ranch Road closed to the public
« Reply #17 on: February 13, 2018, 10:30:02 AM »
So putting out a press release, announcing it on facebook, and putting it out in the local media is "cryptic" and a "disservice to the public"?
https://www.nps.gov/bibe/learn/news/cottonwood-campground-closure-at-big-bend-national-park.htm
http://bigbendnow.com/2018/01/cottonwood-campground-at-big-bend-national-park-closing-for-maintenance-work/
https://www.facebook.com/BigBendNPS/posts/1776482182370093

Yes, it is.

I expect information to be on the NPS website for the park, not on facebook, or alternative websites (even BBC, though the info here generally is superior in content and quality).

I do not recall if the website originally said the closure was for maintenance, though it certainly says that now (but continues to offer no specifics).

I will not chase information across the internet, looking for things on alternative sites that ought to, in every instance, be on the official website.

The NPS can do better; they choose to not.
Your are completely ridiculous.  The information IS on the NPS website, in addition to other media outlets.  I gave you the link right there.

"(but continues to offer no specifics)"
"The park will replace an out of date irrigation system with a modern system and restore the landscape to facilitate proper irrigation of the low lying areas. The planned work will occupy the entirety of the campground and temporary closures will be enacted.
Closures are planned January 29th through February 28th, 2018"

Seriously what more information could you want???

Your NPS hate shtick is an old, tired, and a blight on an otherwise awesome message board.

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Offline RichardM

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Re: Williams Ranch Road closed to the public
« Reply #18 on: February 13, 2018, 10:53:55 AM »
So putting out a press release, announcing it on facebook, and putting it out in the local media is "cryptic" and a "disservice to the public"?
https://www.nps.gov/bibe/learn/news/cottonwood-campground-closure-at-big-bend-national-park.htm
http://bigbendnow.com/2018/01/cottonwood-campground-at-big-bend-national-park-closing-for-maintenance-work/
https://www.facebook.com/BigBendNPS/posts/1776482182370093

Yes, it is.

I expect information to be on the NPS website for the park, not on facebook, or alternative websites (even BBC, though the info here generally is superior in content and quality).

I do not recall if the website originally said the closure was for maintenance, though it certainly says that now (but continues to offer no specifics).

I will not chase information across the internet, looking for things on alternative sites that ought to, in every instance, be on the official website.

The NPS can do better; they choose to not.
Your are completely ridiculous.  The information IS on the NPS website, in addition to other media outlets.  I gave you the link right there.

"(but continues to offer no specifics)"
"The park will replace an out of date irrigation system with a modern system and restore the landscape to facilitate proper irrigation of the low lying areas. The planned work will occupy the entirety of the campground and temporary closures will be enacted.
Closures are planned January 29th through February 28th, 2018"

Seriously what more information could you want???

Your NPS hate shtick is an old, tired, and a blight on an otherwise awesome message board.
I assume Presidio is currently talking about GUMO, not BIBE. GUMO has yet to give any information other than the Williams Ranch Road is closed until further notice. Not even a "Moose out front should've told ya."

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Offline backpacker56

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Re: Williams Ranch Road closed to the public
« Reply #19 on: February 13, 2018, 11:46:20 AM »
It seems part of human nature to prefer speculation over research. 

I just called the GMNP headquarters and asked about the Williams Ranch Road closure.  I was told it was for road maintenance.  The guy I spoke to was not a senior staff member, but he seemed frank, relaxed, and well informed, and didn't seem to be trying to hide anything.  I suggested they might consider adding the road maintenance bit to the closure notice, because as written, it leaves the impression that access is being permanently discontinued.

John
"Ah, sure, I'm a gnawed old bone now, but say, don't you guys think the spirit's gone!"

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Offline Txlj

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Re: Williams Ranch Road closed to the public
« Reply #20 on: February 13, 2018, 12:09:51 PM »
And I believe that is the point trying to be made. Just say why its closed and for how long. Theres no reason to have to call, surf the web or anything else. On the NPS website, list why, for what and how long. Its called communication and the feds suck at it. You say its closed and nothing else, you get what you asked for. 

Sent from flat land

Re: Williams Ranch Road closed to the public
« Reply #21 on: February 13, 2018, 12:13:27 PM »
It seems part of human nature to prefer speculation over research. 

I just called the GMNP headquarters and asked about the Williams Ranch Road closure.  I was told it was for road maintenance.  The guy I spoke to was not a senior staff member, but he seemed frank, relaxed, and well informed, and didn't seem to be trying to hide anything.  I suggested they might consider adding the road maintenance bit to the closure notice, because as written, it leaves the impression that access is being permanently discontinued.

John

Well, considering the situation with respect to the north entrance to the park, that impression may not be far-fetched.

thanks for calling btw.

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Offline House Made of Dawn

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Re: Williams Ranch Road closed to the public
« Reply #22 on: February 13, 2018, 01:18:18 PM »
It seems part of human nature to prefer speculation over research. 

I just called the GMNP headquarters and asked about the Williams Ranch Road closure.  I was told it was for road maintenance.  The guy I spoke to was not a senior staff member, but he seemed frank, relaxed, and well informed, and didn't seem to be trying to hide anything.  I suggested they might consider adding the road maintenance bit to the closure notice, because as written, it leaves the impression that access is being permanently discontinued.

John

 :great: Well done, John. Amazing what a simple phone call can accomplish.


Well, considering the situation with respect to the north entrance to the park, that impression may not be far-fetched.

thanks for calling btw.

Good point, sadly. I wish it wasn't always this complicated.
"The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts."

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Offline RichardM

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Re: Williams Ranch Road closed to the public
« Reply #23 on: February 13, 2018, 02:29:39 PM »
Good point, sadly. I wish it wasn't always this complicated.
I'm pretty sure that's part of Presidio's point. It doesn't need to be this complicated. The NPS seems to have difficulty with communication. To me, it would be hard to put out a notice about a closure without saying why. For the NPS, it seems they often neglect that part until somebody squawks.

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Offline House Made of Dawn

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Re: Williams Ranch Road closed to the public
« Reply #24 on: February 13, 2018, 02:51:09 PM »
Good point, sadly. I wish it wasn't always this complicated.
I'm pretty sure that's part of Presidio's point. It doesn't need to be this complicated. The NPS seems to have difficulty with communication. To me, it would be hard to put out a notice about a closure without saying why. For the NPS, it seems they often neglect that part until somebody squawks.

I agree with everybody.  :icon_biggrin:

The NPS shouldn't be so opaque. Most obstacles can be worked (or hiked) around. Foolish is more common than evil.  It's amazing what you can find out from a phone call.  You get more flies with honey than with vinegar. And you live longer with low blood pressure than with high.

"The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts."

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Offline backpacker56

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Re: Williams Ranch Road closed to the public
« Reply #25 on: February 13, 2018, 05:26:56 PM »
I just checked the website, and the notice has been reworded slightly:
https://www.nps.gov/gumo/planyourvisit/conditions.htm

IF they've hired someone to run a motor grader or a small dozer out there and smooth over some rough spots, and IF very few visitors go out there anyway, and IF those who do are driving off road type vehicles, one would think there's no real need to close the road.  The road crew could just pull over and let you squeeze past. 

But it's easy to play armchair quarterback and second-guess what the Park Service is doing, without knowing all the details.  They deserve credit for revising the notice, however.
"Ah, sure, I'm a gnawed old bone now, but say, don't you guys think the spirit's gone!"

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Offline wrangler88

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Re: Williams Ranch Road closed to the public
« Reply #26 on: February 13, 2018, 05:38:32 PM »
I really hope they would never pave that road. It's one of the most amazing places at sunset. I'd hate for it to start getting crowded (by GUMO standards). It's amazing. Especially when you're alone.

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Offline presidio

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Re: Williams Ranch Road closed to the public
« Reply #27 on: February 13, 2018, 08:46:25 PM »
Oh, I'm sure there's justification for it; we just don't know what it is.

But, we should know. It's OUR public land, and NPS regulations and policy require adequate public notification. So far, that hasn't occurred.

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It may be as much as a "cuz I said so"

Nothing in the NPS ever should be done that way but, as seen in other incidents recounted on this board, it does occur.

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I can think of several reasons why it may be closed, it may be something as simple as a property owner doesn't feel like granting access any more. Or vandalism. Either of those might require immediate action and notification but be reason for delay in crafting a more detailed public notification. Obviously just speculation on my part.

Yep, and something that easily could have been explained in one additional sentence. Instead, we are left guessing as to the underlying justification. Unacceptable. As to the intervening landowner whose property must be traversed, the NPS has long had a right-of-way that they initially chose not to use as the landowner did not object to the historical route. The realigned road across the private tract has now existed entirely within the ROW for 33 years, and the landowner has no say about usage, so that is not why the NPS has closed access.

The park was opened to the public in 1972. I could find no reference as to when public access to Williams Ranch began, but it could have been as early as then. However, as noted below in the discussion about building the current route across private land, public access was occurring "before" 1985. Regardless of whether the public had access for 33 years, or 46 years, or something in between, the NPS cannot summarily close it without the good reason not yet revealed (and which would require that dreaded public comment period).

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Also, that road is questionably characterized as "perfectly adequate vehicle route" and was not historically a public road. NPS frequently mentions the maintenance requirements and it wasn't opened until the 1980s. In fact the original master plan for the park had that road being paved, as well as a series of tramways up to the summit of Guadalupe Peak from Pine Springs.

You are correct that, until the NPS opened the road to public use, it was not a "public road. But, it most certainly has existed for a very long time (see documentary extracts below). However, once opened as a public route, the NPS absolutely needs justification and public process to close it. I see no evidence that has occurred.

As to "adequacy" of the route, it surely is. No, you are not taking the family sedan out there, but any pickup can make the trip. Like much of the NPS blather and ballyhoo about road conditions in Big Bend, the same is true of this road at GUMO. It's not anywhere near as tough a journey as the agency would have you believe. The urban tourist might be frightened away, but anyone who has traveled more than a few times off-pavement in the desert will find transiting the road to be a zero issue.

I took a bit of time to research things and what follows comes from three NPS documents: the General Management Plan Environmental Impact Statement (undated, but latest in-document date was 2011), the park Administrative History from 1988, and the Master Plan which was initiated in 1973 and approved in 1976.

First the General Management Plan references to the Williams Ranch road:

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Butterfield Stage Route
A segment of the historic Butterfield Stage route transverses the park from the northwest corner by the Salt Basin Dunes to its southeast boundary about a mile from the junction of U.S. Highway 62/180 and Texas Highway 54. Part of the road to Williams Ranch follows the alignment of the stage route.
Actually, a majority of the access road follows the stage route, and that route was established no later than 1858, so a route has existed for at least 160 years.

Next, the Administrative History:

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Williams Ranch Access Road
Until 1985, park personnel and visitors traveled the initial three and one-half miles of the 10-mile distance from Highway 62/180 to Williams Ranch over private property. ... the government owned an unimproved right-of-way nearby on which a road to the park  boundary could be constructed. However, given the low level of traffic to Williams Ranch, and the willingness of the private landowner to allow traffic to use an already established ranch road, management did not feel an immediate need to build a road on the legal right-of-way.

In 1985 park personnel engineered and built a new road within the legal right-of-way. The new road met the old road inside the park boundary, 2.6 miles from Highway 62/180, and shortened the route to Williams Ranch by nearly a mile.

Lastly, and most interestingly, is the Master Plan. This document abundantly and clearly reinforces what the Ken Burns love fest series revealed: namely, the NPS is first and foremost, and continues to be to this day, a tourist entertainment organization. Everything else they crow about as accomplishments and purpose is subservient to the entertainment genesis and mindset.

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Access to this part of the park will be by automobile along a road which will lie lightly on the land. State assistance will be required to provide an approach road from U. S. Highway 62-180 to the boundary. Access will be controlled, entrance fees collected, and information services provided at an entrance station. Scenic viewpoints with turnouts and orientation devices will be located along the road. A spur will lead to the Williams Ranch, the focus for historical interpretation in this area. Several miles north of the ranch, the main road will provide access to an area of grass and desert scrub communities. The road will continue west to the park boundary where it will connect with a county road to Dell City. There will be a primitive campground and parking... .

Because of continuous protection needs and the icy road conditions during winter over Guadalupe Pass, it is proposed to have a district operations facility on the west side near the road, running from the State highway to Williams Ranch. Office, minor maintenance facilities, and residences will be required. An entrance station will be operated by personnel stationed here.

Guadalupe Peak offers a key viewpoint from which the park's major features can be seen and interpreted. This high point, together with the adjoining lands, will be made readily accessible (this is regarding the proposed tramway discussed below) to visitors and will be developed for high-density use.

... a mechanical lift system will transport visitors from the base to the top of the reef escarpment. The park's major interpretive efforts will be associated with this facility.

The mechanical lift, rather than the private automobile, will be the key to enjoyment of the park upland by most visitors; nonetheless, the conveyor will provide much the same small-group atmosphere as a personal vehicle.

The lower terminal will be part of the visitor-use complex, a compact unit providing parking, simple food service, orientation, interpretive services, and restrooms.

The upper terminus will require a shelter to protect visitors from the extreme weather changes that occur frequently. The structure will house orientation devices and a contact station which will be manned as the situation requires.

The lower terminus of the lift system would be located in Pine Spring Canyon approximately half-a-mile from U.S. Highway 62-180. The upper terminus of the lift will be located on a ridge approximately 500 feet below and east of Guadalupe Peak. The peak itself will be accessible from the terminus by a foot trail. The lift will closely follow the canyon walls in its ascent and will be inconspicuously located. The upper terminus, well below the summit, will not infringe on this natural feature. The lift system will provide an excellent vehicle for visual interpretation of the desert zone contrasted to the "Island in the Desert" zone of the park's forested high country.

The length of stay on top will vary from a few minutes to half a day or longer. This will be truly a wilderness threshhold experience, for the visitor will actually stand at a portal and look into the park's primitive areas.

It is intended that the surfaced trails in the threshhold zone (this is the upper terminus) will channel visitors and thus lessen impact on adjoining areas. To further protect the resource, restroom facilities will not discharge in the high elevation area. Instead, sewage will be transported to disposal locations near the lower terminus by means of the same conveyor system.

(text on an illustration page): GUADALUPE PEAK CRITICAL VIEWING PLATFORM
A LIMITED, WELL-DEFINED ZONE FROM WHICH A HIGH VOLUME OF VISITORS CAN SEE THE KEY ELEMENTS OF THE PARK

The primary base of park operations will be on the east side, in the Pine Springs/Pine Canyon area near the base of the escarpment. Actual siting should ensure that the base does not impinge upon the visitor-use area, either physically or visually, and that the development is not a scenic intrusion when seen from the State highway, McKittrick access road. Pine Top viewing area (upper tram terminus), or other visitor-use areas. (very important that the infrastructure does not detract from the view provided by other intrusive infrastruture)

(text on another illustration page): PROPOSED ROAD TO FOLLOW APPROX. ALIGNMENT OF EXIST, JEEP TRAIL. (still the majority route of current access to Williams Ranch)

VISITOR USE
The features which justified the establishment of the park, its exceptional scientific values and outstanding scenery, should be made available to the public through a variety of educational and inspirational experiences. Accordingly, all visitors should be offered the following opportunities:
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To reach a strategic high point such as Guadalupe Peak where a 360-degree view provides an extraordinary perspective of the park. (YES!!!!)

The mode or modes of access must be convenient and within the physical capabilities and financial means of the majority of visitors. Consideration should be given to the many potential wilderness opportunities elsewhere (because we're going to develop the crap out of the peak) within the park for hiking, riding, and climbing.

Visitor use of the park will be seriously impeded until motels, restaurants, and campgrounds become available within a convenient distance.

In the Master Plan an Errata Sheet was later added. It appropriately is named, as due to tone-deafness and/or hubris the NPS was unable to see the error of their ways until it was forcefully shown to them by public comment (perhaps one of the few times where public opposition caused the NPS to retreat from their know-it-all attitude). Since this Master Plan was completed during the peak years of the outdoor use expansion and environmental movement, it actually is stunning the NPS was so ignorant in their approach.

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ERRATA SHEET
Since this document was prepared, the National Park Service has concluded to defer any decision on the tramway proposal. This decision was reached largely because of grave concern on the part of many interested persons, uncertainties of visitor use demand in the immediate future, much more pressing need for other facilities, and the current national economic situation. If and when consideration is given toward future tramway development, an Environmental Impact Statement on such a proposal would first be prepared and submitted for public review.

In a nutshell, this shows the (in)competence of the NPS. Their self-image as being preeminent resource managers is a myth. Not a whole lot has changed. Yeah, they no longer advocate tramways, but there are plenty of other examples. Unfortunately, too many among the public easily gives the agency a pass on accountability and competence. I don't.
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Wendell (Garret Dillahunt): It's a mess, ain't it, sheriff?
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Offline presidio

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Re: Williams Ranch Road closed to the public
« Reply #28 on: February 13, 2018, 08:59:26 PM »
I gave you the link right there.

Thank you.

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Your NPS hate shtick is an old, tired, and a blight on an otherwise awesome message board.

Thank you, again.
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<  presidio  >
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Wendell (Garret Dillahunt): It's a mess, ain't it, sheriff?
Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones): If it ain't, it'll do till the mess gets here.
--No Country for Old Men (2007)

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Offline presidio

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Re: Williams Ranch Road closed to the public
« Reply #29 on: February 13, 2018, 09:02:57 PM »
The road crew could just pull over and let you squeeze past. 

Very difficult to do with a piece of large road equipment. It's a two-track road with little margin for maneuvering. I've never encountered another vehicle out there, but it would be an interesting exercise to pass one as there are not a lot of wide spots.
_____________
<  presidio  >
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Wendell (Garret Dillahunt): It's a mess, ain't it, sheriff?
Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones): If it ain't, it'll do till the mess gets here.
--No Country for Old Men (2007)

 


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