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You can't fix stupid, but you can blame the NPS...

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Offline marufo

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You can't fix stupid, but you can blame the NPS...
« on: December 10, 2018, 08:44:39 AM »
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The family of 20-year-old Micah Tice, the United States Air Force Academy Preparatory School student missing on Longs Peak near Estes Park, Colorado, criticized the National Park Service during a Friday evening press conference.

Benjamin Tice claims that officials with Rocky Mountain National Park, which has suspended the search for the 20-year-old man missing for two weeks in wintry weather, have not done enough to find his son.

“Limited searches were conducted and directed by the National Park Service and their search and rescue from November 27 to December 3,” Benjamin Tice said. “A total of six days of boots on the ground.”
https://www.abcactionnews.com/news/national/father-of-missing-colorado-hiker-micah-tice-blasts-national-park-service-pleads-for-trumps-help

But then there's this...
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Witnesses on the trail told authorities they last saw Tice at roughly 8 a.m. Visitors to the park said the weather was terrible at the trailhead and that visibility and weather conditions continued to worsen. Those who saw Tice, told authorities that they discouraged him from continuing to the summit due to his clothing, footwear and deteriorating weather.

Tice was reported to be wearing a black sweatshirt, black sweatpants, a black hat, black lightweight gloves, tennis shoes and a light blue backpack, according to the National Park Service.

Over the past week, ground and aerial searchers covered about 10 square miles in search of Tice.

However, very few clues have been discovered during the search, during which team members have encountered harsh winter conditions including extreme winds, low visibility, bitter wind chills, below freezing temperatures, deep snow and high avalanche danger.

The park has worked closely with the Air Force Academy since the beginning of this incident, coordinating investigative and operational assistance, and incorporating cadets from the academy’s mountaineering club in search efforts.

The Air Force Academy Colorado Parents’ Club has coordinated efforts from numerous organizations and individuals to donate daily meals for searchers, park officials said in the press release.

Also assisting Rocky Mountain National Park Search and Rescue team members has been Larimer County Search and Rescue, Rocky Mountain Rescue based in Boulder County, Colorado Air National Guard, Alpine Rescue Team, Diamond Peaks Ski Patrol, Colorado Avalanche Information Center, Grand County Search and Rescue, Douglas County Search and Rescue, Colorado Search and Rescue Board, Summit County Rescue Group Dog Team, Front Range Rescue Dogs.
https://www.airforcetimes.com/news/your-air-force/2018/12/05/search-for-air-force-academy-prep-student-missing-in-the-rockies-suspended/

Also relevant: http://www.kunc.org/post/hiking-alone-common-thread-four-rocky-mountain-national-park-fatalities-searches#stream/0

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Offline iCe

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Re: You can't fix stupid, but you can blame the NPS...
« Reply #1 on: December 10, 2018, 10:16:26 AM »
You can't but I can offer prayers to his family and friends. I can't imagine losing a child (2 weeks seems to be an optimism killer) or what that would feel like. Grief makes people say and do strange things

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Offline Keepa

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Re: You can't fix stupid, but you can blame the NPS...
« Reply #2 on: December 10, 2018, 01:44:31 PM »
Condolences to his family. It is all but certain that he is dead. Even if he made it to one of the shelters, he would eventually have succumbed to the cold, as it appears he was completely unprepared for this hike, both in equipment and knowledge.

Being uninformed (and hence unprepared) is probably the number one cause of fatalities.

The following is perhaps the most tragic and egregious example of it: http://www.outdoorplaces.com/Features/story/mercykill.htm

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Offline presidio

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Re: You can't fix stupid, but you can blame the NPS...
« Reply #3 on: December 10, 2018, 02:21:06 PM »
it appears he was completely unprepared for this hike, both in equipment and knowledge.

Being uninformed (and hence unprepared) is probably the number one cause of fatalities.

The NPS excels at attracting folks with no common sense.

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The following is perhaps the most tragic and egregious example of it: http://www.outdoorplaces.com/Features/story/mercykill.htm

That case, like the Glenn Felts La Kiva murder, is a tragic and egregious example of stunning prosecutorial incompetence, aided also by what appears to be a certain amount of basic investigatory/evidentiary failures.

But, the Carlsbad case also is yet another example of the most inept people being lured out of their comfort zone (the sofa) to the outdoors by the NPS. You don't see this level of incompetence on other public lands.
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Offline Keepa

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Re: You can't fix stupid, but you can blame the NPS...
« Reply #4 on: December 10, 2018, 02:36:11 PM »
To be fair, what could have the NPS have done for the Carlsbad case? The guys were within view of two trail markers.

"...two trail markers were within view of the camp, no further than eighty feet apart.  Although Kodikian told authorities they climbed onto the ridge to try to find the trail or a road, park roads are clearly visible from the top of the ridges that surrounded their location."

The NPS, and others, can warn people all they can, but in the end people have to be responsible for themselves.

Is it any wonder, then, that the folks at Big Bend go out of their way to protect the public by closing off parts of the park or making it difficult to access?  I don't agree with it, but it is understandable.

I say the NPS should aggressively warn people but leave them to their own devices. In the end, you can't control what people do. If enough people get into trouble a culture of fearing the wild and respecting it will arise, even among casual hikers and visitors.
« Last Edit: December 10, 2018, 03:02:08 PM by Keepa »

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Offline presidio

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Re: You can't fix stupid, but you can blame the NPS...
« Reply #5 on: December 10, 2018, 10:55:36 PM »
To be fair, what could have the NPS have done for the Carlsbad case? The guys were within view of two trail markers.

"...two trail markers were within view of the camp, no further than eighty feet apart.  Although Kodikian told authorities they climbed onto the ridge to try to find the trail or a road, park roads are clearly visible from the top of the ridges that surrounded their location."

In that case the NPS didn't really have anything to do with the situation, other than attracting and convincing two inept tourists they had the smarts to wander around unsupervised. It was relatively interesting that the NPS didn't even know they were 'missing/overdue' despite the fact a permit was required (with the attendant limits on time). Nothing was done by the NPS until a volunteer reported an unattended vehicle in the backcountry (a place few go at Carlsbad Caverns).

The issue with this incident was about the nature of the investigation and prosecution, which allowed gaping holes in the survivor's story to go unchallenged.

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The NPS, and others, can warn people all they can, but in the end people have to be responsible for themselves.

Is it any wonder, then, that the folks at Big Bend go out of their way to protect the public by closing off parts of the park or making it difficult to access?  I don't agree with it, but it is understandable.

The closures at Big Bend have little to do with a desire to protect the public. It DOES have to do with an overwhelming agency desire to control what the public does and where it goes.

If folks really were responsible for themselves, the NPS would not be closing access and being the nanny of the tourist (bear closures, lion closures, etc.). I'm just surprised the NPS hasn't completely shut the park down in the summer because "it's so hot we can't allow the tourists to go anywhere." After all, heat emergencies FAR outnumber the risk of a bear or cougar being encountered on some trail.

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If enough people get into trouble a culture of fearing the wild and respecting it will arise, even among casual hikers and visitors.

Ain't gonna happen in NPS areas. Being in the entertainment, hand-holding and control business, the NPS isn't going to allow people to do or learn things on their own. Besides, cultivating a 'fear' of the wild doesn't serve anyone, other than being a component of the control mindset. Fear never results in respect for anything.
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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 dprather

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Re: You can't fix stupid, but you can blame the NPS...
« Reply #6 on: December 11, 2018, 08:33:20 AM »
Although I have enjoyed excellent customer service from the NPS people with whom I have interacted (by and large), I have been influenced by Presidio's interesting perspective on NPS versus NFS.  I'd have to agree with him that the way the NFS handles things has a way of selecting out and warning off those who ought not go onto their lands. 

A lot of what I do is on National Forest Service lands (and waters).  The "you are on your own" message from the NFS could be described as loud and clear...if there was any message at all.  Going onto or into NFS locations is like going into a restaurant as the invisible man - no waiters even notice you. 

The NFS is barely present (no permits, no kiosks, no carefully marked trails, not much of anything; some locations are exactly like ghost towns).  I occasionally see maintenance guys.  The only conversation* I have ever had was with a NFS law enforcement officer who was sharing the small front porch of a small BBQ restaurant with me as I ate - it would have been impolite not to speak in that situation. 

(*By the way, as part of our discussion the NFS LEO told my buddy and I that we would be crazy to go into an East Texas wilderness area unarmed (we had asked him what his attitude was toward concealed carry on "his" trails)).

As compared to the much "denser" NPS "presence," the almost imperceptible NFS presence does seem to have a selective impact.  Going into the Arkansas Ouchitas, for example, there is no welcome mat.  There is only the ring of your own common sense in your own ears.  The absence of federal presence is almost spooky.   

I wonder if there is any data comparing NFS incidents with NPS incidents?  Sine the NFS doesn't register people onto its trails, there is really no data base-line.
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As far as the complaints of the grieving family, that has to be understood within two contexts.  The first context is the tragedy,anxiety and grief of their apparent loss - what people say within those contexts cannot be held against them (but not necessarily agreed with).

The second context is the current "Nanny state thinking" that immediately blames the powers that be for everything up to and including the ferocity of hurricanes - what people say within that context is just rage against the machine, and misplaced anger based on misunderstanding of the grand scheme of things.
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All that said, I grieve the loss of any young person.  Their indomitable Teflon spirit is sometimes their undoing.  Regarding that Teflon spirit, there is almost nothing you can do to talk them out of doing what they have set their mind to do. 

I recall hiking the Marufo Vega Trail some years back soon after a young man (from San Angelo I think) died out on that trail in the heat of summer.  My thoughts as I humped that trail were almost always on that boy and on his family's grief.



Leave "quit" at the car.  Embrace the trail as your friend.  Expect to enjoy yourself, and to be amazed.

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Offline presidio

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Re: You can't fix stupid, but you can blame the NPS...
« Reply #7 on: December 11, 2018, 10:59:49 AM »
I'd have to agree with him that the way the NFS handles things has a way of selecting out and warning off those who ought not go onto their lands.

The difference is not that the other land agencies warn off, it's that they do not pander to the inept. There is no illusion that areas are safe, or that anyone cares you are there. The other agencies do not create an expectation in the minds of users that if something goes wrong you will be saved. The opposite mindset among the teeming masses overrunning NPS areas amply is illustrated by this comment from the book (poorly written) JOURNAL OF THE DEAD: A Story of Friendship and Murder in the New Mexico Desert by the Carlsbad survivor, revealing misplaced confidence:

"But as they saw it they had a very big card in their favor: the camping permit. Along with their car, it was tangible evidence of their presence in the canyon, a 4 x 6-inch piece of paper that was now becoming, in their minds, nothing less than a kind of contract--a receipt that entitled them to a rescue. Why else had they needed to state so much information on it, the length of their stay, their license plate number, their ages?"

No other agency creates such a demonstrably false and dangerous expectation of service by requiring what, at best, is nothing more than a numbers exercise for their annual report. The information collected is the first clue that the document has no real-time utility or even importance.

As I quoted and commented upon in another thread on BBC, about the Carlsbad incident:

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"But on the morning of August 8, 1999, as he (the park ranger) drove into the park's backcountry to check on a pair of overdue campers, he did not expect to find anything that dramatic.

With him was John Keebler, a sixty-eight-year-old park volunteer. That morning, Keebler had been driving along a scenic route called Desert Loop Drive when he noticed a red Mazda Protege parked at a trailhead. An hour later, he mentioned seeing it to Mattson, who realized that he had seen the car himself, two days earlier. The ranger went into a drawer behind the visitor center's information desk, found a camping permit that the hikers had filled out, and discovered that they were three days overdue."

Indeed, that permit was extremely useful...NOT! Essentially, the data was tossed in the drawer along with awareness of the event.

...and, my observation...

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If someone expects that by filling out a permit that someone else will actively be worrying about whether they are okay, then they are involved in something way over their head. It's all about personal responsibility and proper preparation.

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(*By the way, as part of our discussion the NFS LEO told my buddy and I that we would be crazy to go into an East Texas wilderness area unarmed (we had asked him what his attitude was toward concealed carry on "his" trails)).

Telling it like it is, rather than creating an illusion that all is benign.

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As compared to the much "denser" NPS "presence," the almost imperceptible NFS presence does seem to have a selective impact.  Going into the Arkansas Ouchitas, for example, there is no welcome mat.

And that lack of a welcome mat is what really separates the other land agencies from the NPS. The general public has been conditioned to only see attractiveness in NPS areas: huge entrance signs, visitor centers, passport stamps, curio shops, etc.. A considerable portion of the citizenry has no idea BLM/USFS/FWS/Corp of Engineers areas have all the attractiveness of anything the NPS hawks, but without the overhead, congestion, fees, niggling rules, and so on. Because those other agencies do not market themselves to the tourist hordes, the uninformed and inept are unable to find those areas.

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The second context is the current "Nanny state thinking" that immediately blames the powers that be for everything up to and including the ferocity of hurricanes - what people say within that context is just rage against the machine, and misplaced anger based on misunderstanding of the grand scheme of things.

True, but not to be overlooked...the NPS IS the nanny state personified. As soon as someone has a real or perceived problem, everyone else gets a restriction on their ability to use and enjoy.
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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 Keepa

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Re: You can't fix stupid, but you can blame the NPS...
« Reply #8 on: December 11, 2018, 12:05:20 PM »
I agree with you, dprather and presidio. The NPS can take the hands off approach, like the NFS, and that's what I hinted at when I said the NPS should leave them to their own devices. But in today's climate of litigation, the lawyers for the NPS would probably never allow that.

But there is a major difference between the NPS and NFS, in national forests people can live and work and own property. That is not allowed in national parks.

The NPS has to manage people because they are allowed only to visit national parks, but the NFS does not manage people because it knows people are part of the forests. Different requirements.

How different would the NFS be if no people would be allowed to live and own property in national forests?

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Offline presidio

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Re: You can't fix stupid, but you can blame the NPS...
« Reply #9 on: December 11, 2018, 03:36:27 PM »
But there is a major difference between the NPS and NFS, in national forests people can live and work and own property. That is not allowed in national parks.

The NPS has to manage people because they are allowed only to visit national parks, but the NFS does not manage people because it knows people are part of the forests. Different requirements.

How different would the NFS be if no people would be allowed to live and own property in national forests?

Well, other than remaining USFS 20-year recreational cabin leases, which are being eliminated by attrition as the leases expire, and even faster by significant lease cost increases, no one 'lives' in national forests. The lease program began in 1915 as a way to encourage use (and by extension support) for national forests.

See the following for insights:
https://www.fs.fed.us/specialuses/special-recreation-residence.shtml
https://www.nationalforesthomeowners.org/page/Cabin_Program

Even as the USFS encouraged public use, the establishment of the NPS the following year began a hallowed tradition (unabated to-date) of incessantly tightening the screws on the public's ability to use parks.

What the USFS does have, along with BLM...and even the NPS...are private inholdings. The existence of such tracts usually is decried by environmental/conservation purists (especially in parks and wilderness areas), but the USFS and BLM simply do not engage in eminent domain seizures (even though they have limited statutory authority to do so) to eliminate them. The NPS, having learned the hard way you do not gain public acceptance or friends by exercising eminent domain, seems to have abandoned such a tactic in the 1970s. Buffalo National River is the classic case in how to abuse such authority and turn the region vehemently (even violently...numerou s arson fires were set by displaced residents) against the NPS.

So, with private inholdings you do have people 'living' among, but not on, public land. Agencies have very few controls over what those private lands can do with themselves (including not being able to deny motorized access to an inholding in a wilderness area (you and I can't drive there, but the owner can). All agencies have the ability to buy inholdings from willing (not coerced) sellers, at fair-market value (or receive land donations of same). However, fair-market appraisals always are way less than the owners think their land is worth (and especially when most buy at inflated recreational/scenery values....like Terlingua Ranch).

Even Big Bend has private inholdings and I would buy one if I could.

As far as not living, working or owning property in NPS areas, I would direct your attention to the vast concession empire in parks. Just like USFS cabins, concessioners and their employees do live and work in many parks. Per NPS administrative policy, concessioners may also "have a contractual right of compensation in the form of a leasehold surrender interest or possessory interest in one, some, or all of the buildings." See https://www.nps.gov/policy/mp/chapter10.htm

In that case they 'own' property (but not the underlying land...same as with USFS cabins). And, just like the USFS cabin program, there are many requirements and regulations affecting such use.

That these folks are private employees, and not the general public, living in parks is a matter of splitting hairs over semantics. Drive through the employee housing area at Grand Canyon. The signs say employees/residents only, but it's unlikely anyone is going to report you cruising through...no one ever paid any attention to me (its informative seeing how the serfs live...if accosted, claim you are lost) and note the extensive single-family housing (real residential structures) that is dedicated to permanent concession employees living full time in a national park.

A very interesting case of private 'ownership' in NPS areas was highlighted by the NPS inability to retain certain historic property names in Yosemite when the concession contractor was replaced during a reauthorization bidding process. The then-current contractor had trademarked the Ahwahnee Hotel and other names and the NPS lost 'ownership' of a number of historic names in the park (and was unable/unwilling to pay the freight to get control). Litigation continues.

See https://www.nationalparkstraveler.org/2018/10/fight-over-yosemite-national-park-iconic-names-will-drag-deep-2019

The NPS tries its best to conceal these facts of real life that detract from the fantasy of park operations and most tourists are completely oblivious to such activity. To see how this carefully is hidden, look at this Grand Canyon South Rim tourist map: https://www.nps.gov/grca/learn/news/upload/sr-pocket-map.pdf

On that map, the area south of east of Maswik Lodge to just west of the Mather Campground, centered around the Clinic, shows no development. Looking at Google Earth, you see a vast area of single-family housing for employees and contractors. Most of it is not visible from the usual tourist roads. South of the Backcountry Information Center is a moderately-sized mobile home neighborhood. And, just east of the mobile homes is a cluster of apartments.

Now, in Big Bend it's much harder to hide employee residences in a park with no trees, but Big Bend also is an infinitely smaller tourist operation so there is far less infrastructure to see. Regardless, there are far more people living in national parks than initially meets the eye.
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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 Solo

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Re: You can't fix stupid, but you can blame the NPS...
« Reply #10 on: December 11, 2018, 06:14:35 PM »
The NPS screwed themselves from the beginning by calling it the National PARK Service.  Deadly-Wilderness Protection Agency would have been a better moniker.

I was recently screwed by the same mindset in Australia.  My probably one and only chance in life to climb Uluru was thwarted by park staff after a cursory 6am weather check was seen as being "too windy today"... to climb to a flat plateau on a bluebird day with a metal cable to hold the whole way up.

I say the NPS should aggressively warn people but leave them to their own devices. In the end, you can't control what people do. If enough people get into trouble a culture of fearing the wild and respecting it will arise, even among casual hikers and visitors.

My thoughts exactly.  The western world is, despite media fear-mongering, today the safest, most carefree culture humanity has ever known.  We've forgotten that we are animals too, and also need to be subject to the Darwinian processes that keep species viable.  It may seem insensitive, but the reality of progress is that stupid people need to die early.  We certainly shouldn't endeavor to kill them, but at least let them be subject to natural selection.  Personal responsibility seems all but lost on my generation.  With lack of responsibility comes lack of freedom. 
'Tis distance lends enchantment to the view, and robes the mountain in its azure hue.  -Thomas Campbell

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Offline jim2

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Re: You can't fix stupid, but you can blame the NPS...
« Reply #11 on: December 11, 2018, 07:59:30 PM »



.  We've forgotten that we are animals too, and also need to be subject to the Darwinian processes that keep species viable.  It may seem insensitive, but the reality of progress is that stupid people need to die early.  We certainly shouldn't endeavor to kill them, but at least let them be subject to natural selection. 

Perhaps the most callous thought ever expressed on this board.

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Offline Txlj

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Re: You can't fix stupid, but you can blame the NPS...
« Reply #12 on: December 11, 2018, 11:24:27 PM »
It might be callous, but I agree with it. In our attempt to "make " safe the world, we have allowed the stupid among us to thrive. Self driving cars that park, hot signs on our coffee..... I wish no harm to anyone but we as a society have bubble wrapped the world and removed a persons responsibility. People are free to do as they wish but should also be free to face the responsibility of their actions.

Sent from my SM-N920P using Big Bend Chat mobile app
« Last Edit: December 12, 2018, 02:25:44 AM by Txlj »

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Offline dprather

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Re: You can't fix stupid, but you can blame the NPS...
« Reply #13 on: December 12, 2018, 12:54:48 PM »
It might be callous, but I agree with it. In our attempt to "make " safe the world, we have allowed the stupid among us to thrive. Self driving cars that park, hot signs on our coffee..... I wish no harm to anyone but we as a society have bubble wrapped the world and removed a persons responsibility. People are free to do as they wish but should also be free to face the responsibility of their actions.

Sent from my SM-N920P using Big Bend Chat mobile app

Your comments are exactly at the nexus among wilderness adventures, political theory, and economic theory.  I wonder if there is a pretty high correlation between (i) those who are willing to backpack freely and freely face their own risks and rewards and (ii) those who are Classic Liberals/Neo-Libertarians?
Leave "quit" at the car.  Embrace the trail as your friend.  Expect to enjoy yourself, and to be amazed.

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Offline marufo

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Re: You can't fix stupid, but you can blame the NPS...
« Reply #14 on: December 12, 2018, 01:09:45 PM »
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the extensive single-family housing (real residential structures) that is dedicated to permanent concession employees living full time in a national park
Other parks may be different, but from personal experience in Big Bend, I think perhaps you may not realize the degree to which non-NPS residents (especially concessions) are treated as second-class citizens. This may have changed, but 15 years ago there was one single-family residence for the general manager of concessions. The two assistant managers shared a duplex, and most other employees lived in two-bedroom one-bath trailers (and we're definitely talking single-wide). Single employees were four to a trailer. The newest constructed concession housing at that time was a dorm with two floors. Each floor had eight employees sharing four bedrooms, two baths, and one kitchen/living area. Of course there's no way NPS employees would put up with that, but it was good enough for concessions... There have been a number of single-family residences built since then, but not for concessions employees that I'm aware of.

 


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