Posts Tagged ‘park rangers’

Camping family Washington State ParkWashington State is considering being the first in the nation to make its Parks Department self-sustaining. Facing a $3 billion budget deficit, Democratic Gov. Christine Gregoire is proposing cutting funding to zero.

“We were broke,” said Marty Brown, director of the state Office of Financial Management. “Of all the entities in state government, it (the Parks Dept.) was one we thought actually had possibilities of income generation.”

Change is taking root. Up until 2011 it was free to enter state parks for the day. Now there’s a $10 a day use fee, which can be avoided if visitors buy a Discover Pass for $30 — good for all parks for a calendar year. Sales for the Discover Pass have so far been disappointing.

In an effort to boost revenue, vending machines and concession buildings are starting to pop up. Also, small cabins are being built at campgrounds attracting visitors who are willing to pay more than the price for a camp site.

Things under consideration: variable pricing, charging more during peak season and less during the winter months. The staff of 123 park rangers was deemed expendable, prompting anger from some park advocate groups.

In the Washington State Parks Department, labor accounts for 85 percent of the budget. It’s less than half that much for private companies. Retirees are frequently tapped to live and work at the parks.

Some believe private companies can actually improve the experience people have at state parks. Lower salaries allow for more money to go into maintenance and marketing.

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Free Annual Pass for Military

Free Annual Pass for Military

To show its appreciation for those who serve in the U.S. Military, on May 19 – Armed Forces Day – the National Park Service will begin issuing an annual pass offering free entrance to all 397 national parks for active duty military members and their dependents.

Military personnel must show a current, valid military identification card to obtain their pass. More information is available at www.nps.gov/findapark/passes.htm.

This military version of the America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass also permits free entrance to sites managed by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the Bureau of Reclamation and the U.S. Forest Service. The pass is also available at these locations.

“Through the years, military members, especially those far from home in times of conflict, have found inspiration in America’s patriotic icons and majestic landscapes, places like the Statue of Liberty and the Grand Canyon that are cared for by the National Park Service and symbolize the nation that their sacrifices protect,” said National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis. “This new pass is a way to thank military members and their families for their service and their sacrifices.”

National parks and the military have strong ties going back to the establishment of Yellowstone as the world’s first national park in 1872. The U.S. Cavalry watched over America’s national parks and did double duty, serving as the first park rangers until the National Park Service was created 44 years later. During World War II, many parks were set aside for the training and care of military personnel. Today, dozens of national parks commemorate military battles and achievements.

Josh Laird had no clue he’d be riding out Tropical Storm Lee in his Volkswagen van when he checked into a campsite Thursday for a two-day fishing trip to Florida’s Fort Pickens Campground.

Laird was among 71 campers stranded for more than 48 hours after Lee’s pounding waves and high surge swamped and shut down the only road in and out at 6 p.m. on Saturday.

With no way to fish in the stormy weather, the 23-year-old Pensacola man said he subsisted on canned soup and water out of the campground faucet.

“The first thing I’m doing? Getting a huge steak,” he said Tuesday afternoon while waiting in a long line of recreational vehicles, cars and trucks poised to be escorted out of the Gulf Islands National Seashore by park officials.

With the first break in the weather on Tuesday, four bulldozers began at 7 a.m. pushing tons of sand and water to the side of a three-mile stretch of road.

Six hours later, most of the 2-to-4-feet deep of soggy, quicksand-like sand was cleared from one lane, a path wide enough to get Airstreams and Winnebagos out.

Most park visitors survived the ordeal in style in their RVs and praised seashore personnel.

“We’re happy campers,” Sarah Lowery, of Branson, Mo., said about her ordeal. “We knew the road was prone to flooding. So, we knew what we were getting into. This is what camping is about.”

She and her husband, Vernon, were among the second wave of 10 campers waiting to be escorted out.

“This was the most awesome Labor Day vacation ever,” she said. “I know not everyone would say that. But we were out here with nature. The park rangers and campground host checked on everyone to make sure no one was short on supplies. People tried to make the most of it.”

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