Ranger Kathryn's Arches

October 17, 2013

Open, open, open!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 8:32 am
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Ranger Victoria, Ranger Rob, Ranger Lauren -- Arches NP, 2010

Ranger Victoria, Ranger Rob, Ranger Lauren — Arches NP, 2010

WELCOME BACK TO WORK, all 401 NPS sites! WAHOO!!!

A sixteen-day closure was excruciating, but in the last year America’s national parks welcomed more than 270 million regular people. They all came, and continue to come, for their own reasons — beauty, refreshment, to-do list, head-clearing, exercise, inspiration. If I could give only one message to Congress, it is this: These places are essential in the fabric of our lives.

To those putting on the green and gray today: brace yourselves for the most sincere, profuse, grateful expressions of joy and delight and relief that you’ve likely experienced in that uniform. My experience in the entrance station on the first day Canyonlands opened (under state funding) was almost surreal: nearly 100% of the cars that drove up were grinning, clapping, laughing, high-fiving me — ecstatic to be able to return to their parks. It was an unceasing stream of “I’m so happy to see you” and “Thrilled that you’re back at work.”

I’ve seen lots of smiles in this park — but this day was one solid grin, from beginning to end. And, to my peers working in entrance booths and visitor centers across America today, all I can say is: ENJOY IT. There’s nothing like ‘going without’ to remind us to be grateful.

OPEN THE GATES!

 

October 4, 2013

The park is eerily quiet

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 11:31 am
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Would you like to be greeted by this sight as you enter a national park?

Would you like to be greeted by this sight as you enter a national park? It’s what the entrance to Canyonlands looks like.

Birds, cottontails, lizards — the regular cast of characters inhabits Canyonlands National Park this morning. What is missing, however, are human sounds. Normally I hear the distant hum of traffic entering before sunrise to catch the famous photo at Mesa Arch, but today… nothing. No tires on our pavement, no feet on our trails. Absolutely silent.

“That’s the way a wilderness park should be,” some may say. NO. These national treasures, these places of wonder, belong to the American people and this particular one has welcomed people for 49 years. Keeping travelers out of them is morally wrong. We’re punishing innocent people over political ideologies.

We park rangers don't know what to do with ourselves during a shutdown. We're not even allowed to hike in our own park.

We park rangers don’t know what to do with ourselves during a shutdown. We’re not even allowed to hike in our own park.

It’s not about my unpaid furlough; that may sting, but I’ll manage. Visitors have planned for months, have come from around the country and around the world to see our national parks, and they encounter barricades, gates, locked visitor centers. This land is called “public” for a reason, and refusing access is senseless.

Tuesday at 8 a.m. sharp, seven staff members gathered to close down the park. It was a somber morning of changing the message on our phones, filling out our payroll online, notifying campground occupants that they would need to leave, laminating and putting up sad signs, cleaning out the refrigerator, emptying all safes, making final deposits.

C’mon, Congress. Lay down your differences. There is no excuse for this.

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