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 15, 2013

Anonymous rangers

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 6:43 am
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Arches National Park, "The Three Gossips"

Arches National Park, “The Three Gossips”

I’m imagining, with a smile, what would happen if we sat all our legislators down with tea and scones while they watched this three-and-a-half minute video. Go get your cup of something hot and click on this link:

Anonymous rangers

October 10, 2013

Trespass and vandalism: civil disobedience, or misplaced frustration?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 9:14 am
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Things are quickly going from “okay” to “not okay” in our parks, and it isn’t because of the animals. My friend/colleague in California offers a ranger’s-eye view —

Meanwhile in Death Valley National Park, the tally so far stands at:

– 6 padlocks cut
– 7 closure signs removed
– 3 locks picked
– 2 deadbolts vandalized beyond repair
– 2 piles of poo outside locked restrooms
– 2 big-ass boulders moved aside for a vehicle to drive off-road around a locked gate
– And an unaccountable number of traffic cones and sandwich boards tossed aside or run over by a vehicle

Thank you for vandalizing! Please come again!

Multiply this by more than 400 park units. People intent on getting into a forbidden place rarely stop to consider the consequences of their actions. I fully understand the public’s anger at being locked out of public lands, and their ideological ‘solution’ of trespass, but the repercussions contain unforeseen outcomes. Resource destruction is guaranteed; there is no one to clean and stock bathrooms, monitor trails, protect priceless rock art or other cultural treasures, staff visitor centers, empty trash bins, stop graffiti-ists. Emergency help will be far away. Damage repairs and resource restoration could take years — yes, years. And, not at all subtly, the Park Service ends up being portrayed as the enemy against whom desperate measures must be employed.

Storm clouds rolling in at Canyonlands -- and in every other NPS unit.

Storm clouds rolling in at Canyonlands — and in every other NPS unit.

It’s our elected officials in Washington, remember???

Chills went up my spine when I read that an elected county commissioner in southeast Utah disclosed plans for “peacefully removing barricades” to Lake Powell and other federal areas, stating that “local sheriffs are in on the plan, too.” He states, “This is not anarchy. This is government doing what government does which is look after the health and welfare and safety of their citizens.” And I sit in disbelief, wondering how barricades ordered put up by one government can be taken down by another, claiming they are a health and safety issue. Health and safety issues would be exacerbated, not alleviated, by having no bathrooms, maps, and helpful personnel nearby. No — let’s call it what it is: an economic hardship, and a difficult one. Removing a few barricades might feel productive, but it is an inferior solution. We need answers from the top, from those who don’t appear to be listening right now.

No matter what the media says, we’re not trying to “make things as difficult as possible.” My Death Valley counterpart, a law enforcement ranger, was told the exact opposite: be as low-key and accommodating as possible. It is not our goal to stir up trouble, no matter whose political agenda that might help, and I am issuing a plea: DO NOT TAKE OUT YOUR FRUSTRATION ON THE NPS. Please avoid using inflammatory language like “gestapo” and “Nazi.” I am feeling the same sense of helplessness as you are. Writing an email or making a phone call to your representative in Washington may feel like banging your head against a locked door, but DO IT — every day! And, if you’re contemplating civil disobedience, read this brilliant link first — “Do Visitors Really Need to be Shut Out of National Parks During the Government Shutdown?”: http://www.parkadvocate.org/qa-do-visitors-really-need-to-be-shut-out-of-national-parks-during-the-government-shutdown/

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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