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 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/

March 18, 2010

In which my decision keeps being confirmed

View to the east (La Sals) at Island in the Sky. This is the terrain in which we'll train.

It’s hard to miss.

Surprise, delight and envy — the look on the faces of climbers (inside the NPS and out) when I explain that I’ve been selected for Basic Technical Rescue says it all. This is a coveted training, and it seems I’ve been added to an elite sub-group of people.

Last night all the local ‘parkies’ were invited to a St Patrick’s Day cook-out at the home of one of the permanent rangers. I carry my purple rope in my purse and pull it out to practice knots whenever I have some down time; I need all the help I can get. These folks were eager to assist, and happy to go over and over it with me. One woman had been to the training before and is going this time, too, for Law Enforcement refresher — and promised to look after me and give help when needed. We tied Mr Purple Rope around the garden hose, chair legs, and itself. My retention is starting to improve. Another worker ran and got his Rescue Manual to loan me for bedtime reading for the next month, so I am at least familiar with terminology. The more I know what to expect, the less stressful it will be.

One of the Law Enforcement rangers (I think their name is changing to ‘Protection Rangers’ which sounds less threatening) suggested to me that in all likelihood my own park can loan me the specialized pieces of equipment that I am lacking. I’ll need an ascender, some etriers (web ladders), daisy chains, a chest harness, a bunch more carabiners…

I am psyched.

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