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Dying in the Parks: Park Service Concerned About Suicides


Those who leap from the Golden Gate Bridge often land within Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Photo by David Paul Ohmer via Flickr.

Each year nearly 100 people attempt suicide somewhere in the national park system. That's a troubling statistic for the National Park Service.

Back in October a 57-year-old Grand Junction, Colorado, woman killed herself by driving her car off a 250-foot-high cliff in Colorado National Monument. More recently, a 63-year-old Grand Junction man killed himself in the monument with a gunshot to the head.

Other parks that have reported suicides include Golden Gate National Recreation Area, where people kill themselves by leaping off the Golden Gate Bridge and land within the monument; Everglades National Park; Grand Canyon National Park, and; even Denali National Park and Preserve.

For more on this problem, check out this story from the Denver Post.


"Over the Edge" the book about death in the Grand Canyon states that in the year after "Thelma and Louise" came out on video, several people committed suicide or attempted suicide by driving over the edge. It's very sad when people feel their lives have no meaning and that non-existence is preferable to existence. But what is the NPS supposed to do about it? Put suicide prevention hotlines on the edge of the Grand Canyon? I think there are telephones like this or signs on the Golden Gate Bridge, but I don't know if the suicide rate there has been reduced. So now they are talking about putting up a barrier. There are some things that have no solution.

A friend of mine and I, cycling Colorado National Monument last November, were the ones who found the 63-year-old man with the gunshot wound to his head at Cold Shivers Point. As an Associated Press story elucidated recently, Colorado National Monument is becoming quite the popular suicide spot. I'm a former journalist in Grand Junction, and reporting on this issue brought several interesting problems to light. Colorado National Monument's superintendent now considers the monument an "urban" park, with many of the accompanying problems: Traffic jams, drugs, conflicts with cyclists, late-night parties in culverts under the park highway, graffiti, and suicides. This at a monument with scenery not unlike that of Arches and Canyonlands national parks nearby. But, the monument borders both Grand Junction and Fruita -- their subdivisions abut the park boundary -- in an area booming with nearby oil and natural gas development. Monument resources and staff are feeling the stress and strain of the boom. The monument is truly one of the most spectacular places on the Colorado Plateau, and it would be shameful for its wild beauty to be sullied by crime and other problems most often found in cities. Its staff deserves the resources it needs to reign in the problem as best they can, and step up ranger patrols as needed.

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