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Segways in the National Parks: Do We Really Need Them?


Coming to a park near you? Photo by sandxr via flickr.

Two Segway entrepreneurs have their sights on Yosemite and Sequoia national parks as the next frontier for these two-wheeled contraptions. Steve Steinberg and Darren Romar, who operate Segway of Oakland, want to offer fleets of these "human transporters" to the two parks.

"We want to expand rental operations into the U.S. National Park Service, and we're ready to take on bigger things like Yosemite," Mr. Steinberg said in a PR release. "Our goal is to work out partnerships where we supply Segway units to start your own turnkey operation, and support for when you are running the operation. We are already looking into a partnership with a concessionaire and we are excited about the Parks. We can only take on so many locations, but right now we're looking for good partnerships"

Of course, the rhetorical question is whether Yosemite and Sequoia and other national parks need Segways tooling around their roads? Another question is why the National Park Service would want to invite Segways into the parks?

It wasn't too long ago that former NPS Director Fran Mainella was touting the healthy benefits of recreation in the parks. It was back in June of 2006 when Ms. Mainella talked about the Park Service's efforts to "advance the physical and mental health of the American public by encouraging additional, appropriate physical activity during visits to national park units."

Riding a Segway around a park doesn't exactly seem terribly physical.

Beyond that, can anyone demonstrate a need to do away with the traditional ranger-led tour of a park? Or are we to assume that rangers will continue to lead tours, but only involving herds of Segwayians? Of course, the savvy Segway fleet owner could equip his units with "electronic rangers" and do away with the living and breathing ranger entirely.

Seriously, though, do we really need to add to the congestion that already exists in Yosemite Valley, where cars, hikers, joggers, cyclists and regular pedestrians already eat up most of the available ground space? Should the Park Service be advocating against walking and hiking? Should the agency be encouraging younger generations to avoid using their feet to explore the parks?

In their drive to "take on" the national parks, will Messieurs Steinberg and Romar lobby to see that Segways gain access to paved trails? And if that's accomplished, will they then outfit Segways with more rugged, knobby tires to conquer hiking trails?

Perhaps there are places in the national park system where Segways make sense, but I hope the Park Service doesn't believe Yosemite, Sequoia, Yellowstone, Grand Canyon and the other 54 "national parks" are among them.


Please do not allow segways in parks- thanks

Allowing Segways in our National Parks is one of the dumbest ideas that ever came down the pike. Perhaps a case could be made for allowing disabled people to use them, in which case the Segways should be clearly marked as conveyances for the physically disabled. Being overweight and lazy should not be an acceptable excuse for using a Segway in a national park. If you want to lead the lardass parade -- in a park or anywhere else -- you should do it on foot.

No, no, no, no and no.

"Perhaps there are places in the national park system where Segways make sense..." That'll be another no.

Segways, the conveyance of the future. That is all well and good. I can see ones with handicaps using such a vehicle to get around in. I understand that. But.....National Parks!!! Please. The object of a National Park and the reason so many of us go there is to see and experience the outdoors. Which means walking, using those 2 branches of the human body that the "Big guy upstairs" gave us. For so many people and so much of government agencies touting "health" and all that it can give us, why then would this be a good thing. Wouldn't this be a "step" backwards? A step mind you, not on wheels....which is the whole point isn't it?

They are more environmentally friendlier than cars and motorcycles. If they could be used in such a way to cut automotive congestion in the parks, I'm for it. Also, they would be a handy tool for park rangers in certain areas. The Chicago police department use them to patrol the city parks.

Let's be realistic here.

Segways are not an off-road vehicle. I doubt they can even go on a lawn, much less a trail.

So, that limits their use to the following:
-- roads
-- sidewalks
-- paved or well-graded interpretive trails

I made my visit to Yosemite this past fall, and I don't recall too many well-graded interpretive trails. In fact, I remember none, but I didn't go everywhere.

So that leaves roads and sidewalks. And, based on my relatively off-season (early October) visit, there wasn't a heck of a lot of room on those, either.

From a practical perspective, there's nothing "park related" that can be done on a Segway in Yosemite, nor most of the other parks I've ever been to. You can't go into the woods, you can't see the sites, Segways don't help you experience the natural wonders at these sites. So, the only purpose would be to play with toys and joy ride. Those are activities that can be done anywhere.

The park system has many missions, one of which is preserving the natural beauty of specific places for appreciation by the public. Segways don't enhance that mission at all.

I could possibly see Segways on the carriage trails in Acadia, but they're hilly, I don't know how the Segway does on hills. Otherwise, I can't think of a park where Segways could help in the appreciation of nature.

OTOH, I could see them being useful in places like Gettysburg or Antietam or other historical sites, but in those cases, you're also sharing roads with locals. I'm sure they'd love to see hoardes of Segways clogging traffic during lunch hour ...

Maybe they need to have baskets on them also so people can carry their candy, cigarettes, soda and Big Macs around.

Just, please make then available for the Handicap!!

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