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Parks Beyond Borders: Global National Park News

Muckross Lake from Muckross House

From Muckross House (top), close to the town of Killarney, a nice loop hike circles Muckross Lake. From farther afield in Killarney National Park, Ireland's highest peak, Carrantoul, rises above a trailhead lane (below). Photos by Randy Johnson.

Editor's note: Here's our weekly sampling of global park news. If you live in one of the 200 countries where our readers reside, send Randy your news or suggestions.

Mountain Biking Police Coming to Ireland’s Killarney National Park

“Gardaí on mountain bikes are to become a daily feature of life in Killarney National Park,” says The Irish Examiner.

According to an April 11th article, a recent sexual assault, public drinking, including underage drinking parties in the popular demesne area of the park close to the town of Killarney, and “persistent streaker incidents in recent months, have persuaded gardaí to systematically use bike patrols.”

The more than 26,000-acre park and Biosphere Reserve lies adjacent to Killarney in County Kerry on the southwest side of Ireland. One of Ireland's most scenic national parks, Killarney attracts more than a million people each year and includes Macgillycuddy's Reeks, the country’s highest peaks, globally significant oak and yew forests, and native red deer. There are attractions close to Killarney, including the popular roadside Torc Waterfall and Muckross House, a tudor estate that became the anchor for the national park when it was donated to the government in 1932. The estate lies among the scenic Lakes of Killarney where a popular hike circles Muckross Lake.

The newspaper said, “While incidents are very few, they are disturbing. ... Sgt. Dermot O’Connell said the park was now so popular it demanded more than fire-brigade type intervention, and regular policing was needed.”

The paper said a spike in incidents of public drunkenness came to light over Saint Patrick’s Day when groups of young people used social media to spontaneously gather in out-of-the-way spots in the park, then became ill after drinking too much. “Huge amounts of bottles and cans,” were removed afterward. Authorities said video surveillance cameras would likely be installed in vulnerable spots.

The reopening of Killarney House, another noteworthy mansion, within the next two years “will mean extra security concerns,” said Pat Dawson, regional manager with the national parks and wildlife service. “The house is currently undergoing a multi-million euro restoration programme.”

If you’re looking forward to a visit to Ireland and Killarney this spring or summer, keep in mind that the incidents are close to Killarney and are drawing intense focus from authorities. The news shouldn’t deter anyone from delving into Ireland's, or this spectacular park's, diverse recreational and environmental treasures.


US Ambassador Touts Travel to International Parks

James B. Smith, the United States' ambassador to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,  recently wrote an editorial inviting Saudis to visit America’s parks—but he might also have been speaking to Americans about the value of seeing parks around the world.

Writing in one of Saudi Arabia’s biggest newspapers, the Saudi Gazette, Smith cited President Barack Obama’s recent speech making tourism to the United States a priority for the Department of State. Speaking at Disney World in Orlando, Florida, President Obama, calling on international travelers to visit the United States, said, “This is the land of extraordinary natural wonders. We want to welcome you.”

Smith wrote, “I encourage you to visit our national parks. The national parks system in the United States includes almost 400 sites and around 34 million hectares. ... The parks offer unparalleled natural beauty and a glimpse at what the continent looked like before the founding of the United States. In addition to the parks, the system includes monuments and historic sites, such as Civil War battlefields.”

Suggesting what Americans might also find overseas, Smith said, “The (Saudi) Kingdom’s mountain valleys are some of the most majestic in the world, and the waters of the Red Sea are famous for offering some of the world’s finest diving opportunities. The World Heritage Sites, Madain Saleh and the At-Turaif District in Dir’iyah, offer a fascinating view of ancient cultures.”

Saudi Arabia's first national park, Asir, contains the country's highest mountain, Jabal Soodah, at nearly 11,000 feet.

More than scenery, Smith promoted the understanding between peoples that comes with travel. He said his most “lasting impressions as US Ambassador to Saudi Arabia have come from discussions with Saudis, often young Saudis, who have just returned from their first trip to the United States. During these conversations, people consistently tell me that visiting the United States helped them to better understand and appreciate the country and its culture.”

“The same is true for my experience in Saudi Arabia,” Smith said. He was, “amazed at the beauty of the country and the hospitality of its people,” and said “the people of the United States and Saudi Arabia must continue visiting each others’ countries.”

Indian Government Panel Affirms No Mining in National Parks, Wildlife Sanctuaries

The Times of India says an Indian government panel set up to review policies for preservation areas appears likely to continue a ban on mining in all national parks and wildlife sanctuaries in the country.
India has 661 environmental protection areas, with 100 National Parks, 514 Wildlife Sanctuaries, 43 Conservation Reserves, and 4 Community Reserves totaling roughly 5% of the country.

The panel, headed by the Union environment and forests secretary, and made up of the head of the Wildlife Institute of India, Forest Survey of India and other senior forest officers, feels that parks and sanctuaries that received a higher level of protection under India’s 1976  Wildlife Protection Act should not be re-evaluated for resource extraction activities.

The panel tasked to evaluate a possible change in the rules was set up after coal interests asked the environment ministry to reconsider preservation parameters for conservation areas.


We in NPS international affairs love this section on "Parks Beyond Borders" and congratulate the Traveler for taking an interest in global park issues.  It is particularly interesting to see the U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia talking about Asir National Park, which NPS helped develop back in the 1980s.  NPS even sent representatives to live and work at Asir for one year (or longer) assignments.  Another example of the NPS's legacy around the world. 

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