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Traveler's View: So, You Want To Sign A Petition Pertaining To National Parks?


Here at the Traveler, we'd rather see a petition drive urging Congress to allow the National Park Service to hire more rangers in the parks than one worried that Starbucks might be sold in Yosemite/Kurt Repanshek

When last we checked, nearly than 16,000 folks had signed a petition with hopes of blocking Starbucks coffee from being sold in Yosemite National Park. Really.

Whipped into a froth over the audacious thought that a multinational corporation would be allowed to do business in Yosemite, fearing that "the Park will lose its essence, making it hardly distinguishable from a chaotic and bustling commercial city," these folks obviously haven't been paying close attention.

Starbucks is only the latest multinational corporation interested in doing business in Yosemite. As one astute reader pointed out the other day, a Japanese concern, MCA, Inc., actually ran the concessions business in the park years ago before folks in Washington, D.C., realized the overseas connection and forced them to sell.

And sell it did, to Delaware North Cos. ... another global company.

And, of course, Delaware North in 2015 lost the concessions contract to Aramark ... another multinational company.

Sadly if the petition signers really are concerned about the Yosemite Valley being transformed into a "chaotic and bustling commercial city," well, have you visited valley in July?

Don't get me wrong. It's good to see people driven to take a stand on how our National Park System is managed. But there are more important things to protest and sign petitions for change. For instance:

* How many folks commented on Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke's scheme to use surge pricing at 17 national parks in a bid to address the National Park System's $11+ billion maintenance backlog?

When we checked Wednesday, the Park Service told us 109,111 comments had been received on the proposal. That's really not many, not when you consider that nearly 16,000 have signed onto the stop Starbucks petition, or when you realize that roughly 100,000 folks read the Traveler every month, or when you consider that roughly 330 MILLION people visited the parks last year.

* Is there a petition drive to urge Congress to properly fund the National Park Service?

Congress, you should know, is doing a pretty poor job of funding the Park Service. Back during Fiscal 2002, for instance, when there were 387 units in the National Park System, the agency's appropriated budget was $3.33 billion in inflation-adjusted dollars. After that amount fell to $2.79 billion in FY07 there was a surge in FY2010 that brought it back up to $3.13 billion, also in inflation-adjusted dollars. But the current budget is back down to $2.93 billion, and there are 417 units in the park system. So while the number of parks in the system grew by 30, funding went down. 

The Park Service’s construction budget, which is used in part to address the $11.3 billion maintenance backlog, has shrunk from $513,271,000 in FY02 (again, adjusted for inflation) to $209,353,000 during the current fiscal year, a 59 percent reduction when adjusting for inflation. Is it any wonder the backlog isn't shrinking?

* Has anyone started a petition drive to urge the Trump administration and Congress to increase the ranks of the Park Service? 

The administration, if it got its way, would cut 1,200 positions from the Park Service. Already the agency is strained to deal with resource issues and visitors. There's a need for more full-time interpreters, at a minimum, and properly trained personnel across the system. When visitation records are being set year after year, now is not the time to be cutting staff or budgets for the Park Service.

At the end of the day, while it's nice to see folks get fired up enough to add their name to a petition involving national parks, there are more important issues than whose coffee you're drinking, aren't there?

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Wouldn't it be great if all the money we are wasting "fighting climate chage" were spent on the National Parks?  This backlog could be erased in less than a year.

Right!  I mean why do we need those glaciers in Glacier National Park?

Kurt, as usual you make a good point, what is happening at DOI is alarming, budget and staffing are critical to our parks. On the issue of corporate takeover of major park concession facilities. it should be noted the effort made to see that large corporate entities did not get the contract in Yosemite. An excellent history of that effort can be read in the book "Your Yosemite" by Bob Binnewies. Efforts have been made to stop the NPS driving a Suburu with its corporate logo's as an official vehicle in Yosemire, not much sucess. Strbucks just another slip on the sllipery slope of the corporate takeover of our National Parks in my view.  As David Brower once stated, "our National Parks are supposed to be nature centers, not profit centers". FYI Kurt, I am sad to mention to you and others the passing of Mr. Ed Hardy. Controversial as he was to some, he made many friends in his support of the Yosemite Park Community. 

Forget about petition!!

If you want to make an impact, write a letter (email or postal). Show you're serious about the issue.

As for Starbucks, I would love if we could get anything hot anywhere in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I spoke up numerous times when I was on the board of the Great Smoky Mountains Association, with no luck.

Danny Bernstein

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