Reading Desert Solitaire, I was reminded of a favorite book of mine by Bill Bryson; A Walk in the Woods. Bryson walks to Appalachian Trail and notes his experience along the way. He alternates descriptive chapters accounting his current journey with chapters providing historical insight into the creation of the trail and the parks system. He notes the troubles the trail is facing, and information on the current parks system. The chapter in Desert Solitaire about the development of park land reminded me of Bryson’s description of the exploitation and mismanagement of many parks resources, mainly by the doing of the parks system itself.
When I first read about the development of the roadways in Arches I was discouraged by the idea of creating such simple access to some of the parks most remote areas. For most park visitors the drive in, a quick glace and departure is the ideal way to visit our parks attractions. This not only reflects the ADD/ADHD nature of our contemporary society, but the initiatives of the parks administrators. Today, it seems the prerogative of the parks is to increase visitation, and generate revenue. I have been under the impression that the National Parks Service has been experiencing financial difficulties, so I started to google around and see what I could find.
This lengthy document from the United States Government Accountability Office provided some detailed insight into the funding and operations of the National Park Service. Major Operations Funding Trends.
Abbey’s introduction to industrial tourism jump started my dive into countless lengthy government documents. I was curious to find out what government money was being spent on in the parks. Most of the money allocated to the parks system is directed toward maintenance (primarily upkeep of man-made structures designed for the comfort of the park visitor), and a reduction in spending on education and visitor/resource protection. This all seems disturbingly backwards. Toward the end of the document I did read some encouraging news of the assessment process for analyzing a each parks department, their mission, the resources needed, and finally the overall importance of the mission to the park. I am pleased to see a top down assessment of the parks management and financial system, but I am eager to see how they will or have applied cuts to departments and programs.