Plans for the weekend? Go to a National Park (for free!)

The National Park Service announced today that this Saturday, September 24th, will be a fee-free day – meaning that you will not have to pay any entrance fees when going into a National Park. Septmeber 24th was specifically chosen since it is also National Public Lands Day. National Public Lands Day, which was started in 1994, is the largest single-day volunteer event held for public lands in the United States. Last year over 170,000 people volunteered to improve our public lands for outdoor recreation.Volunteer opportunities for this year are listed on the National Public Land Days website.  If you cannot volunteer, head over to your nearest National Park and enjoy a fee-free day of recreating!


Free Day for the National Park Service

National Public Lands Day




Alaska: Land of the Midnight Sun or Land of National Parks?

Alaska is on my mind. Dave is in Alaska for a conference and it’s his first time visiting the state.  He is, understandably, absolutely awed by the majestic surroundings and, therefore, I have been receiving frequent texts from him harking on the loveliness of the natural landscape (and the cuteness of seas otters).  While surrounded by the breathtaking, expansive beauty of Alaska, it’s not hard to understand why over half of all land managed by the National Park Service is found in this detached state.

2004 Backpacking trip north of Fairbanks, AK

We have Jimmy Carter to thank for the awesome amount of land (54 million acres in National Parks alone) that is protected in the NPS system in Alaska.  Before 1980, Alaska had a few national parks but it was not the patchwork of protected land that it is today. Starting in the late 1970s, legislation named the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) was being introduced into Congress calling for the protection large tracks of land in Alaska as National Parks or Preserves. However, the bill was unpopular with Congress at the time – especially the Representatives from Alaska who did not want such a vast amount of land removed from use for economic development (most likely the kind of economic development related to oil and mineral extraction – obviously they were not thinking of the economic development that recreation can bring).

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Yosemite Makes the New York Times for Unfortunate Events

New York Times Headline: “At Yosemite, 18 Reminders of Dangers of the Outdoors”

Although the high number of deaths in Yosemite this past year has been all over the news, an additional death that occurred over Labor Day weekend sparked an article in the New York Times.  I worked in Yosemite this summer and was in the park when the Mist Trail was closed due to 3 deaths that occurred at Vernal Falls. I was also there to see the exorbitant number of people that are visiting the park this summer (record breaking numbers for summer use) to see the waterfalls; which, I have to admit, were pretty amazing this season.

It’s tragic when anyone dies, especially when in a park or protected area when the person was supposed to be relaxing and enjoying themselves while on vacation. However, all of the press coverage about the deaths in Yosemite (and other parks for that matter – Grand Canyon, Yellowstone) has me thinking about the potential causes of the Yosemite accidents; record deaths the same year as record use numbers – coincidence? Do individual perceptions of risk change in crowded situations?  Are visitors taking risks to avoid crowds that they would not take under less crowded situations?  Mostly, I have been wondering if this really is a “record year” for deaths in Yosemite or is the apparent increase a result of the increase in visitor use this summer season? Are there simply more deaths because there are more people in the park and hence more opportunities for accidents and deaths? I had hoped to calculate the “per capita” rate of deaths in Yosemite over the years and use this post as a way to compare historical death rates in Yosemite. However, I was unable to find any data on the number of deaths in past years. So instead, I will just leave the post as is and hope that Yosemite does not see any more tragic accidents this season and that maybe the New York Times story will remind visitors to obey NPS posted signs and use common sense when recreating in our parks.

Department of the Interior – It Gets Better Project

In 2010, in response to a rash of bullied students taking their own lives, Dan Savage and his partner (husband in Canada), Terry, made a video to inspire LGBT youth and let them know that it will get better. The video became a sensation and started a worldwide movement – including video submissions from President Barack Obama and Google.

Go to It Gets Better Project to learn more.

Yesterday the Department of the Interior posted their own “It Gets Better” video.  The video features employees from the National Park Service. Way to go Secretary Salazar and Interior Department employees.