"This isn't a people's park: It's a National Park" Yosemite Ranger to Claude Suhl.
EVERYONE knows that National Parks have problems. But the exact nature of these problems, usually described only in terms of crowd size, was in the past unclear. To define the matter accurately, an in-depth survey was made last summer in many parks. The first questionnaire in Yosemite, as an example, yielded the following results.
a) What did you like best about Yosemite
|Cliffs and rock formations||0%|
|Rivers, streams and lakes||1%|
|Trees and other flora||0%|
b) What did you most dislike?
|Lack of naturalist activities||2%|
c) Did you enjoy your visit?
d)Do you plan to visit the park again?
1 The Editor feels compelled to reprint this brilliant piece—shades of 1984— it is funny at first, frightening when you think that it can all come true.
Two conclusions can be drawn from the results: (1) the taxpayer has a right to expect more from his National Parks, and (2) the questionnaire was not well worded. A man who came to the Visitor Centre put it this way. "Somebody goofed. The things I liked are listed as dislikes, and the things I disliked as likes." He explained: "The river is too cold, the trees and cliffs block the view, and the waterfalls are boring. But the crowds . . . great people . . . this man and his wife from Davenport, Iowa ..."
From the lessons of the first survey, a second was prepared. People were asked to list the things they would be most likely to tell their friends to come and see, and the things they would most like to see changed or improved. The most popular answers to the first question were:
The replies most common to the second query were:
Surveys in other parks yielded similar results. Common replies considered to be significant were:
A committee appointed to evaluate the questionnaires and present recommendations includes a Presidential adviser, an official in the Department of the Interior, another spokesman for the oil industry, the president of a logging company, a law- enforcement officer, a public relations man, an urban planner and a Negro.
These men saw that the present National Parks are archaic and badly arranged, and that the one viable solution is to create a new series of true national parks, the scenic attractions designed around the accommodations, rather than vice versa. As one member, who asked not to be quoted, said: "It is incredible that the most powerful nation on the face of the earth makes so much fuss about places where the location of facilities had to be dictated by the topography of surroundings."
It was decided to construct one new park and operate it as a test project. If successful, several more will be created throughout the country. Although the only consideration in locating a park is accessibility from population centres, the committee felt that given the current political climate of fiscal restraint, the taxpayer would more easily accept the proposal if the park were located where land is already available, and some of the more expensive scenic features are already existent. Future parks will be located so as to create jobs and bring business to an area. Hetch Hetchy Valley was the site selected for several reasons: (1) the land is already part of Yosemite National Park, (2) a dam and waterfalls exist at the site, (3) no shrill objections are anticipated from conservationists, since they had their say when the valley was dammed fifty years ago, (4) a redwood tree need be transported only a short distance, (5) it is easily reached by residents of our most populous state, and (6) the name conveys a rugged wilderness image.
According to plans, construction will begin next summer, with the clearing of trees and vegetation, and the paving of the entire valley floor expect for a marked nature trail, ¼ mile long and 10 feet wide. Scaffolding will be erected in the distance behind both sides of the valley for the backdrops, on which will be painted scenes from the Swiss Alps.
On the south side blasting will begin for the blue ice grotto, with refrigeration and bats installed in 1974; and on the cliffs of the north side, carving of the four faces will begin. This latter project would start immediately were it not that the selection of persons to be represented is held up in Congressional committee. John and Robert Kennedy seem certain of a place, and the Nixon administration feels it has the votes to include an astronaut and a football player, but certain Eastern congressmen concerned about re-election are pushing the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., while usually reliable sources say the President promised Sen. Thurmond, a white Southerner, for his support in the election. It seems likely the number of faces will eventually be very large indeed.
In 1974 the schedule calls for the demarcation and numbering on the pavement of parking lots and camp sites, construction of the natural arch, the aerial tram and ski lodge, the geyser (which will erupt hourly from 10-0 a.m. to 6-0 p.m.), the boat docks, the volcano (material will be available from all the bulldozing operations), planting of the cactus, laying of the pipes to heat the lake, and transportation of a redwood from Tuolumne Grove (the Governor of California has pointed out that if a person has seen one redwood, he has seen them all) to the park entrance in time to hollow it and build the road through it. Late in 1974 holds will be cut and eyebolts placed in the sheer cliff where the Swiss guides will scale. On the recommendation of Grand Teton Park officials, no other climbing will be permitted. The snowmaking machine will begin operation, so that the glacier will extend to the valley by the anticipated opening of the park in 1975.
Only minor projects will remain for the Spring of 1975. Logs for the firefall will be moved to the top of Kolona Rock. Bears will be brought from other parks and fences erected to keep them near the campgrounds. Indians will be recruited to form the local tribe and their fibreglass tepees set up. Horseshit will be spread on all trails to create an authentic Western air. A Proposal, not yet authorised, but under advisement, would erect a plastic dome over the entire valley to guarantee year- round good weather.
Publicity for the park has not been overlooked. In 1974 a series of commercials to be shown on Los Angles and San Fransisco television will feature happy families watching the nreoan anu feeding bears, and clean-cut rangers removing hippie types. As one member, who asked not to be quoted said: "The present parks are over-crowded without advertising; imagine what modern marketing techniques can clo to an area." The National Geographic has promised to devote a full issue to the new park. Billboards throughout the park will advertise the scenic attractions and tourist facilities: the present small wooden signs are archaic.
The Yosemite Park and Curry Company has generously consented to be the concessionaire. A spokesman for the company pointed out that since their contract with Yosemite Park gives them the option on any new enterprise within the present park boundaries, they feel obligated to serve the public in the new park.
To a sceptic who wondered how the new national parks would differ from Disneyland, a staff member replied: "It's all a matter of how it's marketed: as an amusement park or as wilderness".