‘Surely we can do better’ solving park crowding without crowding out visitors

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Riley McClelland (Daily Inter Lake, Aug. 13) and Bob Muth (Daily Inter Lake, Aug. 25) certainly have their knickers in a twist over my criticism of the lack of critical thinking by Glacier National Park leadership.

Of course I never mentioned adding more parking for Apgar or Logan Pass — a hopeless task to handle the overwhelming volume of pass-through visitors that I indeed tongue-in-cheek referred to as invasive species in a previous letter. My comments referred to a specific location — Bowman Lake — a relatively remote spot, overcrowded by perhaps 10 or 20 vehicles on its busiest days.

The Park Service approach was to suggest a one-in/one-out arrangement so people such as myself would have a day’s outing on the lake ruined by being turned away after an hour or more drive up the North Fork Road. Surely we can do better than that. Adding a few parking places would probably handle the volume since the rough gravel road to the lake is itself a limitation on the type and number of vehicles that can go there.

If adding a modest amount of additional parking offends my critics, perhaps a reservation system as is done for the campsites could be developed. I am sure there are other ideas that could be tried. My point is that the park managers have consistently shown poor planning regarding visitation.

A perfect example of the poor planning and execution is the current shuttle system. This summer, my wife, daughter and two grandsons planned to hike the Highline from Logan Pass to the Loop. They planned to park at the Loop and take the shuttle to the Pass. They arrived at the Loop before 9 a.m., only to have to wait 1 1/2 hours to get on a shuttle as one after another passed the Loop stop full. Asking the drivers to radio down to Apgar requesting an empty shuttle to be sent to the Loop and accommodate the 20 or 30 people who had been waiting for an hour or more to get to the Pass was met with indifference. Finally, they were able to split up and get on two different shuttles that had two seats free. Does this frustration of visitation serve to advance “scientific knowledge” and “inspiration from afar” (whatever the heck that is) as McClelland claims is the primary or equal function of our parks to “the enjoyment of all the people?” Does this serve the “good folks” Muth defends against my humorous reference as “invasive species”?

I have also waited for a half hour to enter the park while only two lanes are open and the line extends back to West Glacier. (Just think of the warming done by all those vehicles waiting in line due to inefficiency and pumping CO2 into the atmosphere.) Does this inconvenience also serve the lofty goals McClelland and Muth profess? Or does it merely show lack of concern for the public and critical problem solving?

I have taken the shuttle buses at the Grand Canyon and at Denali Park and have found them to be excellent in providing service for the volume of people they serve — huge at the Grand Canyon, modest at Denali. Of course, excusers like McClelland and Muth will blame it all on the nasty Republicans cutting the budget of the national parks. It is always about money for liberals ... throw more money at a problem and it will be solved. Just look at how successful ever-expanding budgets have been at solving the problems of education, drug addiction, poverty, violent crime in Chicago, etc., etc.

Mr. Muth’s recent letter seems to think that the answer is not for the current most popular parks like Glacier to creatively solve overcrowding as the Grand Canyon has, but rather to dedicate more protected areas. There are 623 million acres of public land, 107 million of those designated as wilderness, which means those 107 million acres by law must have no roads, structures, or motorized traffic. The National Park system consists of 84.9 million acres. I suggest Mr. McClelland and Mr. Muth and their fellow environmentalist friends spend their time in the 107 million acres that seem perfect for their use and let us parking lot advocates use the overcrowded park system.

Mr. McClelland, seems to want restricted access to all 623 million acres of public land, while Mr. Muth seems to want to just make it difficult for all who want to visit — his “good folks” — to find a place to park. They seem to believe that adding enough parking at Bowman Lake to accommodate the 20 or 30 people or fewer whom I see when I visit will destroy the area. Too bad. The rest of us have a right to enjoy the lands that our taxes support also. It is up to the managers to come up with a plan that serves all users, not just those who feel entitled.

Myerowitz is a resident of Columbia Falls.

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