America's National Park Service turned 94 this week
It read, "Turning 94 is a cause for celebration! ...Known to park rangers as Founders Day, this anniversary reminds us that America did something unprecedented when, at the urging of its citizens, it preserved millions of acres of pristine wilderness for the enjoyment of all people in perpetuity. Today that wilderness is called Yellowstone National Park. It was the world's first national park and remains an inspiration to our nation and the world."
Since we recently returned from our annual week and a half vacation at Yellowstone, the email caught my eye. Was that why Yellowstone chose August 25th as the grand opening date for their new, $27 Million dollar Old Faithful Visitor Center?
This new center has been under construction for 2 summers now, and the size of it is immense. Unfortunately, it seems out of scale to its surroundings and rather out of sync with the non-intrusive philosophy of the park system. My spouse quipped it reminded him of Disney's Blizzard Beach chalet. (It does!)
Many of us who frequent the geyser areas at Yellowstone wish they would have put a little of that money into providing much needed restroom facilities, instead of building the Taj Mahal of Visitor Centers. After all, people come to see the park's natural wonders, not museum displays.
I'm not asking for much, just an additional outhouse here and there. At present, one lone outhouse serves the entire Upper Geyser Basin trail area (where Old Faithful is located), and 2 serve at Fountain Paint Pot in the Lower Geyser area--better plan ahead, there is always a line of at least 15 people there. Four geyser areas in this 12 mile stretch have no facilities at all.
Now most people don't expect the same creature comforts at a National Park as they do at Disney World, but this is where the Park Service could learn a few things from Disney. Disney provides ample restroom space that is kept pretty clean, considering the traffic volume. The Park Service provides woefully inadequate restroom facilities, some being absolutely filthy, for their 3.2 million or so visitors each year.
Still, millions of people each year put up with restroom shortcomings in order to see these wondrous, wild places. But I digress.
If you enter Yellowstone from the northwest entrance, you travel through what is known as the Roosevelt Arch.* The inscription above reads: "FOR THE BENEFIT AND ENJOYMENT OF THE PEOPLE".
As one who has benefited and enjoyed Yellowstone and 45-some other National Parks, Sites, and Monuments, I am grateful some of these very special places were set aside for our enjoyment. (I still have many more to visit, check out the complete list.)
It is not too soon to start planning your next National Park vacation to see some of the most beautiful scenery this side of heaven. Yellowstone, for example, is still booked up through September, so it pays to plan ahead. (Check Xanterra's website for availability.) There is still time to visit one of the many parks to our south, which offer great fall and winter vacation options. Let the planning begin!
If you have questions about a park or site, feel free to email me for specifics. If I have been there, I am happy to share information.
Coming up next: Going to a National Park? Have fun, be safe, & remember you aren't at Disney World!
Past Posts: You Can Make 2009 National Park Reservations Now
Make Reservations Now for Summer 2008, includes helpful book titles
*Yellowstone is known as America's 1st National Park, set aside by an Act of Congress in 1872. Yosemite was established as a park before that, but as a State Park, not a National Park. It later became a National Park.