Nisqually Corridor Management Plan - thoughts and ideas

General discussions on hiking in Oregon and the Pacific Northwest
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jime
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Re: Nisqually Corridor Management Plan - thoughts and ideas

Post by jime » October 3rd, 2020, 5:57 am

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1979, Navajo National Monument (U.S. National Park Service)

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Charley
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Re: Nisqually Corridor Management Plan - thoughts and ideas

Post by Charley » October 4th, 2020, 6:10 pm

First, I'd like to recognize what a terrific conversation this is, with several differing viewpoints communicated with civility and clarity. This forum has seen traffic diminish over the years (at least, as far as I can tell), but I'm still truly impressed with the quality of informed commentary and opinion on here, as well as the clarity with which those comments are communicated. It's so much better, freer, and more in-depth than the FB community, in terms of these discussions. Major props to this the people who run this forum and the people who make it worth reading!

Second, I think expanding opportunities will get us pretty far, as crater1986 suggests:
crater1986 wrote:
October 2nd, 2020, 10:05 am
but I would like to see the park try #3 and actually put some energy into developing alternative trail systems to help spread out the crowds. That doesn't even need to be brand new trails, it might mean improving FS roads and parking areas and improving existing trails.
I can think of a very good example- in terms of easy access to exceptional scenery, the Park is crowding into a smaller and smaller area because it has closed miles and miles of paved roads that used to access scenic destinations. Namely, the West Side and Carbon River roads are truncated versions of their historic length. No wonder Paradise is crowded! Carbon River road is even easier to get to than Seattle, but they've added miles to any dayhike there by abandoning the end of the road. Furthermore, the Mowich Lake road is an absolute disgrace- it's so slow and rough that it probably helps concentrate people into the Paradise, because they can't stand driving that long, awful road another time.

I know the Park Service good reasons for abandoning these roads (washouts are expensive to fix). At the same time, I find it endlessly frustrating that the result of these surrenders is to concentrate people in the fewer remaining accessible areas, and then complain about how crowded they are. It's practically an issue of failing to spend money to maintain access, and then having to spend even more money to reduce access to the remaining places to compensate. Bah.

Beyond the "trailbuild your way out" solution, I think I agree with several commenters on here that if people like hiking in crowds, they'll continue to do so in spite of the crowds. If those of us who don't like the crowds simply space ourselves out geographically or temporally, we'll get to enjoy solitude. I know that's a moving target (everywhere has become more crowded), but I have still found myself hiking alone a lot by taking time to do it mid-week and being creative with route selection.

Of course there are limits! I just went to the Enchantments. It was practically abandoned at night but pretty crowded during the day. I think I'd prefer to see it as if I was the only person to have ever visited, but I know that it's a unique and exceptional place- I recognize there's no trail system waiting to be built in a similar place to spread these crowds out, so I'd rather see it with other appreciative people than never be able to see it in the first place.

(An aside- the trail network and permit system there are far from perfect and there is vast room for improvement. It would require some new trail building, though.)

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Charley
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Re: Nisqually Corridor Management Plan - thoughts and ideas

Post by Charley » October 4th, 2020, 6:36 pm

NacMacFeegle wrote:
October 2nd, 2020, 9:01 am
Massive restoration efforts would be needed, and decades would be required for them to become truly attractive, but this would be a long term solution with wide ranging benefits for everyone far beyond simply relieving overcrowding in the mountains and restoring long degraded ecosystems.
I'm wholeheartedly on board with this part of your plan! I think massive carbon-sequestration/ecological restoration/recreation economy investments are a jobs-creating, rural-economy-boosting win-win. I wish Democrats did a better job of selling this, and I wish Republicans would stop standing in the way.

For a more specific example, I've seen some incredible scenery on the BLM lands of eastern Oregon. Great scenery, not crowded, and in need of ecological restoration after years of poor grazing management. Why not shift crowds from Forest and Park to the desert?

Here's a short list of reasons why we have ignored the possibility of spreading people out into more desert areas of the State (and why these problems are easily solved):
1. There are almost no trails anywhere in the desert (Build em! People love the trails at Smith and the Badlands/Horse Ridge! Why are these just about the only trail systems in the desert?).
2. Few areas are actually easily accessible by cars, whether due to to poor maintenance or lack of gravel (make the roads better!)
3. No marketing (seriously, Travel Oregon kind of had to backpedal on marketing over-crowded Smith Rock because they did too good a job. The sad thing is that they are kind of limited to advertising the few places with actual trails and paved road access).
4. Governmental siloing (BLM vs Park Service vs Forest Service vs Oregon State Parks vs Travel Oregon) creates institutional incentives against cooperation and region-wide crowd planning. (This is the big problem, because we can't even get units of the Forest Service to work together to spread people out. For instance, people are crowding into the Three Sisters, while the Mill Creek Wilderness in the Ochoco National Forest has beautiful scenery nearby, but uneven maintenance and little advertising. Or, the Dead Horse Rim area of the Fremont National Forest is a beautiful area to hike, but there are so many downed trees on the trails, why would you bother? The Deschutes NF and Travel Oregon should be working with these forests to make their attractions more attractive (maintenance, development, advertising), and shift use further east and south. Heck, we can't even a Forest to work this way in itself! For instance, there's a crowding in some of the Mt Jefferson Wilderness, but they've refused to maintain the trail network on the east side of the wilderness, so people get crowded to the now-burned west side because that's where maintained roads access maintained trails. This is not rocket science!)

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teachpdx
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Re: Nisqually Corridor Management Plan - thoughts and ideas

Post by teachpdx » October 5th, 2020, 11:41 am

The increase in visitor numbers to Rainier and many other National Parks / National Forests, etc. has been recently driven in large part by social media and geotagging. I don't know what the solution is to this... aside from a campaign to discourage geotagging in popular areas and maybe encourage geotagging in less popular areas. I doubt very much that there is anything we can do to reduce visitor numbers to 2010-level while Instagram is in existence.

Specifically for Rainier, I think a ticketed entry/quota system is a much more viable alternative than simply limiting the parking. Cameras and AI need data connections, much of which may be unavailable or prohibitive to install where it is required. An entry ticket with a day and time window, and maximum parking times to encourage turnover (with backpackers/overnighters on a separate system) would essentially guarantee parking for anybody who has planned in advance, and will favor dispersing crowds to off-peak times. Tickets and quotas have been especially helpful during COVID at both National Parks and places like Multnomah Falls, limiting visitor numbers to manageable crowds.

Post-COVID, implementing a shuttle system from a remote parking location (like Multnomah Falls or Grand Canyon) would still allow access and reduce illegal parking, but it wouldn't necessarily reduce crowds. But since the crowds are going to show up regardless, maybe it really is best to concentrate the large numbers in a couple of specific areas and leave the rest of the park less occupied. To this end, bring on the tour buses! One tour bus takes up a lot less space than 20-30 cars in a parking lot. Tourists can get their one photo for Instagram and then leave, and the remaining 98% of the park stays relatively empty for the more adventurous folks. Building or improving more remote trails won't reduce crowds in the main areas, as the majority of people are showing up for the one photo and then leaving... they won't be bothered to go more than a half mile from any trailhead, let alone change out of flip-flops for something more adventurous.

I've noticed the same thing in Yellowstone NP... the majority of visitors are concentrated on maybe 5% of the park's area, and the other 95% is essentially devoid of people. And the answer isn't to build a road into the Thorofare or backcountry geyser basins to spread people out into other breathtaking areas, but to contain the vast majority of visitors to a few areas and leave the remainder as wilderness.

P.S. - Increased trail development and improved access in the Oregon high desert is a FANTASTIC idea, and would be incredibly popular in the shoulder seasons. Just a bit of geotagging on Instagram will do more than FS/BLM/Travel Oregon advertising, as we have undoubtedly learned by now.
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Charley
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Re: Nisqually Corridor Management Plan - thoughts and ideas

Post by Charley » October 5th, 2020, 12:47 pm

NacMacFeegle wrote:
October 2nd, 2020, 11:09 am
2. Aesthetic restoration: Commercial timberland is only ugly because it is managed purely for extraction and quarterly corporate profits. With initial restoration work and a few decades it can be made to rival anywhere else in the State. I'm not proposing a simple thin and regenerate restoration process, but one with a high degree of aesthetic landscaping. Meadows and prairies would be established throughout the forest along the routes of planned hiking trails, particularly on ridge tops which expansive views and spectacular wildflower blooms in spring and summer. Forests would have a high degree of species variety with a focus on deciduous species in order to create Adirondacks style fall color displays. We could even go as far as to pile boulders on mountain tops and create other such artificial natural attractions.

3. Facilities: These new parks would have adequate facilities for however many people wanted to visit, and a wider variety of activities in which to participate. Large campgrounds with lots of privacy between spaces, separate parallel trails for hikers, horseback riders, and bicyclists, paved roads, and classic national park style lodges built to offer a park lodge experience at an affordable price point. I could even see building lowland ski area style resorts that instead of skiing would offer mountain biking, zip lines, and alpine slides. Given their current state and the proposed restoration efforts, such development would not have a net negative impact.

4. Advertising: Rainier, Yosemite, Yellowstone, all were made popular via gigantic advertising campaigns. The same could be down with these new parks. With restrictions on visitation in the mountains these vast new areas full of opportunity for adventure would be easy to advertise.
I'm just going back over all the comments and I wanted to say that some of these ideas are very forward thinking, creative, and exciting. All it would take would be political will.

I think no one could have imagined, in 1865, that our National Parks would be as popular as they are now. I see little evidence that any current trends would reduce that increase in interest and visitation, and it makes perfect sense to tie together ecological restoration, recreation opportunities for stressed-out urbanites, and rural employment in a new Park-building efforts. I think of it like expansion teams in major league sports: there's untapped potential and money (ecological/social values) left on the table, so why not build out the future?

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rubiks
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Re: Nisqually Corridor Management Plan - thoughts and ideas

Post by rubiks » October 5th, 2020, 12:52 pm

teachpdx wrote:
October 5th, 2020, 11:41 am
But since the crowds are going to show up regardless, maybe it really is best to concentrate the large numbers in a couple of specific areas and leave the rest of the park less occupied.
I've thought about this a lot over the years, and I think its an interesting idea. This sort of thing happens naturally already, at places like Multnomah Falls or Dog Mountain or Mirror Lake. There's a small list of trails that offer a rare combination of great natural beauty while being very easily accessible, and they concentrate a large number of hikers into a small area. These are hikers for whom crowds or conga lines don't detract from their experience one bit.

On the other hand there are hikers who would not even consider a visiting Mirror Lake on a weekend in the summer. Fortunately for them there are already a number of less crowded alternatives that are either less scenic or a longer drive to get to.

The total number of hikers out there is only going to go up, and to some degree it is a zero sum game how they distribute themselves. In that sense every hiker that can pack into Multnomah Falls or Angels Rest means one fewer hiker somewhere else in the trail system.
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retired jerry
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Re: Nisqually Corridor Management Plan - thoughts and ideas

Post by retired jerry » October 5th, 2020, 2:21 pm

yeah teachpdx, charley, and rubiks

people naturally congregate. Build capacity to support them. It's crowded but if that's what people want.

National Parks and Wilderness areas are great ideas. Other countries have followed. People should be encouraged to go there and experience it, not discouraged.

City parks are good too.

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retired jerry
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Re: Nisqually Corridor Management Plan - thoughts and ideas

Post by retired jerry » October 5th, 2020, 2:22 pm

add Green Lakes to the list of crowded places

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