Nisqually Corridor Management Plan - thoughts and ideas

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NacMacFeegle
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Nisqually Corridor Management Plan - thoughts and ideas

Post by NacMacFeegle » October 1st, 2020, 9:17 am

Mt. Rainier National Park is requesting input on the management of the Paradise area of the park. There are only 4 days left to comment on the Nisqually corridor management plan. I've put a lot of thought into the issue, and have published those thoughts in an article on my blog:

https://illuminationsfromtheattic.blogs ... ng-in.html

The main ideas I'm proposing are thus:

1.The ideal maximum visitation was reached some years ago, and plans for the park’s future should aim to reduce visitor numbers to what they were a decade ago.

2. In order to achieve this, we should reduce parking capacity and prevent parking outside of designated areas.

3. Most trailhead parking is adequate, so could remain the same, as long as overflow parking is prohibited. However, the large quantity of parking at Paradise and Sunrise leads to overcrowding in those areas, so the number of parking spots there should be reduced.

4. Parking lot capacity should be monitored by cameras and a computerized surveillance system that would automatically update a web page so that visitors could plan accordingly. This system would have the added benefit of counteracting trailhead crime.

5. Rangers at the park entrance could use this automated capacity tracking system to inform visitors of available parking upon arrival. Visitors could then essentially reserve a parking space by informing the ranger as to their destination. That parking space would then be updated to read “filled up” until a given period of time for the visitor to arrive, whereupon it would revert to potentially unoccupied.

6. Tour buses are frequently a source of significant excess crowds, and their presence in the park should be limited.

I discuss the issue in more detail in the blog post. The comment period ends on the 5th of October: https://parkplanning.nps.gov/document.c ... tID=105822

leiavoia
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Re: Nisqually Corridor Management Plan - thoughts and ideas

Post by leiavoia » October 1st, 2020, 2:52 pm

You know what would really cheese me off? Driving three hours to the trailhead only to be told the lot was full.

And if the Gorge is any indication, people will just find "alternatives", legal or not.

Reducing parking spaces does not reduce the volume of visitors.

Perhaps encouraging visits during non-peak times?

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Re: Nisqually Corridor Management Plan - thoughts and ideas

Post by NacMacFeegle » October 1st, 2020, 4:26 pm

You know what would really cheese me off? Driving three hours to the trailhead only to be told the lot was full.
I'd rather drive three hours and be told the lot was full than get to the trailhead and park by the road a mile from the trailhead and hike in a conga line. Far better to show up and know that whatever trail I end up on it won't be overcrowded.
And if the Gorge is any indication, people will just find "alternatives", legal or not.
Thus my proposed camera and AI system. That would catch most ne'er do wells, and with the system reporting parking availability at the gate and online the vast majority of people wouldn't even try. The few that do slip through the cracks would pose a negligible problem.
Reducing parking spaces does not reduce the volume of visitors.
It would certainly lower the volume of visitors on trails, and that's what's most important as far as I'm concerned.
It would also lower the volume of vehicles - some people wouldn't show up if they saw online that the park was full, others would turn around at the gate.
Perhaps encouraging visits during non-peak times?
Most people visit at peak times because that is when they can visit.
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Water
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Re: Nisqually Corridor Management Plan - thoughts and ideas

Post by Water » October 2nd, 2020, 12:13 am

NacMacFeegle wrote:
October 1st, 2020, 4:26 pm
You know what would really cheese me off? Driving three hours to the trailhead only to be told the lot was full.
I'd rather drive three hours and be told the lot was full than get to the trailhead and park by the road a mile from the trailhead and hike in a conga line. Far better to show up and know that whatever trail I end up on it won't be overcrowded.
Perhaps encouraging visits during non-peak times?
Most people visit at peak times because that is when they can visit.
It sounds like crowds are a problem for you--so what I don't understand is why you feel the need to assume it a problem for others? The full lot and the overflow parking, the EXISTING conga line. These people have chosen, despite a full lot and clear zoo mentality, to hike in this place, their actions say they tolerate it, they put in the effort to get that far and the mere fact that it is clearly inundated does not deter them from parking a mile away and continuing with their plan. If it did, they wouldn't be there. If you have a problem with that, it sounds like your problem, not theirs.

If it's important to you (you use the phrase 'far better to show up and know that whatever trail I end up on it won't be overcrowded) then make the effort to go at off-peak times to popular areas or take the modicum of effort to find something that isn't as popular if you can only go at peak times and conga lines bother you.
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Chip Down
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Re: Nisqually Corridor Management Plan - thoughts and ideas

Post by Chip Down » October 2nd, 2020, 7:04 am

Any outdoor recreation area, whether it be a city park or a beach or a trail, reaches its natural equilibrium of crowding: more people go, until it becomes such a ridiculous crowded zoo that some people decide to go at less-popular times, or maybe even (gasp) try something different this time, instead of, say, hiking Dog Mountain for the 27th time. Thus, the crowd level organically regulates. Sure, the experience is diminished for each individual user, but the total collective enjoyment is maximized. But some people look at a crowd and think "this system is broken, we must do something", even if that something means users won't be able to go at all, or their experience is marred by a byzantine scheme of permits, fees, lotteries, etc.

I'm not saying we should do nothing, but we should be careful to seek the simplest solutions, mostly trusting people to make their own judgements about whether/when to go to Paradise. As an example, I've never hiked Muir Snowfield, because the route and the destination are notoriously crowded. That's okay, I'm not bitter about it. I don't expect government to cull the herd for me (except maybe to release some aggressive mountain goats to scare away the most timid hikers). Instead, if I ever go to Paradise again, I'll select some other adventure. Or better yet, start my hike somewhere besides Paradise.

Incidentally, it always amuses me to see our government over-develop a recreational resource, promote it, and then gasp in horror when people actually come. :lol:
leiavoia wrote:
October 1st, 2020, 2:52 pm
You know what would really cheese me off? Driving three hours to the trailhead only to be told the lot was full.
You could just drive faster, so it wouldn't be three hours. ;)

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NacMacFeegle
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Re: Nisqually Corridor Management Plan - thoughts and ideas

Post by NacMacFeegle » October 2nd, 2020, 9:01 am

Any outdoor recreation area, whether it be a city park or a beach or a trail, reaches its natural equilibrium of crowding: more people go, until it becomes such a ridiculous crowded zoo that some people decide to go at less-popular times, or maybe even (gasp) try something different this time, instead of, say, hiking Dog Mountain for the 27th time. Thus, the crowd level organically regulates. Sure, the experience is diminished for each individual user, but the total collective enjoyment is maximized. But some people look at a crowd and think "this system is broken, we must do something", even if that something means users won't be able to go at all, or their experience is marred by a byzantine scheme of permits, fees, lotteries, etc.
The problem with your line of reasoning is that it ignores the fact that large numbers of visitors have the landscape and ecosystems of wild places. A restricted number of hikers can have a genuinely minimal impact on a location and the flora and fauna that inhabit it, but huge numbers of people radically alter the environment. We simply have too little relatively undisturbed wilderness left to sacrifice bits of it to unrestricted overuse.
I'm not saying we should do nothing, but we should be careful to seek the simplest solutions, mostly trusting people to make their own judgements about whether/when to go to Paradise. As an example, I've never hiked Muir Snowfield, because the route and the destination are notoriously crowded. That's okay, I'm not bitter about it. I don't expect government to cull the herd for me (except maybe to release some aggressive mountain goats to scare away the most timid hikers). Instead, if I ever go to Paradise again, I'll select some other adventure. Or better yet, start my hike somewhere besides Paradise.
Trusting people to use their own judgement is a naïve path to disaster. Left unchecked, humans have demonstrated time and time again that we are most untrustworthy species more than capable of ruining things for both ourselves and everything else.
Incidentally, it always amuses me to see our government over-develop a recreational resource, promote it, and then gasp in horror when people actually come. :lol:
This is the paradox of outdoor recreation. You need people to visit so that they will care about protecting wild places, but if too many visit those wild places are robbed of their wild character.

The issue boils down to the fact that there is a finite quantity of wilderness and an exponentially and infinitely expanding human population. The only way to balance this equation in a way that preserves access, visitor experience, wilderness character, and the integrity of natural ecosystems is regulation.

Of course, regulations would be unnecessary if steps were taken to alleviate the source of increased overcrowding:

1. Limit population growth.
2. Halt urban sprawl
3. Create large near-city parks

Of course, #1 in that list is as politically poisonous as it is necessary, as is #2 to a far lesser extent, so we will put them to one side for now.

Creating large new parks near cities is by far the most palatable solution of all to overcrowding on public lands, and it is most feasible for cities here in Western Oregon and Washington. We have large areas of commercial timberland right on our doorstep doing little else than shipping logs to china. They are ecological wastelands stripped of most of their natural character - blank slates for new parks.

These are areas that not only have the potential to absorb the excess crowds, but also to benefit from the process of restoration necessary to turn them into attractive places to visit. 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.

The economic benefit to rural towns would be enormous, as one of their persistent problems with fully capitalizing on outdoor recreation is their typical lack of proximity to recreation areas. Establishing large new parks on their doorsteps would solve this problem and improve their economies exponentially.

This restoration would also have a significant impact in the fight against climate change by drastically improving our capacity to capture and store atmospheric carbon. Furthermore, healthy, natural forests are far more resilient to fire than heavily managed forests.

That, however, is an endeavor that will take decades and significant investment to bear fruit in terms of alleviating overcrowding in popular parks and wilderness areas. In the short term restrictions on visitation are an unfortunate necessity to prevent the negative impacts of overcrowding.
Read my hiking stories and more at: http://illuminationsfromtheattic.blogspot.com/

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Re: Nisqually Corridor Management Plan - thoughts and ideas

Post by crater1986 » October 2nd, 2020, 10:05 am

I very much disagree with reducing parking at Paradise and Sunshine. In cases of crowding, it's often better to concentrate the crowds into small areas instead of letting them spread out. By concentrating the majority of visitors in just two places, we can allow other places to remain less crowded, relatively speaking. I guarantee that if you reduce parking in Paradise and Sunshine, people will quickly start discovering lesser known areas of the park.

Also, this idea of cameras and AI doing parking management seems like a stretch. I agree with another poster, people will be pissed if they drive for hours and cannot park (even if they need to walk a mile to the TH) at their desired TH. If we need to reduce crowds, a permit system is a much better solution because at least you know before you start driving if you are going to have a spot or not.

Nac, as much as you can dream, population growth/urban sprawl in the PNW is not going to be reduced so that you can have less crowds when you hike. I also can't help but laugh at this idea that people will be OK visiting a local park on former logging land vs. seeing Rainier :lol: . Those two experiences are worlds apart.

Our options boil down to:

1) Accepting increased crowding
2) Limiting crowds through permits, lotteries, etc.
3) Constructing new parks and trails (or restoring old ones). I don't mean local urban parks, I mean parks/trails in desirable locations. Unfortunately the National Parks system and the USFS don't have the budgets for this, plus environmentalists are basically against any new development, even if it's just a new forest service road and hiking trail. What's funny is that people will get up in arms about minor new development like a hiking trail, meanwhile what's really destroying our environment is strip mining, oil drilling, fracking, and all of the other greenhouse gas emitting processes.

All three options are sensible in particular situations and contexts. For Nisqually, I would ultimately be OK with a limited permit system, perhaps permits are required on weekends between July 1 - September 15 or something like that, 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.

Whatever option happens, we have to accept that our local and global populations will continue to grow, and the outdoors will only get more crowded. As always, if you're willing to put in more effort (more driving time, hiking time, research, hiking during off-peak times) you will be rewarded. Also, never forget that you're part of the problem. It's easy to complain about crowds, but you are the crowd :shock: :lol: .

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Re: Nisqually Corridor Management Plan - thoughts and ideas

Post by NacMacFeegle » October 2nd, 2020, 11:09 am

I very much disagree with reducing parking at Paradise and Sunshine. In cases of crowding, it's often better to concentrate the crowds into small areas instead of letting them spread out. By concentrating the majority of visitors in just two places, we can allow other places to remain less crowded, relatively speaking. I guarantee that if you reduce parking in Paradise and Sunshine, people will quickly start discovering lesser known areas of the park.
A lot of the people who visit Paradise and Sunrise aren't going to be interested in other areas of the park that aren't as instantly spectacular and easily accessible. I don't think that reducing parking there would necessarily result in more visitors in other areas. Plus, if parking is strictly regulated throughout the park there will be a hard limit to how crowded any trail can be.
Also, this idea of cameras and AI doing parking management seems like a stretch. I agree with another poster, people will be pissed if they drive for hours and cannot park (even if they need to walk a mile to the TH) at their desired TH. If we need to reduce crowds, a permit system is a much better solution because at least you know before you start driving if you are going to have a spot or not.
Cameras and AI are easily capable of such a task - given currently available technology I don't think such a solution would even be overly expensive to implement. Part of the point of such a system is to reduce visitor frustration and prevent people from driving hours only to find everything full. You'd be able to see the current status of trailheads online, as well as estimates based on past data for when they will be full. It's just a matter of having a backup plan in case you don't get the location you want.
Nac, as much as you can dream, population growth/urban sprawl in the PNW is not going to be reduced so that you can have less crowds when you hike. I also can't help but laugh at this idea that people will be OK visiting a local park on former logging land vs. seeing Rainier :lol: . Those two experiences are worlds apart.
Population growth and urban sprawl can and should be regulated, but as I said I know that such vital solutions are unpopular. However, I believe that creating new parks in place of existing logging land is a viable solution for a few reasons.

1. Proximity: Sure Rainier is spectacular, but it's also 3 hours away. For a day trip that means you spend 6 hours in the car. A lot of people (including myself) would often choose a 5-20 minute drive to a less spectacular location than 3 hours to somewhere more interesting.

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.
Our options boil down to:

1) Accepting increased crowding
2) Limiting crowds through permits, lotteries, etc.
3) Constructing new parks and trails (or restoring old ones). I don't mean local urban parks, I mean parks/trails in desirable locations. Unfortunately the National Parks system and the USFS don't have the budgets for this, plus environmentalists are basically against any new development, even if it's just a new forest service road and hiking trail. What's funny is that people will get up in arms about minor new development like a hiking trail, meanwhile what's really destroying our environment is strip mining, oil drilling, fracking, and all of the other greenhouse gas emitting processes.
.
Accepting increased crowding is not an option.
Limiting overcrowding through permits, lotteries, etc. would be fine with me, though I think limited parking systems are a better option.
I am strongly against new development in existing National Forests and Parks. It is important to keep some areas remote and inaccessible for the sake of wild ecosystems.
Whatever option happens, we have to accept that our local and global populations will continue to grow, and the outdoors will only get more crowded. As always, if you're willing to put in more effort (more driving time, hiking time, research, hiking during off-peak times) you will be rewarded. Also, never forget that you're part of the problem. It's easy to complain about crowds, but you are the crowd :shock: :lol:
I don't believe that this is a situation we can or should accept, not just for the parks but for the planet as a whole. As for myself being part of the problem of causing overcrowding in the parks, remember that I too would be very much affected by any of the restrictions I am supporting.
Read my hiking stories and more at: http://illuminationsfromtheattic.blogspot.com/

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Chip Down
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Re: Nisqually Corridor Management Plan - thoughts and ideas

Post by Chip Down » October 2nd, 2020, 12:18 pm

There's so much to address in this thread, one could spend all day. For now, I'd like to focus on this:
NacMacFeegle wrote:
October 2nd, 2020, 9:01 am
Any outdoor recreation area, whether it be a city park or a beach or a trail, reaches its natural equilibrium of crowding: more people go, until it becomes such a ridiculous crowded zoo that some people decide to go at less-popular times, or maybe even (gasp) try something different this time, instead of, say, hiking Dog Mountain for the 27th time. Thus, the crowd level organically regulates. Sure, the experience is diminished for each individual user, but the total collective enjoyment is maximized. But some people look at a crowd and think "this system is broken, we must do something", even if that something means users won't be able to go at all, or their experience is marred by a byzantine scheme of permits, fees, lotteries, etc.
The problem with your line of reasoning is that it ignores the fact that large numbers of visitors [harm] the landscape and ecosystems of wild places. A restricted number of hikers can have a genuinely minimal impact on a location and the flora and fauna that inhabit it, but huge numbers of people radically alter the environment. We simply have too little relatively undisturbed wilderness left to sacrifice bits of it to unrestricted overuse.
I figured somebody would mention that. Some things to consider:

It's important to remember, as our Retired Jerry often mentions, that we should distinguish between real ecological damage vs aesthetic impact. A simple example of aesthetic impact would be a scrap of harmless trailside garbage. Too often we look at a trashed site and think it's been harmed, but if we pause and consider for a moment, we realize it just looks shabby (which conveniently diminishes crowds who don't want to recreate at such a place). Of course, sometimes the categories overlap: trampled soil around trees, a cigarette butt, etc.

There are ways to mitigate damage caused by crowds. An example might be the paved trails at Paradise. Nobody likes them (except maybe users of accessibility-enhancing devices), but I suspect the paving was partly intended to manage erosion. Another example is designing trails in such a way that people aren't encouraged to go off-trail. I see trails all the time where it seems the builders wanted to make sure people would take shortcuts or go exploring.

There's the paradox that campers cause extraordinary damage vs day hikers, but moving trailheads further out might encourage more campers. I'm not sure what the answer is there, but I do believe there must be an optimal approach, with a general rule of thumb that can be refined for specific attractions.

I could go on, but the point is that it's not necessarily true that a larger number of users is automatically more damaging to the environment than a smaller number. It's more complicated than that.

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Re: Nisqually Corridor Management Plan - thoughts and ideas

Post by NacMacFeegle » October 2nd, 2020, 1:50 pm

I could go on, but the point is that it's not necessarily true that a larger number of users is automatically more damaging to the environment than a smaller number. It's more complicated than that.
More complicated, yes, but I would argue that a larger number of people always causes a greater degree of impact regardless of mitigation measures. There is nothing you can do to reduce the impact humans have on the behavior of wildlife - everything from grazing patterns to predation and hibernation is affected.

Also, I very much disagree that trash is at all harmless, and it obviously does not diminish crowds. Trampled vegetation and erosion even if limited to a corridor along trails and roads is not insignificant if you consider that if only a 100 foot wide corridor along the trail is affected by such degradation that area is multiplied by the length of the trail. By this rough estimate of impact for every mile of trail 12 acres of land are affected by significant litter and erosion. In a park with hundreds of miles of trails that expands to thousands of acres worth of litter and erosion. That erosion means more debris in watercourses, that trash breaks down into particles, and it all harms fish and aquatic ecosystems all the way to the ocean and beyond.
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