IS PRESERVING NOSTALGIA WORTH HARMING YELLOWSTONE?
There is an insidious mentality among people who profess to care about Yellowstone. They will forgive a world of sins for the maintenance of nostalgic elements of the park’s past – however detrimental to both the park and the visitor experience.
Since we’re getting our first persistent snowfall here in West Yellowstone, it’s only appropriate to rekindle the winter transportation conversation. As people get their minds set on visiting Yellowstone this winter the cross country skier is busy checking his gear. Composite materials, synthetic materials, nylon and spandex, hollowfill and qualofill, -etc. Not a single thought is given to wooden skies or bamboo ski poles. Those are reserved for museums and restaurant walls.
Never is it even imagined that the nostalgic value of unsafe, heavy, splintery, and warped equipment should be considered. Yet it’s this same skier that uses waxless skis, and graphite poles, and modern synthetic materials, that wants the polluting, obsolete and unsafe, Bombardier Snow coach to deliver him to the drop off point for his hi-tech tour of the park. Think nostalgia – act modern?
The same goes for the visitor that intends to snowshoe about the park. They want lightweight metal and nylon shoes. Something that is “easy” and modern – not nostalgic, heavy, cumbersome, and unsafe. Certainly they don’t want the effort involved in learning to walk on traditional snowshoes – nostalgia or not it’s just not safe!
The NPS in its infinite wisdom has chosen to forgive the vile emissions, damage to visitor’s hearing, and poor safety of the Bombardier Snowcoach until 2011. This stupidity is allowing this noisy and polluting unsafe machine to continue to harm Yellowstone while snowmobiles have become cleaner, quieter, and less in numbers.
The Bombardier is a single season vehicle, as are the old White Touring buses. Yet the park planners refuse to save money and avoid pollution by looking to a multi-season, clean alternative to park transportation. A vehicle that could do double duty, and save money, and pollute less.
And, yes there is a safe, clean, modern, alternative available. The NPS even endorses it as the best way to go. But the insidious thinking of planners and cheerleaders is not allowing this alternative to be implemented, or even considered. The Yellow Bus Project has been dropped in favor of multi-million dollar restoration of old White Touring Buses and the preservation, and “upgrading” of an unsafe and obsolete Bombardier fleet. Don’t spare any expense, this is nostalgic!
There seems to be some sort of NPS blinders issued to the staff as soon as their blood turns green and they are give a flat hat. “Damn the park, it’s nostalgia that must be preserved.”
There are, in fact, many alternatives to protecting the park that neither the cheerleaders nor the Park Circus choose to consider. The appearance of nostalgia ignores the continuing & potential damage that can be, and is being, caused by over the snow travel.
I certainly am aware of the potential damage that vehicle emissions can do to the park and the visitor experience. I wish that there had been acceptable park-wide maximum ppm emission standards established. I certainly wish that the standards would be incrementally lowered through time as a means to protecting the park. And I certainly wish that the cleanest mode of transportation would be the preferred mode of winter transportation. That, however, is not the wish of the NPS.
Sadly for me, and for future generations, the cheerleaders and NPS lackeys have concentrated on snowmobiles; not on preservation and protection of the park. This insidious stupidity is couched in phrases like tradition, nostalgia, history, and access. It results in higher fuel consumption, perpetuation of waste, continuous ongoing upgrades, and job security for park employees.
Even the loudest cheerleaders acknowledge that it’s the private automobile that is the cleanest, most convenient, and most conducive to a successful visitor experience in Yellowstone. So, just plow the roads and be done with it. Do an honest cost analysis and allow year-round visitation. This has never been seriously addressed – and you can bet that there’s a lawsuit in the wings.
If that destroys some concessionaire investments, please be advised that our national parks are not designed to be a welfare system for entrepreneurs, despite the actions of the political planning staff. Nor, in fact, should the protection of the park take a back seat to nostalgic values about transportation.
Finally, if the NPS continues to insist on the nostalgic value of over the snow travel, then let them upgrade their vehicles to machines that are modern and built with safety and clean operation as design criteria. Spending millions of dollars to retrofit the unsafe and obsolete Bombardier fleet is just another glaring example of the waste of money and resources that the NPS is famous for.
They could buy a fleet of modern vehicles for far less money, and still do a cleaner and a better job. And if they don’t want to stick with the yellow bus that they designed, then how about a Snow Bear or a Snow Fox? Cheaper, safer, cleaner, quieter, and modern. Pshaw, just too sensible!
How about a 3 cylinder engine that is clean and fuel efficient? How about a vehicle that is light, safe, warm, comfortable, and accessible? How about an American design that is already in production and used for touring, fishing, search and rescue, and an ambulance? Naw! There’s no nostalgia there.