Saturday, May 23, 2020

Oh, What a Beautiful Morning--Wildlife Thrives in Closed US National Parks

A recent article from the Guardian gushes about the resurgence of wildlife in our American national parks since shutdown.

Deer, bobcats and black bears are gathering around parts of Yosemite national park typically teeming with visitors.”

Lots of things are changing since the pandemic. Cities are breathing easier, the sudden dearth of traffic is encouraging pedestrian-only zones in Milan and Barcelona and we may finally be witness to the popularity of the electric automobile (get your Tesla shares before they go through the roof).

But my hope at the moment is for the saving of our national parks, before their last chapter is written.

Yellowstone, the oldest of our parks will be 150 years old in two years and it’s not in trouble from abandonment. It had over four million visitors in 2018 and they all came in cars, camper-vans and buses. Yellowstone is dying of popularity and access so out-of-date that the magic of the experience is overwhelmed by road-rage and crying kids.

Suggestions are limited: raise the entrance fees to try and limit access, or install an all around the park traffic-jam monitoring system (that ought to help, knowing exactly why you are so angry).

Thankfully, there is a 21st century solution and it serves all parties at risk, from distraught children to grizzly bears to hikers and naturalists. Dangerous confrontations between wild animals and humans can be avoided, allowing the wild to roam free and the American family to see our parks as never before.

It’s a Venice sort of solution, with overhead trams instead of canals and gondoliers. Venice is closed to automobiles. Cars and tour buses must park outside the city and enter by water-taxi. 

Yellowstone would be served by an overhead train system, with all roads permanently closed except for fire and heavy duty construction equipment.

Our national parks grew over decades, with the technology of their times and responding to national recreational trends. But neither the parks or their planners expected worldwide population to quadruple during a single lifetime (mine, as it happens).

We can hardly expect 1920s solutions to bear up in a more modern-day world. Modern zoos free the animals and cage the people. An overhead train has similarities, with huge additional benefits.

Suppose you and your family and friends were to arrive at either of the Yellowstone entrances (Montana or Wyoming) to park your car and check in to a comfortable hotel or board a train, depending on your time schedule. Trains would run on a schedule that accommodated all daylight through evening hours.

Perhaps you know of the hop-on, hop-off buses popular in most European cities. Your silent electric train operates on the same principle in both directions. Hop off at a geyser or hot-spring, get back on the next train at your leisure and perhaps choose a trail head for a hike.

People circulate through the park in public hours and supplies and trash are removed when the public is snugly put to bed. You see as much of the park as you like, over as many days as you care to explore and all of it geared to your pleasure and, more importantly, your peace of mind.

The animals are grateful, the visitors entirely at ease and the staff (from food service to rangers) able to perform their assorted duties with a smile and a kind word.

Indeed, what a beautiful morning. A unique experience, with nature as close as you have ever known it and a spectacular sunset thrown in at no additional cost.

What’s not to love?

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