Friday, December 13, 2013

Where To Be

If I could transport myself anywhere right now, this is where I would be.

El Living - Puerto Natales, Chile

Between backpack trips I would sink deep, deep, deeply into a chair with a good book.  The coffee in the morning was invigorating and the wine and beer flowed well into the night with company from all corners of the world.

I became addicted to this album here.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Let Them Eat Rat.

What Happened On Easter Island - A New (Even Scarier) Scenario

With winter now here, this article got me thinking.  In the past 5 or so years I have made a conscious effort to bike commute more but, with a solid effort last winter, I ended up with some funky sinus issues.  Although I have no scientific evidence to back up my theory, I strongly believe that poor air quality factored in heavily to the problems I had.  Therefore, in response this year, I have decided to back off the winter bike commuting a little during the bad air months.  It makes me wonder though if I am just eating my rat now without considering the consequences.  Have I accepted that crappy air is the new norm?

Monday, December 2, 2013

Public Land

"America's best idea" is the phrase used by Ken Burns to describe our national parks in his amazing 2009 documentary series and I happen to agree with his choice of words.  Whenever I approach the gates of one of these national treasures, I am filled with anticipation, like a child on Christmas morning.  Even when enduring some of the less than pleasant aspects, like waiting in line, the experiences are often brimming with monumental potential.  In the dozens and dozens and dozens of visits I have made to various parks, I can't recall an occasion when they failed to deliver on my expectations, granted I have embraced them with open arms and I have been fortunate to take advantage of the full spectrum of opportunities within.

The controversy over how the parks came to be (as well as how they persist through time) has been a hard fought part of history, as Mr. Burns carefully points out in the series.  Without much surprise, when it comes to property ownership, there is an intense and ever-present debate about the value and subsequent use of the areas in question, even when considering such obvious examples as the Tetons or the Grand Canyon.  To me, the national parks are a no-brainer - do what is necessary to keep them open to everyone and make every attempt to err on the side of preservation.  As a side note, I also fully understand that the national parks aren't the epitome of pristine places for that is the designation of wilderness and yet another discussion.

This then brings me to a recent local story where there has been a controversy of a different sort brewing. It involves a place where the public has access to some private land which is heavily used for recreation.  I have lived in this area for the greater part of my life and, although the property in question is private, access has been unimpeded, even welcome, for the 30+ years that I have enjoyed it.  The hike to Malan's Waterfall has been a long-standing tradition in the area and I believe it serves as a rite of passage for residents and visitors alike.  And for me personally, the experience retains the same anticipation and sense of awe that I get when visiting the national parks, therefore I have done my best to honor the property owners wishes in an effort to maintain access to his land (even if I don't agree with him in principle).  But public discourse on this matter has been very divided recently (for reasons I won't delve into here) and one side is promoting a carte blanche style of private property ownership that essentially states that the land is his and he can do whatever he wants with it, including shutting everyone out.   That is all well and good since it is his.  I don't pretend to think I have much of a right to say anything in matters of his private business, but this situation does beg another question as it pertains to the original conversation at hand.

Where is it then that these two stories cross paths?  As the debate over the local private property unfolds, opinions are expressed, emotions often flare, and I can't help but see similarities with the arguments presented by Ken Burns from when our national parks formed.  Sure, on the surface it is an apples to oranges comparison, private vs public, but if you watch the series closely, that is exactly where many of our parks started.  Also, the logic used to inform the various positions is mostly the same.  And then currently there is a big push, especially in Utah, to turn federal public property over to the state which unapologetically favors private development.  Ironically, many Utahns see little value in federally held land until it is shut down (largely by one of their own) and then the full scope of the revenue stream is realized, or better said . . . lost.  In the end, I can't support turning over such areas to private entities or to a state that favors private interests for one major reason: places like the national parks are of paramount importance to the national psyche and simply put, I don't want to lose access to them as well as losing my say, however big or small, in the administration of these places that I hold most dear.   As I sit back and watch Ogden's "Community Park" turn into something not exactly welcome to the public, I struggle to bite my tongue but know that I don't have much recourse.

When property becomes private it is fundamentally changed.  The pressure to capitalize on land or alter previous conditions to suit a very select group of people or investors is all too powerful and maybe even inevitable.  In a perfect world I would like to believe that private interests often mirror that of the public but that is simply not true, especially when the bottom line really is always the bottom line.  Some ideas run deeper than the pocket book and deserve better consideration.  I will accept, at least temporarily, some of the inadequacies of an agency like the National Park Service, such as their budget shortcomings or overcrowding, as long as there is a commitment to ensure that average people like me maintain access (and a voice) to these amazing natural wonders.  I would also hope that with continued diligence efforts can be made to minimize some of the problems mentioned above to further improve on the vision set forth by the architects of "The National Parks: America's Best Idea."  

Are the systems in place perfect?  Hell no!  But don't throw the baby out with the bathwater because it is a difficult problem to solve.  You will be left with no baby at all, which is a big possibility as witnessed here, at home, where one of our greatest natural community resources rests in the hands and at the whims of a private individual.  I may not be able to do much about that particular situation, but I can surely take to heart the lessons learned and avoid making similar mistakes in the future.

Link to The National Parks: America's Best Idea

Links to the the Waterfall Canyon story

Rumor of sniper-fire training -

OgdenFoothillPrivateLand FB page

Trail acces story -

"Trail maintenance"