Saturday, August 12, 2017

What's in the worst shape at Rocky? The stuff you can't see

Nobody cares much about water and wastewater systems until the faucet runs brown or the toilet backs up. But that reality isn’t so far down the trail for Rocky Mountain National Park, which will celebrate its birthday next month with 102 candles and more than $75 million in deferred maintenance. It’s the heftiest repairs backlog the park has seen in seven years, and a recent funding award from the Department of the Interior won’t do much to change that. Facing a growing maintenance to-do list and an uncertain funding future, park officials say they’ll spend the next several years focusing on the nuts and bolts: waterlines and septic systems. “It’s underground, so nobody pays much attention to it,” said Justin Pattison, RMNP facility manager. “And now, service-wide, everything’s kind of coming to a point beyond its life cycle.” That means some of Rocky’s older facilities could be a mere five to 10 years away from serious issues, like unsafe water, malfunctioning toilets and poor water pressure that would leave emergency responders hamstrung in the event of a big fire, Pattison said. New data that pinpoints the condition of each of the park’s various “asset types” — trails, campgrounds and buildings are a few — shows that water systems, wastewater systems and unpaved roads are in the worst shape at Rocky. In the best shape are paved roads and buildings...more

Let's remember it was into this deficit ridden system that Little Tommy YouDull & Marty Hiney transferred the Valles Caldera. At the time I wrote:

 In a joint statement Senators Heinrich and Udall say the transfer is “to increase public access.”  In a floor statement Senator Heinrich says current management has resulted in “drastically limited public access with relatively high entrance and permit fees” and the new management will result in “expanded public access.”  A more realistic assessment comes from the Washington Post: The Park Service is taking on Valles Caldera and numerous other properties at a time when the agency is struggling with more than $11 billion in deferred maintenance at existing parks and monuments and is looking to boost entrance fees at parks across the nation to generate more revenue in advance of the agency’s centennial. Can the agency afford what amounts to its largest expansion in nearly four decades?

Things aren't improving. The transfer occurred in 2015, and by 2016 the Valles Caldera Preserve already has a deferred maintenance of $104,247

And I'm sticking with my previous comments on the transfer:

The Park Service is now holding public hearings on management of the area, and we are beginning to see what the native folks and traditional users are up against –  limited access in general and a slow phasing out of most hunting and grazing.  Yes, I know the legislation says there "shall" be grazing, but it also says,"at levels and locations determined by the Secretary to be appropriate."  Read Park Service policy on its website and you'll find this:  "The Service will phase out the commercial grazing of livestock whenever possible and manage recreational and administrative uses of livestock to prevent those uses from unacceptably impacting park resources."  Apply the general policy to the legislative language, and if you are seeking "commercial" livestock grazing, forget it.  The whole thing is being set up to allow grazing for the "interpretation of the ranching history of the Preserve", and that will probably mean Park Service cows managed by Park Service employeesSimilar limitations are placed upon hunting and trapping.
Does anyone consider the NPS to be pro-hunting?  Pro-grazing?  Not exactly.
Members of the group Caldera Action have spent years advocating for National Park Service management because, their spokesmen says, the Park Service will police “wayward cattle”, they didn’t want it “treated like a piece of multiple-use land where you have…cows and litter”, but that “hiking and cross-country skiing” are less destructive.
A huge preserve has been set aside for the elite to camp, hike and convene with nature.  The traditional uses made by the folks native to the area will be eliminated over time.  That, I'm afraid, will be the final outcome of this Udall/Heinrich legislation.

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