We take access to the outdoors, and especially to wild areas, for granted. It’s always been available to us throughout out lifetimes, in the form of state and national parks, forests, and managed lands. And many communities depend on these lands for their recreation and rejuvenation. So what if this access were to disappear, or be severely curtailed?
Funding, an issue facing early every business and organization across the board, is down for the vast majority of outdoor-oriented departments all the way to the Federal level. Staffing is often cut, access is restricted, and limits are imposed.
At the same time, both our representatives and the non-outdoors crowd are anxious to turn public, wild lands to profit in various ways – none of which bode well for the lands themselves, or the environment at large.
And even among the outdoors crowd, there are issues. This part I see in my own adventures – people who feel that they are somehow entitled to special privileges, who are above the rules.
Bryan Hansel of PaddlingLight.com says it best in his article, How We Lose Access to Wild Places. His experiences are different from my own in their specifics, but the general idea is the same, and I appreciate his presentation.
In the photo at top, the meadow used to be a pond, manged by the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife as a fishing access point. It’s since been closed; the dam was judged to be structurally unsound and it was deemed not worth repairing.
In Pennsylvania, despite our large and excellent state park system, and the huge swaths of state forest and other public land, I see many of the same aspects. The parks are reducing or eliminating services, even things as simple as lawn mowing, due to budget shortfalls.
At the same time, the fishing crowd leaves behind enough litter to make the lakesides look like small landfills. Down at Hickory Run State Park, the Boulder Field – a nationally registered site – is covered in graffiti, the amount of which has increased visibly in the two months between my most recent visits.
And, as Bryan discusses in his article, the activities of these rule-breakers end up affecting us all, as whatever reaction comes down from park officials is usually a blanket action.
We pay for these lands with our tax dollars. We, as a nation, have a history of recognizing and preserving public lands, wilderness areas, wild and scenic rivers. And lately, it seems were are turning our back on them, through entitlement or through greed. Or both.
I don’t have an answer. (Although corporal punishment for anyone found graffitiing state or national parks is starting to sound pretty good.)