Hey, whose National Park is this anyway?

7 02 2011

Each year as cabin fever takes hold, forums across the interwebz get …well, down right hostile. One particular forum I visit has recently started debates about messy horses, dangerous bears, and now loud Harley Davidson motorcycles. The horses aren’t any messier than they ever have been, the bears are as dangerous as always (not very) and the motorcycles, although more numerous….well the motorcyclists are Americans too and as much as some anglers don’t like the idea – it’s their Park, too.

You can hear motorcycles near Park roads as they rumble through the sliver of road that cuts the Great Smoky Mountain National Park in half, and you can hear them as they roll down Little River Road going from the tourist town of Gatlinburg past “the Y” and into Cades Cove. And you can even hear the echo of those American made engines rumbling down the asphalt in the backcountry at times.

The GSMNP is big, but it’s not THAT big. It’s not Alaska. It’s not Montana. It’s surrounded on all sides by cities and towns, cars and construction and we are very fortunate to have it to enjoy. That said, sometimes there are anglers ( and undoubtedly hikers and others) who get so wrapped up in their own little world ( or hobbies) that they forget that this national treasure isn’t protected just for them! The National Parks belong, supposedly, to all Americans. Not just to anglers; not just to hikers and certainly not just to fly fishermen.

Do I enjoy hearing a group of 45 Harley’s blow by me while I’m fishing near the road? Well, no. Even though I am myself a motorcyclist, I’m not fond of crusiers – although I have nothing against them. The sound from 30 or 40 Harley’s lasts maybe 30 seconds as the blow by at their incredibly boring speeds of 25-45 mph. However, when you get enough of them in the Park – like on a holiday weekend or a pretty day in spring – you can relive those joyous moments many times during the day.

Do I think it makes my day in the Park less enjoyable? Maybe. A little. Do I enjoy smelling the exhaust? No. But then, neither do I enjoy smelling the exhaust and brake dust from hot brakes on cars, either.

Do I think that fishing should be banned in the Park? I don’t know….do you think I should? Do you think a guy trying to ride his Harley through the Park might be distracted by the bright flashy yellow of a roll cast to his right or left? Do you think the horseback riders might be upset because every 500 yards of trail they have to slow their horses to let a fisherman pass by? Do you think the hikers enjoy seeing the litter of discarded fishing line hanging from stream-side trees?

Of course, no one is talking about banning hiking or fishing in the Park. At least, not yet.

But people are talking about banning horses and loud motorcycles because apparently they can’t understand the simple fact that the National Park is not just for them. As far as I know there is no law that dictates to Americans the manner in which they may enjoy the Park. Do you want to drive through it in your RV? Would you like to hike the length of it on the A.T. ? Can I interest you in a bicycle ride on the roads around the Park? How about just walking?

Understanding that the National Parks aren’t there just for fisherman is a key step in understanding why dictating to other users the manner in which they may and may not enjoy the Park Lands is wrong. And how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Would it be a good thing, after we’ve outlawed the loud pipes of the Harley owner, to outlaw loud trucks? Then loud cars? But as it gets quieter, what if the regular cars are too loud? Should hikers or bird watchers then band together to outlaw the Ford Focus or Honda Civic for making unwanted noise? And those little tinny-sounding bells on bicycles? If everyone is riding bikes because they can’t drive their cars, are we going to outlaw the bells? If we do that, what about the wheel noise as they go wooooshing by? That’s not natural! Maybe we’ll just outlaw any vehicle and make it “walking only.” But when that happnes, woe to the fly-fisher whose heavy boots will cause alarm among the most eco-conscience among us. Fly Fishing boots will have to go and we’ll all need to wear wading slippers made of cotton and lace.

Ok,  yes – yes – that’s absurd, but I hope it makes you think. And I hope it makes you step back out of your own world, whatever that world may be – fishing, hiking, hunting, camping, biking, 4-wheeling, and makes you realize that whatever you do in the great outdoors, you are not the sole possesor of our collective natural areas. And no one group should ever be able to dictate to another group the exact manner in which they are allowed to enjoy THEIR National Park, National Forest, or other public lands. And especially for the minor inconvenience of “hearing” another group as they travel through those lands. Get over it, you’re not in the Alaskan wilderness when you’re in a National Park and you don’t have the right to end someone else’s enjoyment of the Parks any more than they have the right to do the same to you.

It’s funny…..you never hear of a Horse Riding Club wanting to ban bird watchers or trout anglers…

Maybe their not as selfish as anglers? You tell me…

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9 responses

7 02 2011
The Functioning Fishaholics

Nice point here. Everyone always points the finger at the other guy.

Of course, I think horse owners should have to clean up their poo. I mean most parks/people get uptight about dog poo but some how if an animal 1000x bigger poos it’s ok.

Ahh nothing like talkin poo at 7:16am…

7 02 2011
Owl Jones

While that’s a nice idea, I don’t think it’s practical to ask them to do that. And besides – there’s plenty of elk, bear and deer “poo” along the same trails that the horses use. And the horse trails are a very small percentage of Park trails. They do coincide with hiking trails, but the use of horses is very limited when you look at the total trail miles where hiking is allowed. ( by the way, I’m neither a horse owner/rider nor a birdwatcher. 🙂 LOL )

7 02 2011
Jay

Interesting thoughts. Has there been an increase in equestrian activity lately? I would only have issue if the amount of horse feces was starting to turn the rivers into sewage streams. I know in some places horses do wear bags to catch the crap. I would have to say of all of the park uses, bird watchers would probably be the least intrusive on others. It’s everybody’s park, and as long as they keep automobiles on the roads (no off-roading like in National Forests) there really isn’t much to complain about.

7 02 2011
Joe

Nicely done Owl.

I think a lot of it has to do with being penned up inside for the past few months – it seems that the levels of stupidity reach an all-time high just before Spring breaks and lets everyone get outside.

7 02 2011
TippinTaco

The parks are for everyone. And honestly most off roaders use roads ALREADY created by Forestry services to navigate the mountains in case of fires or accidents. I think in general every group loves pointing a finger at another group because they can. Some of them don’t want to take any more responsibility for their actions as the next group so they all stand in a circle and point in the other direction. I for one have no issues sharing the park with others as long as they respect it the way it should be respected, stay on trails, obey fishing regulations, keep horses on horse trails, pick up trash after themselves, don’t interfere with wildlife, and don’t deface monuments or artifacts that may still be in the open.

You know they had issues like this with skate boarders all over the United States using private property as ramps and obstacles. The skaters asked for their place to skate so they wouldn’t hurt anyone ro destroy any property. They were given parks in some areas and instantly the calls to local PD’s were lower because they had places to go.

The National and State parks are for EVERYONE to enjoy and use. The DNR and Gov needs to actually stop making false promises to these different groups because all it does is fuel the flames and creates issues. A lot of off-roading trails existed WAAAYY before the parks did, but because the state confiscated private property to make these parks, they end up stepping on toes of those who used the area.

Anderson Creek Trail System was built for 4×4’s. It was designed for them to use as a paid recreation. Local chapters of 4wheel drive owners got together and helped maintain these trails, and helped rebuild structures and retaining walls, it wasn’t 4-5 weeks after doing so, the DNR shut it down, thanking all of those who donated time and effort in cleaning up the trail but ONE MAN had decided that they no longer wanted 4×4’s on the trail.

No matter our use for these waters and parks, we should all come together as one to help take care of it, clean it, maintain it, and ensure that they will be around long enough for kids of our kids will be able to enjoy the same creeks and trails that we do.

I personally help maintain 75 miles of the GA Appalachian Trail from Blood Mtn to NC state line. Once a month I donate time to help clean the trail that thousands have hiked every year. My question is: How do you give back to the land that gives you streams to fish, trails to hike and memories to cherish?

7 02 2011
Mark

Picking up after themselves is the biggest thing for me. I’ve turned a few fishing days into river cleanup time on more than one occasion. I encourage everybody to try to pick up a piece of trash or two.

The idea of perfect solitude sounds nice, but there’s always going to be something going on on public land. Solitude can still be found, but a plane or helicopter will fly over sooner or later if nothing else. Unless we ban air travel too. 😉

8 02 2011
Bumbling Bushman

Thanks for making me think a little harder before I go casting aspersions. I doubt I’ll ever quit cussin em, but then again, I cuss mosquitoes too.

9 02 2011
JM

Great article Owl!

13 02 2011
LB @ BulletsandBiscuits

Pretty interesting article you wrote….it makes me happy to see you nudge people to think outside their boxes and of others. You see…I am from Delaware and we don’t have a national park. Yup, we are the only state to NOT have a national park so we visit ALOT of others because we don’t have one to enjoy at home.

So thanks for making people aware to not take for granted what is there provided to them….especially when others don’t have the same.

But really….at the end of the day, we can’t make everybody happy

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