Who is best equipped to address this?

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Posted by Ballpark Frank ( on 11:27:21 08/15/17

In Reply to: Yellowstone Picnic Area posted by Marge


As someone who has used this resource numerous times over the years, for hiking, picnicking, and even just a quick stop to use the privy, I can understand your frustration. There was a time, years ago, when this area did not see as much day hiking use as it does now. I would be surprised if many Specimen Ridge hikers are using the picnic area for parking, not when there is spacious parking lot further down the road, which reduces the superfluous mileage, if you are doing the end to end Specimen Ridge hike. My strong suspicion is that the majority, if not all, of the day hikers using the Yellowstone River Picnic Area parking spots are either doing an "out and back" trip along the canyon rim or doing the loop, going upriver along the canyon rim, and then circling back on the return trail.

I attribute the surge in parking spot occupancy by hikers to the myriad factors that have increased use of that trail, which include the nationwide surge in popularity of hiking, the increase in visitation to our national parks, the publication of progressively more hiking guides and other books that suggest this trail to potential hikers, and the influence of social media. Part of the problem is that you have numerous hikers who (1) may not be picknickers, thus somewhat ignorant of the problem posed by their behavior; and (2) see lots of open parking spots when they arrive. We can complain to each other about the problem, wish people would be more considerate, and try to socialize the issue on social media, but I believe the entity with the responsibility for resolving this problem is the National Park Service. I saw them construct a new parking lot due to the exact problem you are addressing, when chronic crowding of the Cascade Lake Picnic Area by backpackers and day hikers froze picknickers out. In some ways, the problem in this area was even worse than at the Yellowstone River Picnic Area, because (1) the trail accessed feeds a network of backcountry camp sites (Chain of Lakes and Observation Peak), and (2) the day hikes from that trailhead tend to be longer in miles and time expended. I thought the new parking lot might resolve the problem, but I have been surprised to find that when I am driving southbound from Dunraven Pass, approaching the picnic area, I see a sign identifying the picnic area as the Cascade Lake trailhead. I do not remember seeing that sign 5 years ago, before my relocation to Alaska, but it is there now.

There is nothing wrong with your surfacing this issue in this medium or any other appropriate medium. I just think the NPS has more power than any of us individuals to address the issue. It would be interesting to see what kind of response you would get if you submitted your complaint to the superintendent's office. The NPS actually has landscape architects, people trained and experienced in the science of accommodating visitor needs, in terms of parking and picnicking. I have sensed a shrinking commitment on the part of the NPS toward picknickers over time. We have seen a steady decrease in the acceptance or accommodation of barbecue grills or fire pits. That might have been driven by fire risk concerns, but I also see items of deferred maintenance rampant in the picnic areas, just like we see in other visitor use resources throughout the park. Scarce dollars are expended elsewhere. The picnic crowd appears to be a shrinking lobby.


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