Against Director's Orders and NPS policies

Other excerpts from NPS policies contradict current Hurricane Ridge management, and support many of the suggested solutions to increased winter access.  NPS policy:

·         Clarifies that winter recreation is an appropriate use within Parks in general and Olympic in particular due to the mention of winter use in the founding documents and inclusion of Deer Park, and current GMP.  8.1.1, 8.2.2

·         Further emphasizes that park managers must provide visitors from all walks of life the opportunity for meaningful educational and recreational experiences-experiences that inspire and lead to visitor enjoyment and a greater sense of resource stewardship. (Introduction)

·         Establishes recreation as a park value that should not be impaired without careful consideration. 1.4.4, 1.4.6.  Four days a week road closure impairs that value.

·         Defines an unacceptable impact as one that diminishes opportunities for current or future generations to enjoy, learn about, or be inspired by park resources or values; and unreasonably interferes with an appropriate use.

·         Ensures that there are adequate funds and staff to conserve and protect the resources (including recreation) for which parks are responsible and provide for the enjoyment of the same.

·         The Park has an obligation to support the federal policy of actively promoting the health and personal fitness of the general public. 1.5

Restrictions on appropriate uses should be minimal:

·         Restrictions placed on recreational uses that have otherwise been found to be appropriate will be limited to the minimum necessary to protect park resources and values, and promote visitor safety and enjoyment. Any restriction of appropriate recreational use will be limited to what is necessary to protect park resources and values, to promote visitor safety and enjoyment, or to meet park management needs.  8.2.2

·         Any closures or restrictions-other than those imposed by law-must be consistent with applicable laws, regulations, and policies, and require a written determination by the superintendent that such measures are needed to protect public health and safety; prevent unacceptable impacts to park resources or values.

·         Any restrictions imposed will be fully explained to visitors and the public.  Visitors will be given appropriate information on how to keep adverse impacts to a minimum and how to enjoy the safe and lawful use of the parks.

Arbitrarily closing 4 days a week regardless of weather does not meet the standard of closing for visitor safety.  Last year there were over 60 days that the road was closed during the 7 month winter period despite clear roads and no drifting or avalanche threat.

·         Park visitors must assume a substantial degree of risk and responsibility for their own safety when visiting areas that are managed and maintained as natural, cultural, or recreational environments. 8.2.5

·         NPS superintendents will use their discretion to determine the level of program resources and the types of programs needed to manage visitor risk within their park unit.  This will depend on the resources, values, park-specific mission, the feasibility of various program levels, activities offered at the park, the nature of the park visits, the degree of risks to visitors at the park, and the history of visitor injury in the park.   DO 50C 4.1

·         The Service will work cooperatively with other federal, tribal, state, and local agencies; organizations, and individuals to carry out the responsibility to provide a safe and healthful environment. 8.2.5

Off Peak use should be encouraged to alleviate congestion, which is a problem at Hurricane:

·         Encourage visitor use of lesser-known parks and underutilized areas; use during non-peak seasons, days of the week, and times of the day; and visitation to related sites beyond park boundaries, as appropriate, to enhance overall visitor experiences and protection of resources. Director’s Order #17 4.7

Partnerships with local entities are strongly encouraged:

·         Reinforces cooperation with federal, state, local and tribal governments, as well as individuals and organizations, to provide visitor enjoyment, and address mutual interests in the quality of life for community residents. 1.10

·         In the spirit of partnership, the Service will also seek opportunities for cooperative management agreements with state or local agencies that will allow for more effective and efficient management of the parks. 1.10

The reasons given for the limited Hurricane Ridge schedule are “Operational and staffing requirements, along with unpredictable severe weather conditions, make a long-term commitment to consistently opening the road for seven day a week winter access infeasible.” The obvious follow up of how much money does it take, and how safe does it need to be has never been answered, or to my knowledge even addressed internally, let alone fully explained to visitors and the public. Finding solutions to funding or safety has not been pursued. 

Finally, you stated to the City Council that the previous superintendent reduced access in an attempt to increase consistency.  Has that been successful?  Anecdotal evidence suggests that in fact the opposite is true; the road has been less likely to open on time for the weekend scheduled openings because of snow accumulated during the week.  Furthermore, 1- it is difficult to argue that consistently closed is a better alternative to inconsistently opening; 2- severe weather is always inconsistent; 3- The road crew schedule has been 4x10 since before the current Friday to Sunday opening schedule.

To summarize, the community has consistently expressed a desire for increased winter access to Hurricane Ridge.  A number of solutions have been proposed, with a range of costs, including cooperation with local and state governments.  A meaningful dialogue with interested stakeholders would be helpful.

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