Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Tourism to Blue Ridge Parkway creates $782 Million in Economic Benefit

A new National Park Service (NPS) report shows that 12,877,369 visitors to the Blue Ridge Parkway in 2013 spent $782,926,000 in communities near the park. That spending supported 11,283 jobs in adjacent communities.

"Over the years, the Blue Ridge Parkway has experienced fluctuations in visitation. Regardless of these fluctuations, Parkway staff remain committed to the mission of the National Park Service and work every day with the same goal in mind – to protect and preserve the rich natural and cultural resources along the Parkway, and provide meaningful visitor experiences," said superintendent Mark Woods. "We also recognize the Parkway's presence in the region provides many opportunities for surrounding communities as well, and we are happy to have so many communities in our region reporting strong tourism spending over all."

Tourism officials across the Parkway region in North Carolina and Virginia explain that the rise in popularity of outdoor recreation activities helps keep their tourism numbers robust. "Watauga County in western North Carolina's High Country saw a rise in occupancy tax revenue over last year," said Wright Tilley, Executive Director of Boone & Watauga County Tourism Development Authorities. "We know our visitors are looking for hiking experiences while in our area and the Parkway is the most popular starting point for hiking in our area."

Virginia tourism officials share similar feedback. "Outdoor recreation experiences on and off the Parkway are the mainstay of tourism in the Roanoke Valley, offered . "The Parkway provides a perfect backdrop to a variety of experiences, including several new special events in our area that celebrate the outdoors and provide new and creative economic opportunities for our community." Parkway visitation to date for 2014 shows a five percent rise in visitation, and looking ahead to the fall tourism season, Parkway and local tourism officials are confident that the cooperative nature of the relationship between the park and adjacent communities will serve the region well.

The National Park Service's peer-reviewed visitor spending analysis was conducted by U.S. Geological Survey economists Catherine Cullinane Thomas and Christopher Huber and Lynne Koontz for the National Park Service. The report shows $14.6 billion of direct spending by 273.6 million park visitors in communities within 60 miles of a national park. This spending supported more than 237,000 jobs nationally, with more than 197,000 jobs found in these gateway communities, and had a cumulative benefit to the U.S. economy of $26.5 billion.

According to the 2013 economic analysis, most visitor spending was for lodging (30.3%) followed by food and beverages (27.3%), gas and oil (12.1%), admissions and fees (10.3%) and souvenirs and other expenses (10%). The largest jobs categories supported by visitor spending were restaurants and bars (50,000 jobs) and lodging (38,000 jobs).

To download the report, please click here. The report includes information for visitor spending at individual parks and by state.



Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Man convicted of operating illegal hiking guide service in Grand Canyon

Brazen? Or just brazenly stupid?

The NPS Morning Report is reporting that on October 19, 2013, rangers in the backcountry of Grand Canyon National Park became suspicious of the large number of hikers attempting to hike from the North Rim to the South Rim in a single day (known as a “Rim to Rim” hike). The hikers claimed to be hiking only with a small number of friends and not as part of a large group, but many appeared to be avoiding contact with rangers and they all described similar travel arrangements.

Subsequent investigations revealed that Scott Beck of Phoenix, Arizona, had chartered five buses to transport nearly 300 people to Grand Canyon National Park to hike across the canyon. Beck advertised the hike as the “23rd Annual” trip of a similar nature and charged each participant a set fee. Investigations also revealed that he had specifically instructed each hiker, both verbally and in a written itinerary, to tell rangers that they were “not with a group of 300,” that they were with a small group and had been transported by car or van.

The large number of hikers in the canyon that day caused impacts to vegetation and created long lines at the Phantom Ranch canteen and restroom facilities. The Phantom wastewater treatment operator reported that the sewage treatment plant was operating at capacity. Rangers took complaints from hikers who complained about congestion on the trails. Several minor medicals and search and rescue operations were also attributed to Beck’s group.

During interviews, Beck claimed that his trip was “organized” but not commercial, and that he had not profited. In January 2013, rangers served a search warrant on an online event registration website that Beck had used to solicit trip participants and collect fees. The evidence gathered from the search warrant was used to develop probable cause to charge Beck with engaging in an illegal business operation (36 CFR 5.3) and making false statements (18 USC 1001(a)(2)). Rangers estimated that Beck’s gross income for this event was over $47,000, and he profited by approximately $9,500.

On June 10th, Beck was convicted on one count of engaging in business operations without obtaining a permit in violation of 36 CFR 5.3. Pursuant to a plea agreement, he was sentenced to a year of probation, during which time he is banned from Grand Canyon National Park and from conducting or advertising for any tours or guided trips on national park or national forest lands. He was also fined $500 and ordered to serve 50 hours of community service.

Beck has since formally notified all trip participants that he will no longer be conducting his annual trip, and has pledged to donate $2,000 to Grand Canyon National Park.

The investigation was led by rangers and conducted with the assistance of Investigative Services Branch special agents.



Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com

Monday, July 21, 2014

Gregory Bald, 2014

In case you weren't able to make it up to Gregory Bald last month to see the world-famous azaleas, the Great Smoky Mountains Association has published a short video highlighting some of the scenes from this year's spectacular show:





Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Rangers Save Three From Drowning in Chattahoochee River

According to Friday's NPS Morning Report, on the evening of July 6th, Rangers Paul Forward and Chris Calkins and Supervisory Ranger Sean Perchalski were patrolling Diving Rock, one of the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area’s busiest areas, when Forward spotted a man in the middle of the river who appeared to be in distress.

The man went under several times as two other visitors struggled to keep him afloat. He then began to pull both of them underwater.

Forward threw them a lifeguard rescue tube and a throw bag, but the people in the water couldn’t reach them. Perchalski then threw a life vest and a second throw bag, which they were able to grab and use to stay afloat. The rangers then pulled all three to shore.

The 22-year-old man who’d originally gotten into trouble was checked out by EMS, but declined further treatment at a medical facility. The other two were extremely fatigued but otherwise okay.

This area has been the scene of several drownings in the past few years by people who’ve tried unsuccessfully to swim across the river. The most recent was on June 9th, when a 24-year-old man drowned while swimming across the river at the same exact location. The river is approximately 175 feet across at this point.



Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Tourism to Great Smoky Mountains National Park creates $734 Million in Economic Benefit

A new National Park Service (NPS) report shows that 9,354,695 visitors to Great Smoky Mountains National Park in 2013 spent $734,086,600 in communities near the park. That spending supported 10,734 jobs in the local area.

“Great Smoky Mountains National Park remains the most visited national park in the nation and we are pleased to be the stewards of this national park that welcomes so many visitors from across the country and around the world,” said Acting Superintendent Cindy MacLeod. “The Smokies truly are ‘great’ in so many ways and we are thrilled that the park offers unique experiences that bring visitors back year after year.”

The 2013 economic benefit figures are slightly lower than the 2012 results which reported that visitors spent $741 million in local communities. The 16-day government shutdown in October 2013 accounted for most of the decline in park visitation and spending. The authors also cited inflation adjustments for differences between visitation and visitor spending, jobs supported, and overall effect on the U.S. economy.

The peer-reviewed visitor spending analysis was conducted by U.S. Geological Survey economists Catherine Cullinane Thomas and Christopher Huber and Lynne Koontz for the National Park Service. The report shows $14.6 billion of direct spending by 273.6 million park visitors in communities within 60 miles of a national park. This spending supported more than 237,000 jobs nationally, with more than 197,000 jobs found in these gateway communities, and had a cumulative benefit to the U.S. economy of $26.5 billion.

According to the 2013 economic analysis, nationally most visitor spending was for lodging (30.3%) followed by food and beverages (27.3%), gas and oil (12.1%), admissions and fees (10.3%) and souvenirs and other expenses (10%). The largest jobs categories supported by visitor spending were restaurants and bars (50,000 jobs) and lodging (38,000 jobs).

To download the report, please click here. The report includes information for visitor spending at individual parks and by state.



Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com

Friday, July 18, 2014

Altocumulus Lenticularus

A couple of weeks ago Kathy and I took a trip out to Rocky Mountain National Park. During our visit we took a hike up to Deer Mountain. As we got near the top I noticed an odd and fairly uncommon cloud in the sky. We stayed at the summit for roughly an hour, and all the while the cloud basically remained in the same general location, while seemingly holding the same general shape throughout much of that time period:


Since Kathy used to work for a local TV station, she sent a couple of photos to a friend of hers who used to be the Chief Meteorologist at the station, and asked him what we were seeing that day. Since Tom has recently started his own local weather blog, he published his reply to Kathy's questions on a recent post:
These are some of my favorites from when I was in grad school in Colorado. You only see them in mountainous areas. These are officially called altocumulus lenticularus. (higher altitude versions are called cirrocumulus lenticularus) More common names are “lens clouds” or “cap clouds.” Another common description is “standing wave clouds.” The “lens” or “cap” feature is very clear on these photos. The best example is the left side of the lower picture. Three good ones are on the top picture…one just to the left of the tall center tree…on the left edge of the photo and a small one of the right edge. The cause of these clouds is the barrier of the mountains. On days when the upper level winds are generally from the west AND there is just a little moisture on the air west of the Rockies (a pretty common experience, the air approaching the mountains between roughly 10,000 and 15,000 feet is forced to rise to get over the top of the mountain range which in Colorado is about 13,000 to 15,000 feet. This forced rising/cooling of the air condenses moisture only at the very top of the ridges, then fades away quickly as the air descends east of the mountain crest. This little bit of cloud formation gives the “lens” and/or “cap” nature of the clouds. The standing wave cloud gets its name from the observation that the clouds do not move. You can watch them for hours and they still look the same. In reality, the cloud is changing rapidly – constant supply of the rising and keeps building the cloud from the west while the sinking motions to the east evaporate parts of cloud trying to move off the mountain tops. So, the clouds “appear” to stand still.

On days when the conditions are almost perfect, in addition to the clouds standing on the mountain peaks, you may see as many 1-4 additional lines of “cap” clouds standing east of the hills out on to the plains. That’s even more spectacular!
Here's one more photo that I took right before we headed back down the mountain:





Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Tennessee State Parks Announce Opening of 56th State Park

Tennessee State Parks announced last week the newest addition to the parks system, Seven Islands State Birding Park. State and local officials attended the official opening of the 56th state park last Tuesday in Knoxville.

Seven Islands State Birding Park offers activities including observation, hiking and a small boat launch for canoes and kayaks. The property is adjacent to the French Broad River and aquatic and riparian habitats support an impressive diversity of wildlife species. Over 160 species of birds have been identified.

“I am excited to welcome Seven Islands State Birding Park to our Tennessee State Parks system,” Tennessee State Parks Deputy Commissioner Brock Hill said. “This park is a great addition and will offer wonderful viewing opportunities for birding enthusiasts and families alike.

Prior to becoming a state park, Seven Islands was a wildlife refuge that was managed by the Seven Islands Foundation and Knox County Parks and Recreation. The county transferred the 360-acre property to the state and Tennessee State Parks began management of the site on July 1, 2014.

For more information about Seven Islands State Birding Park, please click here.



Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com