National parks offer free weekends

Tess Vigeland Jun 19, 2009
A couple relaxes at Yosemite National Park. Uros Ravbar

National parks offer free weekends

Tess Vigeland Jun 19, 2009
A couple relaxes at Yosemite National Park. Uros Ravbar


TESS VIGELAND: If you’re looking to get out of town this weekend without spending a lot of money, Look no further than the National Park Service. This weekend, more than 100 parks around the country are free. You can see the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, or Glacier National Park without plunking down the usual 25 bucks per car.

Earlier this week I called Park Ranger Kari Cobb to talk about what they’re expecting at her site, Yosemite.

Kari Cobb: Typically on a regular weekend, we see anywhere between 7,000 and 10,000 cars coming in. On a holiday weekend, we can see up to 25,000. And we’re kind of expecting that same amount of cars coming in for this free weekend.
And up in my home state of Oregon, Ranger Dylan Carey is waving cars into Crater Lake National Park this weekend looking for a crowd.

Vigeland: That is a lot of cars for Yosemite.

Cobb: It is.

Vigeland: How does the park prepare to have such an enormous influx of people. I would assume you would have to have everything from more rangers to more toilet paper.

Cobb: Exactly, yes. And we are keeping all that in mind. We do have traffic management. We also will have more state maintenance rangers that are going to be available to empty trashes, refill toilet paper. We’re going to have more rangers out there having visitor contact, so if there is an issue, it won’t be too hard to find a ranger.

Vigeland: You know, it certainly doesn’t sound like Yosemite needs this business, if it’s full most weekends anyways. So what is the goal of these free weekends at the national parks?

Cobb: Well, you’re exactly right. Yosemite doesn’t need the increase in visitors. But those visitors that are coming to the park are going to travel through our gateway communities. Some of them will stay in those hotels, some of them will stop and have coffee or lunch, or even just visit the local store and buy gifts and things like that. And that’s going to stimulate our gateway communities.

Vigeland: Kari Cobb is a park ranger at Yosemite National Park, here in California. I have to tell you, you should not be surprised if you see me up there on one of these free weekends. It’s just beautiful. Thank you so much.

Cobb: You’re welcome.

Vigeland: And up in my home state of Oregon, ranger Dylan Carey is waving cars into Crater Lake National Park this weekend looking for a crowd.

Dylan Carey: Hopefully, a lot of people will come out. Last year, we had a slight decrease in numbers with the price of gas. Hopefully with that going down, people will just come out to the park to see one of their greatest natural resources.

Vigeland: Are you finding that, because of the economy, people are perhaps changing their plans from instead of going to a resort somewhere, they are coming somewhere like Crater Lake?

Carey: I think that people are traveling closer to home. So we’re getting more people from Oregon and people are changing their plans probably from flying places to driving or something like that.

Vigeland: And Crater Lake is a great place to drive. I know you can drive all along the rim there. It’s beautiful.

Carey: Exactly. And the drive to Crater Lake, you know this part of southern Oregon, is a gorgeous place.

Vigeland: How did you get into this ranger job?

Carey: Actually, both parents are in the park service. That’s actually how they met. They met in Florida and now they’re currently in Arizona in Chiricahua National Monument.

Vigeland: Do you have any specific memories of family vacations at the parks where your folks were working?

Carey: Definitely. I worked in Canaveral, my dad used to take me out on turtle watches all the time. We’d go out, watch the turtles lay their eggs out on the beaches.

Vigeland: Alright, well thanks Dylan.

Carey: OK, have a good day.

We’ll check back in with Kari and Dylan next weekend to see how things went.

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