Open Desert

Looking over Lost Horse Mine Trail

Joshua Tree – (Mostly) Open

Joshua Tree was not always a national park. Once upon a time, it was a little-traveled segment of the desert used as a gathering ground for Los Angeles decorative plants.
Then Minerva Hoyt stepped in. Thanks to her efforts, 825,000 acres (around 1300 square miles) were set aside as a monument. Over time, the size of that area changed; and in 1994, the park itself became a National Park (and not just a monument).
The latest park shape and size is meant to include whole ecological units, such as mountain ranges with distinct inhabitants.

None of which has done anything to affect the yearly pass burning a nearly two-month hole in my pocket.

Quick Links
Joshua Tree Instagram
History of the Park via the National Park Service – Here
History of Lost Horse Mine via NPS – Here

Perfect Time To Go

I don’t know how long the weather and the traffic will hold, so now’s the moment.
Maybe not today on Memorial day, but the Tuesday after should be better.

The traffic was light for my whole drive up, and the road was fairly clear of rocks outside the city.
People were finally manning the gates to the park too. You have to buy your tickets ahead of time, at least as far as the NPS website indicated.

The weather was amazing, especially for being so deep in the desert. 80F or so most of the day, though the clear sky ended up burning the only part I’d left uncovered – my hands.

Lost Horse Mine

Joshua Tree likely has more than a few distinct ecological areas, but this trip really only took me to two: The flat, rocky scrublands on the western side, then on up to the hilly, dirt-mound mountains.
The bulk of the trip was taken up by the Lost Horse Mine trail.

The parking lot is a little small, and the road in is even tighter. That’s okay, though. We all seemed to fit, and I didn’t see anyone waiting for someone to move out. That would have been pretty hectic on the narrow dirt road.

Once upon a time, this was the site of some pretty illustrious gold mining. Now it’s the site of some monumental (buried) PVC tunnels to prevent further tunnel collapse.

This is secretly just a photo of the information board at the entrance to the trail, not a digital map. The park has really good boards.

Private Public Parks?

While it was nice to enjoy all of this, it’s also come to my attention that Joshua Tree may not always be a national park. Prior to this whole debacle, the national park service was more than a few billion in debt. Now, the parks are likely in even worse financial straits. State parks have often had one issue or another as well, and states have had a plethora of responses to the mounting debt and disrepair.

Sometimes the various governing parties decide it’s best to hand off some responsibility to private industry.
What will this steadily growing movement do for us, the park goers?

We’re being asked to come in and provide the capital to refurbish the campgrounds or provide amenities that governments can’t really appropriate. We like the parks; we’re not trying to turn them into McDonald’s or used car lots. It’s easy to get these win-wins.

Warren Meyer of RRM

Parks are not a tangible benefit for the state or the country, at least usually. A park may be a line item on a budget that’s constantly in the red, but it’s green in my heart (and in my puns).

I’m not sure how we can prevent the dangerous downward spiral of – underfund parks, parks go into poor condition, state will not pay to refurbish park, state hands park off to private interests, state pats own back for saving a few million while ‘revitalizing’ the park and boosting private industry.
Whoever ends up being steward of the land needs to be chosen by the people using that land, not by the people that will use that portion of the budget.

I’m sure if you look hard enough, you’ll find examples in your own state where privatization has led to issues. And then there’s people like the Mojave Desert Land Trust that buy up land and cede it to public control. It’s just that kind of playing-nicely-by-the-books that these parks may need if we the public are to continue to benefit from them.

There are times when privatization works. There are times that it doesn’t. The only problem with businesses in the national (or state) park arena is that failure may ruin an ecology for a very long time. We can’t afford many failures if that’s the case.

Follow the Debate
An article from National Geographic providing overview of the issue.
A similar look from Pew Trusts, with examples on both sides
A breakdown of how NPS allocates fees

I hope you enjoy some of the interesting things there are to see out there! Get pumped up to take a trip, and remember to put sunscreen on your hands. They stay in the open more than every part but the top of your head.

Don’t forget to get ready for National Trails Day!
Coming June 6th – the First Saturday in June.
Find out more here.

2 thoughts on “Open Desert

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: