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How happy and sad at the same time

My wife and I are finishing a two week vacation in California and Washington State.  We reconnected with a bunch of friends in the Bay Area.  And on Friday, July 13th (not the full moon), my oldest son, Lucas, defended with gusto his Ph.D. thesis in agriculture at the Washington State University, and became Director of Thurston County Extension and Small Farms Faculty.  We are so proud of him!

People of all walks of life really like Lucas.  This is clear from the comments we overheard and a recent article about him.  The young Dr. Lucas will need all the good will of many to introduce agriculture to the legislators and public in the fast-growing Thurston County, and get funding for the numerous projects he wants to carry out.  Helping young farmers to grow organic crops and open new markets to them by creating necessary infrastructure will not be easy. Public funding for agriculture is very scarce these days, unless you are a 67 years old corn grower in Iowa, making millions regardless of the federal subsidies that rain on you each year.

I wish my son all the good luck I can will for him. His life of public service and creating new jobs in Thurston County will be rough at a time of cutbacks and rollbacks of all government programs.  It is my outdated opinion that a civilized country needs a public sphere, but who would listen today to such socialistic statements.  "Off with government's collective head," shout the loudest and most morally outraged folks who no longer carry heads on their shoulders.

Which brings me to the sad part of my report. Both Washington State and California are blessed with the breath-taking beauty of their mountains and coasts. This beauty was recognized a long time ago. For example, President Theodore Roosevelt created Mount Olympus National Monument in 1909 and after Congress made it a National Park, President Franklin Roosevelt signed the legislation on June 29, 1938. In 1976, Olympic National Park became an International Biosphere Reserve, and in 1981 it was designated a World Heritage Site. In 1988, Congress designated 95 percent of the park as the Olympic Wilderness. President Theodore Roosevelt was a young Republican and his fifth cousin, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, a middle-age Democrat.
The Hurricane Ridge in the Olympic Mountain Park in Washington State. 
We hiked there and were enchanted by the Park's stunning beauty.
We drove from Olympia around the Olympic peninsula and covered 420 miles in two days traveling around the park, and hiking in it occasionally. OK, so the Olympic Park needs to have its roads maintained, the Visitor Centers staffed, and it needs a few rangers here and there to maintain control and safety. And, no, I do not want to carry a concealed weapon to make up for the lack of rangers.

Unfortunately, today Congress is so busy transferring our taxes to its highest paying benefactors that far too little money is left to fund National Parks in this beautiful country of ours. Thus, to enter the Olympic Park, I paid $15 for a one-week pass. (I remind you that for most people this pass buys a single-day entry.) Fifteen dollars may not be much for me or fat cats paying off the Congressmen and Senators, but it is an extra financial burden for most American families. Therefore, we have just managed to cut off the only chance many of the less fortunate Americans have to connect with nature in the parts of their own country that were set aside for this very purpose by their own forefathers. What a national disgrace! What a proof of corruption and ineptitude of the current representatives of the people ( I am just kiddin'; these individuals surely do not represent me, my family, and dozens of my friends).

And it gets worse. On the way to the Olympic National Park and on its outskirts, one is tempted to stop at the beautiful beaches. The prettiest ones are state parks. It now costs $10 per entry into a state park in Washington. Alternatively, one can spend $30 for a one-year pass, which is what we did. There are studies that show that even an $1-2 fee prevents many of the poorer people from visiting the most beautiful parts of their states. And, no, Jesus would not approve of these fees.

Of course, the situation is much worse in the nearly bankrupt California. (Please check out this last link pointed out to me by a UT student.) Many of the state parks are still free, but show severe neglect and disrepair. Between San Francisco and Santa Cruz, we have seen several parks with parking lots overgrown by weeds that push through cracks in the pavement. Many of the restroom buildings are abandoned and locked with padlocks and chains. In California one can see the future of public space in the U.S.: decrepit and abandoned through government ineptitude and craziness of the confused and angry electorate.
Click on the image to see the inscription. The gorgeous Volunteer Park in Seattle was designed and planted by veterans of the Spanish War around the year 1900.  The Palm House with a unique orchid collection started serving public in 1910.  Today, half of the Palm House is out of order and only small donations from the public seem to be used to renovate it.

Even in its current decrepit state, the Volunteer Park Palm House in Seattle touches our souls with many beautiful exotic plants.
In 1910, when Theodore Roosevelt was president, the smallest urban place had 2,500 people. "Urban" was defined as including all territory, persons, and housing units within an incorporated area that met the population threshold. The 1920 census marked the first time in which over 50 percent of the U.S. population was defined as urban. Today, rural America accounts for just 16 percent of the nation's whole, an all-time low. Urban people need to see nature to understand that milk and bread do not come from Safeway, and see nature's fragility.  Shame on all of us!

P.S. The disappearing parks in California: Read here.  The mismanagement of California parks: Read here.


  1. Fees of some sort have existed for almost a century...

    1. Yes, there were nominal fees for camping, and back-country hiking, but not for merely entering parks, especially state parks. I have hiked, camped, and entered state and national parks regularly over the last 30 years, and I have not seen fees this high. In some state parks in California, the fee to stay one day on the beach is $8. Too high for most people. And then there is deferred maintenance and sheer neglect.

  2. It's also hard for parks to compete with disney world for those who could very well afford the fees. The princessification and piratification of young girls and boys makes ordinary nature seem boring to them. Not to mention older boys and girls who couldn't look up from their iphones long enough to catch a gander at old faithful even if they were there. When I was there last summer everyone around me was watching it through some kind of compter screen. It's right there in front of you! Why are you watching it through a camera?!

    1. My son is an Eagle Scout, who spent many, many weeks camping and hiking in the wilderness. I was with him most of the time, and sometimes represented the family when he could not make it to a hike.

      As a family - and individually - we have never been to a Disneyland. And we survived...


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