clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Our national parks are about waterfalls and dunes, not food trucks and Amazon deliveries

Just as the Indiana Dunes finally has achieved national park status, Washington insiders are trying to cash in on the natural treasure and other parks, too.

An overall view of the sand dunes at Mt. Baldy at the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore in Michigan City, Indiana.
The Indiana Dunes, formerly designated a national lakeshore, became a national park in February.
Guy Rhodes/For Sun-Times Media

Just as the Indiana Dunes finally has achieved national park status, Washington insiders are trying to cash in on all the parks by commercializing them to the max.

Their noxious notions include opening the parks to food trucks, expanded WiFi, mobile camp stores and even Amazon deliveries to campsites.

Please make this wretched scheme go away.

When we go to the Indiana Dunes, we want peaceful windswept shores and tranquil forest paths, not a tailgate party. When we go to Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina, we want the spray of a waterfall and a quiet campfire.

We get all the crowding and clamor we want — or can stand — in our daily lives.

Evidently, the people on the Trump administration’s Outdoor Recreation Advisory Committee disagree. Rather than unspoiled wilderness, they favor something akin to Navy Pier.

In a new proposal, the committee, which is a part of the Department of the Interior, argues for making way for those food trucks, Amazon deliveries and other amenities more appropriate to daily city life.

Nobody should be surprised.

The committee has been lambasted since it was formed early last year, by former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, as nothing but a shill for commercial interests. The committee largely is made up of representatives from the tourism, manufacturing, hospitality and recreation industries.

Last year, the Washington Post obtained documents showing that private industry pushed for the creation of the committee for the sole purpose of getting a foothold in the parks.

The committee’s priorities fit like a glove with those of the Trump administration and new Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, who in September gave the go-ahead to electric-powered bicycles on formerly quiet nature trails.

This kind of commercialization — to the fattest wallet goes the spoils — could price some Americans right out of the parks. To jack up revenue, for example, the committee has proposed eliminating senior discounts during the peak summer camping season.

Our national parks, which have suffered big budget cuts, attract huge numbers of visitors every year. It’s hard to buy the committee’s argument that the parks are “underused” — one of Bernhardt’s favorite words — when there were 318 million visits last year and a record-high 330,882,751 visits the year before.

“I have a room all to myself,” Henry David Thoreau once wrote. “It is nature.”

Leave the national parks alone.

Chicago Sun-Times. SOURCE: National Park Service
Chicago Sun-Times. SOURCE: National Park Service

Send letters to