When I moved to Fort Collins, CO in 1978, the population was around 59,000. Old Town was a mess of shuttered storefronts and a spattering of dicey dive bars. One could buy a nearby house for far less than a pittance. The city was considered by many Coloradoan’s to be a “cow town.” In fact the University had a bull farm within the city limits, so it wasn’t too far from the truth. At least there were no cattle drives down College Avenue.
Fast Forward to the present. Now the population stands at 162,000 and gaining. Old Town is now the cool place to see and be seen. Gone are the shuttered storefronts. Gourmet restaurants, groovy bars and boutique stores for people and pets complete the scene. My 1902, 1000 square foot home in Old Town would now fetch about half a million. I bought it for $72,000 in 1992. Fort Collins is making the “Best of...” lists cities drool to be on.
I’ve now been on an extended road trip in the National Parks, Monuments, Preserves and State Parks of America’s Southwest. I’m seeing a naturalized version of the Fort Collins Syndrome in wild places.
Joshua Tree National Park (which lacks the majesty of a Yosemite or Zion) is packed to the point where anarchy reins. I had squatters set up tents on my campsite without asking! Drunken revelers party on till 1:00 am. All these people for a park where the highlights are multiple piles of big rocks and funky shaped “trees.”
When I visited Joshua Tree starting in the late 90’s the place was devoid of people.
After Joshua Tree, I headed north and east to the Mohave National Preserve. Five years ago, I discovered the “Hole in the Wall” campground. A sanctuary set in a spartan desert landscape where Happy Campers made an effort to distance themselves from each other. I was more than OK with that. Peace and quiet prevailed.
This year the Hole in the Rock campground filled to capacity each night. Thankfully the clientele were still peaceful.
Last year, I camped and hiked in Snow Canyon State Park in Utah. It was a nice enough experience to warrant another visit. A few days ago, I phoned about getting a campsite. The Ranger laughed, “We are booked solid for the next few weeks!”
So...I found an RV Park in St. George, UT. The campground resembled a Walmart parking lot minus the store. In other words, it sucked. After a cruddy night of sleep, I drove up to Snow Canyon to hike.
The trails I had to my lonesome last season were NYC subway packed. I had to use my tried and true method of passing people. “Excuse me! Coming through! Hot soup! Hot soup!” It works.
“Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.” Yogi Berra
So Jeffy! What’s your point?
Our wild regions are being visited in record numbers. Places that once weren’t considered worthy of a look-see are now scoring visitors. In other words, the Wild Land equivalent of a “Cow Town”(the Fort Collins Syndrome) are now on people’s must-see lists.
It’s only going to get worse. In 2016, 430,000 brand new RV’s were sold in the US. Those buyers want to take them to pretty places other than a Walmart parking lot. This is the pressure of population growth.
Now my point: The Diminisher in Chief has eviscerated two of Utah’s National Monuments. Both Bear Ears (Obama) and Grand Staircase/Escalante (Clinton) have had their acreages vastly reduced. (Of course, the Courts will decide the final outcome).
America the Beautiful is coming under attack for the short sighted monetary gains of a few. Possible mines, logging camps and oil rigs would replace scenic and archaeological wonders. The resource extractors would scar the land. Waterways might get contaminated. (Google Uravan and Summittville, CO). Worse still, that will be so many acres of lost wandering available for future generations. The very idea is shameful.
Beauty may be skin deep, but it lasts a whole lot longer than a mining operation. Joni Mitchell summed it up this way. “You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.”
My advice? Let’s Drain the Cesspool in 2018 and 2020 to overturn these ADD land management schemes. Your grandkids would approve.
From stormy (not Daniels) Zion National Park,
PS. For further readers, please check out: (there’s pretty pictures too.)