Saturday, September 9, 2006

Privatization of Public Space

As a cautionary measure, the Olympic National Park requires all campers on the beach to store food in bear cans to prevent bears and racoons from destroying your camp and lovely camp experience. Since most visitors rarely have bear cans handy on them, the Park usually provides them free of charge.

Not any more!

When Tonkhero went to retrieve a bear can from the office, Ranger Ian asked him for a $3 donation. Tonk said no, as he already paid a $25 entrance fee to enter the grounds (it used to be free) and a $9 fee to camp (it used to be free). But Ranger Ian continued to press Tonk for the three bucks. Ranger Ian became increasingly angry as he argued that the Park employees are basically volunteers, making $10 a day or something piddling like that. He argued that it was these "volunteers" that kept the bathrooms clean, and the area habitable for campers like us. Tonk, who was also getting increasingly angry, responded that he already paid the necessary fees, and also his federal taxes, and that it was the federal government who has failed to allocate tax money for the rangers' services and, instead, squandered the money to construct new roads accessible for RVs, who consequently contribute more waste to the Park versus backpackers like us who barely make a dent on the campground. Tonk continued, why don't you ask RV campers for an additional fee? This is a gradual attempt to have visitors accustomed to paying fees for public spaces so when private companies take over and make the Park into Disneyland, we won't have a problem paying. Why don't you lobby your representatives in Congress to pay you a fair salary and keep public land public?

Please keep in mind I was not privy to this conversation. I was sitting in the parking lot eating potato chips and enjoying the sun. This was told to me by Tonk, when he returned in a huff.

We learned a couple of days later, Tonk's name now appears on a blacklist with the Park, along with a comment that says, "Camper refuses to pay fee for bear can."

At first I didn't see the big deal... until I was in the security line at the Seattle-Tacoma Airport on route home to LA. I noticed a special "express line" near the security line entrance that was also managed by federal TSA employees. The sign above the express line stated that only the following persons were permitted to use this line:
  • people with no carry-on bags
  • people with disabilities
  • on-duty employees (although I don't quite understand why on-duty employees would need to use this express line)
  • Alaska Air Members
  • American Airlines Advantage Members
What the fuck?

Needless to say, I was very perturbed. Although, I must say, the Sea-Tac Airport is one of the cleanest airports I have ever been to. The airport stores are very upscale and the women's bathrooms have toliet seat covers. Plus, check out the public art at Sea-Tac:
Photo by DYY


Caralyn said...

wow, thats a hell of a fee to enter a park...where was this park??? i live in the greater seattle area, and yes our airport is nice. but we remodeled a few years back, it was offensive before, much graffiti, not very clean, so thanks for the compliment on our airport since our tax dollars are still paying for the renovations!! lol
ah, just scrolled back, the olympic national park, gees, what a load of crap! have you considered calling the local news teams and letting them know just how much moolah you are being asked to put out??? call the schrammie ..... lolol
i read your blog all the time, i even have had you on my blogroll for sometime, but never have commented, thanks for the great reading material!!! :)

DYY said...

Caralyn, thank you so much... for the kinds words and your concerns about keeping public spaces public. I will ask Tonk for suggestions to what to do. I'm new to the whole nature thing, but often feel bothered when public stadiums, parks, etc., are owned by private companies. Perhaps we can together create a collective action?

I'm honored to be on your blogroll.

Btw, OVERBOARD is one of my favorite movies too! I have seen it so many times, but many parts of it still make me laugh!