Sunday, February 12, 2012

The sustainability comment

Glamor aside folks, we all know that Vegas is not the land of sustainability, responsibility and and green initiatives,  Red Rocks is no exception. The national park which is located on the north west outskirts of town consists of a 13 mile, one way paved road that takes visitors to a number of different pull outs.

It is not uncommon that I find myself snickering at  digi- cams that are being trolled out of windows while visitors try to capture the moment and the beauty of these painted rocks from  the confines of their (ever rolling) rental Escalades. But lets face it. Are the climbers in the park any better?

Each of the two times I have arrived in this place it has taken me at least a week to stop cringing. This time was unfortunately easy to adjust to, but last year, coming from smithrock and more recently Yosemite valley, I was shocked at how heavily I was expected to rely on my car for transportation.

Let me lay it out... The campground is located 5 minutes out of town and offers unpotable water and fire pits at each site. No recycling, no compost... not even in town unless you are tricky and very savvy. That is still 2 miles from the national park entrance, where visitors must, once begun, finish the 13 mile loop every time they enter. This seems ridiculous for sport climbers, seeing as the crags are all within the first 4 miles of the loop. Climbing and hiking days are book ended by a cruise through the park and back into camp every single time.

The road is also heavily utilized by bikers and runners but after speaking with many of the other climbers who have tried... biking into the park is both frightening and committing, as it is winding and hilly, " next time... Im totally bringing a wagon on the back of a bike" I proclaim proudly, disturbed by how those words seem to lack an echo. The bottom line is that is it irrational. biking 18 miles everyday as well as hiking 25mins-2hrs into climbs is completely ludicrus. So how can we change this?

Convenience as an issue.

Shower are located in town, within a 10 minute drive. Free internet is at the library which is 20 minutes away. Grocery stores are within 10 minutes as well... The campground itself does not offer showers, drinkable water nor affordable firewood. So what ends up happening, is every climber spends thier mornings making a detour for starbucks and then speeds into the park for their daily "scenic drive".

In Yosemite valley, we could take the shuttle or walk to many of the climbs. In smith rock we drove in and out maybe once a week for amenities.... In Red Rocks its hard to avoid a daily trip. The temptation just seems too much for most, including myself.

Now here is what I was waiting for... I did not want to complain about something before I saw some light at the end of the tunnel.

Last saturday I rose groggily from my wagon and tried fruitlessly to start my broken stove for the 10th morning in a row. Rubbing my eyes I wondered if i could make the swing into town for a starbucks and a visit to REI ( the USA's MEC equivalent) to feed the addiction and solve the issue. Just then a golfcart came rolling by with the newest camp host beeming out... " Free Coffee and bagels at the pay station!" he called.To be honest, I can't think of anything I would rather hear at 7am on a saturday.

Strolling down I started to recognize the scene. This is what Yosemite valley looks like every Sunday... Coffee with the rangers.

Filling my mug and pocketing a banana, I thanked the young man behind the table and asked him what prompted this glorious event. " We want to make sure we are maintaining a good relationship with the climbers" said the ranger. He was new to the position, only having been with the Red Rocks National Park for one year, but since his arrival he has been making it his duty to re constitute the dialogue with the parks most adamant and returning users. He is following the work of a man named ?Jed Bodsford? who worked with the parks from 2000-2008.

I didn't take long to get into the matters which concerned me, and the answers came from a positive and hopeful place.

Red Rocks is working towards having a shuttle system. Starting earlier than the park opens, which will hopefully appeal to a lot of pre-dawn multi-pitchers. By making this shuttle free and accessible, they are hoping that many people will park their cars at the visitors center and save 13 miles of dangerous and slow weaving.  That is the first thing on their list. Next, they are hoping to get a campground in the Black Velvet canyon, this could cut out a lot of climbing traffic and disperse populations. Apparently they have tried having campgrounds in the park before but due to poor management it was shut down at pine creek some years ago.

Two climbers who were fresh from bishop strolled up and suggested a drop box for climbing and camping equipment. Maybe then there would be a better community, something like you see in Joshua Tree or Bishop. This suggestion was graciously heard and the climbers were told that it would be put into action soon.

Construction at the back of the park was explained as being solar heated showers being constructed for the use of campers, hopefully to be finished for the spring.

Saturday morning happened and all of a sudden the world looked a little better. My cynicism towards the layout and operation of las vegas momentarily dissipated. Perhaps the future is greener, even here.

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