Some of my favorite memories orbit around National Park campgrounds.
Such as the summer night I watched through the flaps of my tent as a full moon rose over Devil’s Tower National Monument in the far northeast corner of Wyoming.
Or the cool morning unwinding in the campground at Colorado’s Mesa Verde National Park after a hectic, kids-and-chaos drive the day before.
Then there’s the night I backpacked into Ozark campground on the Buffalo National River — in the middle of an all-night rainstorm — to find that I had the often-busy place to myself. I unloaded my pack in the shelter house to make a hot dinner and revel in the darkness and solitude.
And the time it was too hot to sleep when tent camping at Alley Spring along the Jack’s Fork, so my wife and I popped open lawn chairs in the cool river and soon found ourselves bewitched by hundreds if not thousands of blinking fireflies putting on an unexpected light show.
So when I heard that the National Park Service may be considering changes to some of its campgrounds, changes that could include food trucks and Wi-Fi and more concrete and pavement for RVs — my immediate reaction was a less churchy alternative to the phrase: “Oh, heck no.”
I go to national parks to escape that kind of thing.
According to reports, the Department of Interior (which oversees the National Park Service) is considering recommendations to modernize campgrounds at national parks, and perhaps at other campgrounds, which will likely include letting private businesses operate more campgrounds on public lands.
There are more than 1,400 campgrounds in national parks of all shapes and sizes, and Derrick Crandall, vice chairman of the Outdoor Recreation Advisory Committee, told The Associated Press that many campgrounds don’t meet visitor expectations, to which I’d say that maybe it’s our expectations that need to change, not our parks.
Critics claim this is a step toward further privatization of our national parks, and I’m inclined to agree.
Part of what is being considered may make some sense — running water, for example, and restrooms. That’s about providing basic services, and it may also be the best thing environmentally for the parks.
But part of what is being considered is antithetical to the visitor experience — more cabins to rent, camp stores, food trucks, etc. That’s about making money. And undoubtedly, beefing up amenities will lead to beefier fees.
I can’t imagine wildlife wandering through a campground with food trucks banging away. I don’t want more electricity if the trade-off is losing the drama of the night sky and the coziness of a campfire. I can live without Wi-Fi for a night or two or three, and if I can’t, that’s my problem, not the park’s.
I want the effect I have when visiting our parks to be minimal and unintrusive, both for the sake of the park but also for the sake of others who are there.
And I want the National Park Service to support that goal.
Andy Ostmeyer is the editor of The Joplin Globe. Contact him at email@example.com.