LJWorld.com weblogs Linda's Backroad Musings
GPS and the National Park System
Sherlock Holmes and I have something in common. A magnifying glass as a tool to solve mysteries. My mysteries are not literary. Gathering clues from state brochures, welcome center hosts, local residents, friends and of course internet web sites, I then use a magnifying glass on a map. (Does anyone else have trouble seeing a map?) This is my way of solving how to navigate through a state using the best scenic routes. As much as I love electronics, so far no GPS. Recently, I read on one of my favorite blog sites, National Park Traveler, in select national parks for $15 a day, you may rent a GPS gadget that you place on the dash. As you reach a certain location, it will present an interpretative of your surroundings. While this might not be much different than CDs available at many National Parks, Kurt Repanshek feels it has the potential to be much more popular perhaps even to the point of eliminating the give and take of human interaction.Repanshek, a former AP journalist and now freelance writer, writes in a blog post September 27, 2007, "is the relevance of our national parks dangling on the future of where technology takes us?" National Park Rangers are highly trained and knowledgeable about the area they serve. Their presentations are well prepared. Most importantly, they answer questions. The interaction is invaluable. As far as I am concerned, a visit to a National Park, including our National historic fort sites in Kansas, is not complete without a presentation by a ranger followed by questions and answers.Repanshek addressed this subject again several days ago when he posted "Another look at those GPS Rangers in National Parks." He admitted they have proven to be beneficial. Rangers can see where the traffic in the parks is heaviest, directing people to other sites. Many parks are cutting ranger positions and the electronic devices are filling the gap. Importantly, they include tours in American Sign Language. Kurt Repanshek again hints at his feelings when he ends his most recent post with, "Is this a good move for the National Park System?" Granted, it appears the interpretative GPS unit is a beneficial tool. On the other hand, I want to listen to a real person who has answers to my questions and stories to tell. I think it would be a mistake for the National Park Service to allow GPS gadgets to replace our National Park Rangers.I think Sherlock would agree, is always good ask questions to better magnify a mystery.