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National parks need crash taxes

The presumption and idiocy of so many people still astounds me, the most recent examples coming from folks who think they can do any wild thing and be safe, or least be rescued if they aren't, because of their high-tech connectivity.

But what many are doing is abusing accessibility and running up national park costs -- costs that all taxpayers eventually pay.

As an ever more wired and interconnected public visits the parks in rising numbers, reports the New York Times, technology often figures into mishaps:

People with cell phones call rangers from mountaintops to request refreshments or a guide; in Jackson Hole, Wyo., one lost hiker even asked for hot chocolate. … And last fall, a group of hikers in the canyon called in rescue helicopters three times by pressing the emergency button on their satellite location device. When rangers arrived the second time, the hikers explained that their water supply "tasted salty."

"Because of having that electronic device, people have an expectation that they can do something stupid and be rescued," Jackie Skaggs, spokeswoman for Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming, told the paper.

070125-N-9150R-143 Cascade Mountains, Wash. (Jan. 25, 2007) - Helicopter in-flight rescue crewmen hang from an MH-60S Seahawk search and rescue (SAR) helicopter during a training mission in the North Cascade Mountains. During this scenario, crewmen rappelled down on a hillside, secured in a harness and were carried below the helicopter (known as a short haul) and set down in a more open area where they could be picked up into the aircraft. The Naval Air Station Whidbey Island SAR unit's primary mission is to rescue aviators on land or at sea. The unit is also called upon to conduct rescues for civilians when other assets are unavailable or unable to complete the rescue due to high altitude, poor weather or other conditions. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jon Rasmussen (RELEASED)

While technology, such as cell phones or GPS locators or emergency signals, has helped save lives, often the emergency personnel can't communicate with those calling. So they send out rescue helicopters and teams as if each alarm is a worst-case scenario.

And those rescue expeditions, whether unwarranted or real, aren't cheap. The Times notes that helicopter trips into the Grand Canyon National Park, for example, can cost as much as $3,400 an hour.

The bottom line is that every park, national and state, needs to be ready to answer all calls for help.

But since taxpayers are the ultimate payers for parks, the facilities should institute a crash tax system and charge folks who send unnecessary requests for assistance.

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I'm not so sure about a crash tax from municipalities. This one, however, I can totally agree with.

If you do something stupid, you pay and maybe think next time. If you think things through and ran into bad luck, you'll gladly pay.


Great idea!

Elizabeth R.

A friend and I were just talking about this after reading your post about automobile accidents.

We decided the best way to handle this would to be require a refundable deposit for hikers. That way, if they did require an emergency service it could be taken from the deposit.

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