John Day Fossil Beds
Administrative History
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Chapter Seven:
VISITOR SERVICES



Prospect

The NPS shifted its energy toward other aspects of park management while it waited for the visitor center package to be funded. When Jim Hammett succeeded Ben Ladd in 1994, he decided to re-emphasize the monument's land protection goals especially in the Sheep Rock Unit. [80] This focus appeared to pay some dividends in late 1995, when long-running negotiations for fee acquisition of the Mascall Overlook seemed to be successful at last. [81] The deal may bode well for addressing other priorities, such as obtaining the Maurer tract at Clarno, but the NPS still has some distance to travel before all of the fossil-bearing formations represented within the monument's authorized boundaries are effectively protected.

Hammett continued, however, to support paleontology as the main focus of NPS resource management efforts. While he also attended to neontological and cultural concerns, this outlook helped to ensure that NPS operations did not begin to wander off track in a park established primarily for its paleontological values. [82] Correspondingly, Hammett embraced procedures institutionalized by Ladd which aimed at identification and study of resource values before management actions such as construction of park facilities took place. This method of operation, in conjunction with the prevailing pattern of visitation, has allowed the NPS to minimize tension between preservation and visitor enjoyment of the monument.

A long-standing decision not to duplicate services available in the local communities also contributed to lessening impacts associated with use of the park. This direction has had the advantage of so far removing the need to obligate funds for regulating concessions or operation of campgrounds. The lack of overnight facilities on the monument has restricted some types of interpretation, such as evening slide programs, but compensation in the form of visitors having an opportunity to receive individual attention from NPS employees at the Cant Ranch somewhat offsets this limitation. Nevertheless, "interpretive conflict" there between a setting dominated by ranching and the story represented by the monument's Paleontological resources, continues to negatively impact how well park staff reach visitors. [83]

Such problems, however, should not detract from the contributions made by the NPS throughout this part of Oregon. Park staff have taken an active role in public education and demonstrated how one small part of the National Park System could emerge as a leader in resources stewardship. Their integration with surrounding communities demonstrated that these achievements did not have to come with the continuing costs associated with maintaining a residential compound composed entirely of NPS employees and their families. Instead, the administrative history of John Day Fossil Beds National Monument testifies to how the concept behind John C. Merriam's parkway proposal could work, but in a form that he never quite anticipated.


End of Chapter 7




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Last Updated: 30-Apr-2002