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Camp Muir Redevelopment comment period

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Now is your opportunity to participate in the Camp Muir redevelopment plan. Three meetings are scheduled:

 

Aug 1, Seattle REI

Aug 8, Tacoma Mountaineers Program Center

Aug 9, MORA/Rainier NPS HQ in Tahoma Woods

 

All three are 6-8PM.

 

Project home page:

http://parkplanning.nps.gov/projectHome.cfm?projectID=25222

 

Project details (a lot of details):

http://parkplanning.nps.gov/document.cfm?parkID=323&projectID=25222&documentID=48847

 

This is our opportunity to participate in the direction of our resource, and I believe that public participation is far more important than the actual option (there are four) chosen.

 

(cross-posting to Climber's Board as well)

 

Thanks-

 

L

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Another cross post cause this shit is important :)

 

Last week I spent a fair amount of time reading through the EA and would like to give folks some talking points. Before doing so let me state for the record that I am in not favor of building any new structures for storage, cooking, sleeping, etc. and that the only permanent structures should be the three historical structures plus newly built toilets. As such, you will see some bias in what is highlighted below.

 

* Camp Muir is not wilderness but the area surrounding it is designated wilderness (basically if you are on snow you are in wilderness). Reason for non-wilderness is helicopter usage for administrative use, human waste removal (not rescue).

 

* Toilets - the assumption is that toilets must be replaced. No analysis was done on the implementation of a pack it in - pack it out. Such, was done on the Lower Saddle of Grand Teton (i.e. the toilets were replaced with a blue bag system). No toilets no helicopter.

 

* Public Shelter - two alternatives, remove a couple of bunks and build a dedicate cooking area (Alternative 3) or prohibiting cooking in the public shelter and convert the old comfort station now used for NPS storage into a cooking structure (Alternative 2). I believe it is preferable to have a dedicated cooking area in the public shelter as it would be move convenient and better serve climbers.

 

* NPS Storage - no analysis shown in the EA that the NPS needs additional storage at Camp Muir. Alternative 3 shows no new storage while Alternative 2 adds new storage for that lost from converting the comfort station into a cooking structure.

 

* Nothing would be needed if the public shelter had better cooking facilities.

 

* Guide operations - two alternatives, permanent (Alternative 3) or seasonal temporary structure (Alternative 2). This is really the meat of the EA.

 

Permanent structures - two are proposed. One for sleeping but partitioned into three sections. Second structure for joint cooking and storage (i.e. all guide ops would use the cooking and storage area collectively).

 

* No analysis of having one permanent structure partitioned into two sections, one for sleeping and for cooking. Seems that a single structure would be better and have less impact.

 

Temporary Structure - One tent (WeatherPORT) for each guide operation for cooking and storage while clients/guides would sleep in multiple tents on the Cowlitz Glacier.

 

* No analysis on having a single tent for each guide operation that is large enough to accommodate, cooking, storage, and sleeping for clients and guides (No sleeping on the Cowlitz Glacier).

 

* Tent space allocated was 360 sqft (120 sqft per tent) where as 815 sqft was allocated for the interior of the permanent structure. A huge disparity.

 

* A single 210 sq ft tent has been utilize successfully by Exum Guides for 16 clients as well as for storage and cooking. Similar footage is possible at Camp Muir.

 

* No analysis was done on the overall and cumulative affects on using three single tents.

 

* While large tents would not blend into rocky nature of Camp Muir their impact could be minimized via the material color (gray).

 

* There was no analysis of the cumulative impacts of the other man made objects that are within Camp Muir, solar panels, propane tanks, antenna, helicopter pad, etc..

 

* The overall impact of the "tent city" adjacent to Camp Muir was not taken into account (i.e. would guide tents have that much greater of a visual impact).

 

* No analysis into moving the guide operations on the Cowlitz Glacier to be part of the existing "tent city"

 

* No analysis on the benefits of removal of all guide operation materials at end of each season (i.e. no winter storage with full clean up of their camps).

 

* No analysis on the impact of additional helicopter flights required with no winter storage of guide operation materials.

 

* Current flights bring propane into the camps. What other materials would need to be flown in versus packed in/out?

 

* Note new toilets would require 0-4 additional helicopter flights per year which "would cause a long-term negligible to minor adverse effect on park operations." A similar number of flights for guide operation materials would have the same impact.

 

* Importation of crushed rock - no analysis was done on the chance of the importation of invasive organisms as well as using characteristically different material from the existing natural material.

 

 

 

 

My suggestion is to combine the "best " of Alternative 2 and 3 to create a no new structures Alternative. Combining Alternatives is often done as such it is never the case of one or the other.

 

* New toilets.

 

* Public structure is improved to have a dedicated cooking area.

 

* No dedicated cooking structure or new NPS storage structure.

 

* Guide operations utilized tents at Camp Muir for cooking, storage, and sleeping

 

* No winter storage for guide operations, all material is removed at the end of the season.

 

* No importation of crushed rock.

 

The above alternative would the least expensive option. Especially as it would shift the cost of the shelters to the guide service (i.e. I not believe the NPS has any business building and maintaining facilities for commercial operations especially when they are basically in wilderness, everything should be temporary). The only cost to the public would be the improvements to the public shelter and toilets.

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Cogent analysis, and I agree with your suggestions. The saddle on which the Muir (and Schurman) structures exist is technically outside the wilderness, but that does not mean it shouldn't be managed to wilderness guidelines as much as possible. The large semi-permanent tents the guide services have been allowed to erect each summer are IN the wilderness area and are illegal.

 

My fear is that this, like most of what is done at MORA, is just checking a box (public comment period) before they proceed to do whatever they want (again).

 

There is now talk of cell phone boosters and Internet access for park staff at Schurman. It seems that current management is all about more staff, more structure, more fees.

 

:(

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There is now talk of cell phone boosters and Internet access for park staff at Schurman. It seems that current management is all about more staff, more structure, more fees.

 

:(

 

Bingo! The REAL reason the climbing fees went up from $30 to $43.

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The saddle on which the Muir (and Schurman) structures exist is technically outside the wilderness, but that does not mean it shouldn't be managed to wilderness guidelines as much as possible.

 

The above is something that I emphasized in my comments. Administrative use of the helicopters is okay for the waste removal. And if they had to be used to schlep out the tents I would be okay with that. But otherwise treat the area as if it was wilderness - thus no new structures.

 

Further, there is no reason for winter storage at Camp Muir - IMHO that has been one of the problems - accumulation of crap. I complained bitterly that at one point Camp Muir looked like a junk yard. Stuff should be schlepped out at the end of the season and the camp cleaned up.

Edited by ScaredSilly

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I'm equally biased in the other direction - I believe that historical and current traffic of the Muir corridor has made this area a non-wilderness, in fact if not in name, and that we should do everything we can to minimize that impact. Someplace that gets 500+ day hikers, sleeps 100+ at night and another 72 on the Muir snowfield or Ingraham flats is not a wilderness. Wild - for sure. But not wilderness.

 

If you've been lucky enough to use a hut in Canada or New Zealand, then you know what I have in mind. New Zealand's Department of Conservation decided back in the 1970's to encourage hut construction, believing that concentrating the human impact in an area was more valuable then dispersing the impact over a borad area. For camp muir, we're talking about concentrating 50-60% of the impact into buildings and 17-25 tents outside, instead of having 35-50 tent platforms on the dirt and surrounding snowfields.

 

I would prefer equal shelter available for guided and non-guided users, and the shelters should consist of nothing but unpadded sleeping platforms or bunks and a fire-proof, ventilated cooking counter.

 

Its already been cited that toilet facilities provide better sanitation than blue-bag policies. Consider the camps at the Kahiltna Airstrip and 14000 on Denali if a blue-bag method was applied instead. Because 100+ people are getting their water from snow melt at or near Camp Muir, it makes logical sense that toilet facilities are preferable to blue bags. I would have a different opinion on this if: the day use traffic wasn't as high and two we weren't reliant on the immediate snow around Camp Muir for water.

 

Because of the heavy foot traffic, remediation of the saddle has to occur.

 

So my talking points are:

*The Muir corridor is not wilderness in fact due to 700+ day users and almost 200 night users.

*Fixed shelters preserve what wilderness character still exists by concentrating impact into a smaller radius rather than dispersing it over a greater area.

*Because of the high user traffic, toilets provide a higher level of sanitation, critical for the water supply at the sight.

*Remediation of the trails and platforms must take place to preserve Camp Muir as a viable site.

*Therefore, I prefer Alternative 4, although the public shelter is too small and should be expanded into the 3 unit structure depicted in Alternative 3.

 

Mt Rainier is wild, but Camp Muir is not a wilderness. It shouldn't be managed as such. Let's be realistic and trying to create a concentrated, minimum impact for the current use.

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Its already been cited that toilet facilities provide better sanitation than blue-bag policies.

 

I found nothing in the document noting any study. However, do not interpret my comments favoring blue bags vs toilets. I was merely pointing out that it should have been analyzed or it not stated why it was not considered. To satisfy NEPA the EA must present a range of alternatives, it has not.

 

 

*Fixed shelters preserve what wilderness character still exists by concentrating impact into a smaller radius rather than dispersing it over a greater area.

 

As it relates to Camp Muir, none of the options would disperse users, everyone would be within a 100 meter radius regardless of their sleeping accommodations. As such, arguing fixed shelters would be better in that regards is specious.

 

 

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I believe that historical and current traffic of the Muir corridor has made this area a non-wilderness, in fact if not in name, and that we should do everything we can to minimize that impact. Someplace that gets 500+ day hikers, sleeps 100+ at night and another 72 on the Muir snowfield or Ingraham flats is not a wilderness. Wild - for sure. But not wilderness.

 

I'm pretty certain that crowds on the Muir Snowfield during three summer months are not sufficient reason to deem it a non-Wilderness area contrary to a Congressional declaration. I have mixed feelings about efforts to reduce use of the Muir Snowfield (the easiest way to minimize impact), though it's worth noting that park management has chosen to effectively concentrate use there by abandoning the West Side and Carbon River roads.

 

*Fixed shelters preserve what wilderness character still exists by concentrating impact into a smaller radius rather than dispersing it over a greater area.

 

Camping on snow in tents that stay in place for only a day or two seems much less impactful that permanent structures that require maintenance and whose foundations are being used as a reason to fly loads of non-native crushed rock to the site. The problem with infrastructure is that it's almost always used to justify more. Which attracts more people, who are used to justify more infrastructure. Ad nauseum. The guide services operate everywhere else on the mountain without a building or semi-permanent tents, so I'm pretty sure it can be done at Muir, too.

 

As it relates to Camp Muir, none of the options would disperse users, everyone would be within a 100 meter radius regardless of their sleeping accommodations. As such, arguing fixed shelters would be better in that regards is specious.

 

Bonus points for using the word 'specious' on a climbing board. I agree with concentrating use. I don't believe that concentrated use calls for more staff and buildings and other stuff that is contrary to Wilderness.

 

Good conversation.

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Scared, I knew we would be at odds and I'm disagreeing with you. When Denali National Park considered requiring climbers remove all their waste (via blue bag or can) and decided that they'd get a higher level of cooperation and better overall sanitation by continuing to use the pit toilets at the Kahiltna and 14. NOTE: Since I last climbed Denali (which has been awhile), the pit toilets have been removed and bagged waist is deposited at marked crevasse sites. I stand corrected. I don't remember the citation anymore.

 

I believe that 17-25 tents and two structures take up less space than 35-50 tents and the existing historic structures. I think that by encouraging 1/2 the users to stay in the shelter, the footprint of the total area impacted would be the most minimal of the Alternatives. I can support this opinion having witnessed at least 12 huts in Canada and New Zealand that succeeded in doing just that. I'm not trying to be superficially plausible, yet wrong; nor am I trying to mislead. You do get extra points for using specious in a sentence.

 

I forgot to mention that I think that anyone using the shelters - guided or non-guided - should pay a slightly higher user fee than someone choosing to carry a tent. This would require the Park to make reservations and issue receipts for the hut, but I agree in paying for what you use and it seems reasonable to expect someone who won't use the shelter to pay less.

 

I agree with Cascade that trucking in gravel sucks, but I don't know an alternative.

 

I don't see this requiring more staffing than currently.

 

I'm just trying to state my opinion as clearly as I can. I did use your statement to help focus my thoughts, and I did read the EA completely. I think its fair to disagree about this - it reflects a fundamental difference in opinion about what climbers' impact in the environment should be.

Edited by chris

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Denali National Park considered requiring climbers remove all their waste (via blue bag or can) and decided that they'd get a higher level of cooperation and better overall sanitation by continuing to use the pit toilets at the Kahiltna and 14.

 

Denali no longer has pit toilets at either the SE Fork of the Kahiltna or 14K. All climbers must use the clean mountain cans at all locations. With the exception of 17K, the CMC bags get tossed in designated crevasses near the camp. For 17K, they're supposed to be carried down and disposed at 14K.

 

Given the volume of waste involved in the length of time required to do Denali, asking groups to carry out their waste would likely not be very well-received.

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Denali National Park considered requiring climbers remove all their waste (via blue bag or can) and decided that they'd get a higher level of cooperation and better overall sanitation by continuing to use the pit toilets at the Kahiltna and 14.

 

Denali no longer has pit toilets at either the SE Fork of the Kahiltna or 14K. All climbers must use the clean mountain cans at all locations. With the exception of 17K, the CMC bags get tossed in designated crevasses near the camp. For 17K, they're supposed to be carried down and disposed at 14K.

 

Given the volume of waste involved in the length of time required to do Denali, asking groups to carry out their waste would likely not be very well-received.

Doh! Show's you where I haven't been lately. That sounds like a good compromise. Still, because of the day use I think toilets are a better mitigation at Muir.

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I'm pretty certain that crowds on the Muir Snowfield during three summer months are not sufficient reason to deem it a non-Wilderness area contrary to a Congressional declaration. I have mixed feelings about efforts to reduce use of the Muir Snowfield (the easiest way to minimize impact), though it's worth noting that park management has chosen to effectively concentrate use there by abandoning the West Side and Carbon River roads.

 

Camping on snow in tents that stay in place for only a day or two seems much less impactful that permanent structures that require maintenance and whose foundations are being used as a reason to fly loads of non-native crushed rock to the site. The problem with infrastructure is that it's almost always used to justify more. Which attracts more people, who are used to justify more infrastructure. Ad nauseum. The guide services operate everywhere else on the mountain without a building or semi-permanent tents, so I'm pretty sure it can be done at Muir, too.

 

Good conversation.

 

I agree with your observation about how the Park Service has concentrated use on the Muir and Emmons routes - but I think the climbing season is from May through October, not three months.

 

The problem I have is that tent platforms on snow or rock aren't typically tucked up against each other, but spread out to accomodate foot traffic privacy. And the slate isn't wiped clean each day - those plat forms degrade after a few days and require new plat forms to be built. In the end, its all sprawl. And in September, I think we'd be hard pressed fitting 50 tents on Camp Muir dirt and the surround snowfields, especially since the crevasses on the Cowlitz are typically open enough to make that area an unadvisable camp. So I'm really against the sprawl, and I think huts help mitigate that.

 

And I'd be all in favor of a similar arrangement at Camp Schurman. I know it would be a cold day in hell before that realistically would happen, but that's my opinion when you want to concentrate the use of 100+ climbers at one spot on the side of a mountain.

 

I may have missed it being mentioned in the EA, but I thought the primary reason for introducing new material to Camp Muir was to cover foot-paths and platform surfaces, covering the volcanic fines and minimizing off-site transport by wind (or keeping the loose, sandy dirt from getting blown away by the wind).

 

You're right, this is a good conversation.

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I agree with Cascade that trucking in gravel sucks, but I don't know an alternative.

 

Easy: Don't.

 

Erosion is a natural process. Let it proceed naturally. If it causes issues with buildings, remove them. If the tent platforms erode, people can camp on snow.

 

There is no real necessity for any permanent structures at Muir. I am against adding more structure (gravel, rock, buildings, antenna, etc) in the name of preserving what's already there (see above post about more leading to more leading to more).

 

I do respect and appreciate and understand your positions. I just don't agree. It's nice to be able to disagree respectfully.

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Chris, I understand where you are coming from in terms of the huts. Believe it or not one of my suggested alternatives in the early process was to tear down everything at Muir and build a single Euro style hut (not like what is shown in the other thread something more respectful). I was not in favor of it but it was an alternative worth considering. Getting everyone to stay at it is another issue as well as the removal of the historical structures.

 

However, in terms of the tents I am an advocating one tent per guide op (ala WeatherPORT). All tents would occupy approximately the same footprint as a permanent structure. As such, there would not be any "local" dispersion or greater impact. There would 36 people at Muir each night for the guide ops. All of them would be in an area approximately the same size as the current client hut. So from my point of view impact wise there is little on the ground difference.

 

That is really the gist of things as there is no desire to change the tent city on the Cowlitz Glacier. Which I agree with has problems of its own.

 

BTW is it even possible to privately camp on the dirt at Camp Muir? Not sure I have ever seen someone do that. If it is possible it seems pretty limited.

 

 

As for the shitters. While I would prefer to see a blue bag system it ain't going to happen. The climbers can deal with it cause they are used to it on the upper mountain and the rangers make contact with climbers. However, you still need a common spot to plop yer pop before packing it.

 

Further, the day hikers are the issue - not just at Muir but from Paradise up to Muir. Getting them to poop and pack is not likely going to happen.

 

So the only real alternative are the shitters.

 

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Not surprisingly Alt. 3 was chosen. However, no crushed rock will be imported.

 

Hello - please see the attached letter from Randy King announcing the issuance of the Finding of No Significant Impact for the Camp Muir Rehabilitation Plan Environmental Assessment.

 

The EA, Errata and FONSI may be downloaded directly at: http://parkplanning.nps.gov/muirea

 

Thank you for the time you took to comment on the EA - your participation in the planning of activities at the park is appreciated!

 

 

FWIW I am not surprised that Alt 3. was chosen however a few of the reasons behind it leave it a lot to be desired.

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Not surprisingly Alt. 3 was chosen. However, no crushed rock will be imported.

 

Hello - please see the attached letter from Randy King announcing the issuance of the Finding of No Significant Impact for the Camp Muir Rehabilitation Plan Environmental Assessment.

 

The EA, Errata and FONSI may be downloaded directly at: http://parkplanning.nps.gov/muirea

 

Thank you for the time you took to comment on the EA - your participation in the planning of activities at the park is appreciated!

 

 

FWIW I am not surprised that Alt 3. was chosen however a few of the reasons behind it leave it a lot to be desired.

 

"Thank you for you input. We're going to do whatever the hell we want anyway."

 

Wilderness loses, guide services win. I certainly hope this means they stop erecting that damn tent in the wilderness area.

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