World Ranger Congress 2016

Mark Whyte, Team Leader Assets and Services Grampians Gariwerd  

In May 2016 I was lucky enough to represent Parks Victoria at the 8th World Ranger Congress in Colorado. This tour included a shadow assignment in Yellowstone National Park and recreational visits to Zion and Grand Canyon.

I spent 4 days on a Shadow Assignment in Yellowstone NP and was blown away by the sheer scale of the operation, Yellowstone NP has nearly the equivalent number of employees during the summer months as the whole of Parks Victoria.

The World Ranger Congress was an amazing week, set in Rocky Mountain NP and featuring delegates from 68 countries. On the first morning I had breakfast with Rangers from Finland, Belize, India and a Masai Warrior from Kenya, quite a cultural experience.

It was humbling to hear stories from African, Asian and South American Rangers about the work they do counteracting poaching. Many Rangers act as paramilitary with inadequate training and equipment to undertake their roles, a Congolese Ranger described to me that ‘they were fighting a war on poaching’; the poachers use proceeds to fund weapons and terrorist activities. The International Ranger Federation and the Thin Green Line are doing fantastic work supporting Rangers on the front line.

After the congress I visited Zion NP on the Memorial Day long weekend along with 60,000 other visitors, while hiking the narrows (hiking through a slot canyon) felt like a trip on the subway rather than the awesome adventure that it was, the park coped fantastically well with the record visitation numbers due to a shuttle service. Zion has one road in and out that joins the main visitor sites, this is closed to traffic over the summer months and a shuttle service operates from the local town outside the park. The Grand Canyon also runs a shuttle service to many lookouts on the south rim with access roads closed to traffic.

Visitation management is a challenge for park managers across the world, while the Shuttle Service worked well in Zion and Grand Canyon it is not a feasible option in Yellowstone due to multiple entry points and distances between key features (Yellowstone was originally planned for horse and cart with key visitor sites 30 miles apart or a day’s travel).

A shuttle service could be one method of improving peak visitation management in the Grampians National Park (central corridor), however requires further investigation and planning. The Friends of Grampians Gariwerd were instrumental in assisting with interpretation during the Parks Victoria Wonderland Eco-Shuttle trial that ran in the Park during the early 2000’s. This was a voluntary shuttle and most visitors opted to continue to drive their vehicle. For a shuttle service to be successful in the Grampians NP it would require closing access to traffic at popular visitor sites, providing timely shuttle bus access and appropriate parking options, while working extensively with tourism organisations, local tourism operators, visitors and the local community.

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