Take action to improve accessibility and protect wildlife corridors in Mount Rainier National Park

Take action to improve accessibility and protect wildlife corridors in Mount Rainier National Park

Conservation Northwest / Sep 21, 2020 / Action Alert, Cascades to Olympics, Public Lands

WILD NW Action Alert #306: Through October 5, submit comments to Mount Rainier National Park in favor of a management plan to address the influx of visitors and preserve the Park’s natural beauty, wildlife and cultural identity.

Mount Rainier National Park is in the early stages of developing a Visitor Use Management Plan for the Nisqually to Paradise Road Corridor and is seeking public comments through October 5 to help identify key issues and potential management strategies.

Nisqually River near Longmire. Photo: Brian Stewart

Learn about the current challenges facing the Mount Rainier Nisqually-Paradise Corridor and the plan to adress them through this story map and the project website.

Scroll down for suggested comments developed by our conservation staff. Comments can be copied and submitted on the Park’s planning webpage. Please customize your comments if possible! 

The Nisqually Corridor is a popular year-round transportation corridor in the southwestern section of the Mount Rainier National Park on Paradise Road, starting at the Nisqually Entrance near Ashford and ending at Paradise. The roads along the Nisqually Corridor are significant cultural and historic resources and lie within the Mount Rainier National Historic Landmark District.

Surrounding the corridor are vast areas of federally-designated Wilderness. It’s also a piece of the larger habitat network we are working to maintain, restore, and connect through our Cascades to Olympics program. Species including fisher, recently-returning wolverine, elk, and hopefully wolves in the future frequently move through this landscape.

Mount Rainier from Bench Lake. Photo: Brian Stewart

The plan will consider key issues related to visitor experiences, natural and cultural resource protection, and vehicular crowding and congestion along the historic road from the Nisqually Entrance Station to Paradise. The planning process will provide recommendations for supporting high-quality public access to this area of the park while protecting natural and cultural resources and decades of positive visitor experiences.

We support the planning team’s willingness to engage stakeholders early in the planning process. We also support common sense solutions that do not include more roads and more in-park development. Please get involved early and help plan the future of an iconic mountain and world-famous national park.

We encourage you to answer question one with your own custom answer, based on your experiences. For questions two through four, please feel free to copy, paste and customize our suggested comments below and submit them at: https://parkplanning.nps.gov/commentForm.cfm?documentID=105822

Suggested Comments on Visitor Use Management Plan for the Nisqually to Paradise Road Corridor

  1. What issues most interfere with your desired park experience within the Nisqually to Paradise corridor?
    The amount of people and cars can make the experience feel more crowded. The lack of camping opportunities year-round can be frustrating—the need to book camping trips months in advance is a barrier for many potential park goers. Lastly, the park entrance fees can be a serious obstacle for low-income members of the public who want to visit.
  2. What strategies would you like the planning team to consider, when brainstorming transportation and visitor experience solutions for the Nisqually Corridor?
    • Integrated Shuttle System and Off-Site Parking Lot: An integrated shuttle system combined with an off-site (potentially in Ashford) parking lot could be an effective solution to the traffic issues, in-park shoulder parking, and the parking issues at Longmire and Paradise. Ideally, a shuttle would transport park visitors every 15-30 minutes during peak seasons from the off-site parking lot, stopping at the major destinations (Kautz Creek, the falls, Cougar Rock, Longmire etc.) on its trip to Paradise. In order to make this a desirable option for park goers there could be some incentives for using the system, such as discounted park entrance fees, an expanded entrance area for a shuttle-only park entrance that can bypass cars waiting to pay, offering maps and educational information on the shuttle, and playing an informational recording in the shuttle that offers facts about the sights and locations along the corridor.
    • Increasing overnight camping opportunities: Since the loss of the Sunshine Point Campground and the Cougar Rock campground due to floods and landslides, camping opportunities have dried up, forcing park goers to opt for daytrips, which increases car usage in the park and adds to parking issues at both Paradise and Longmire. Please consider increasing the non-RV camping capacity back to pre-washout conditions. More off-peak season camping options should also be considered, especially if a new campground is constructed in the area where Sunshine Point Campground had previously been.
    • Increase Parking capacity at Cougar Rock Campground: Please evaluate the possibility of increasing parking capacity near the highly-visited Nisqually River site at Cougar Rock Campground near or around the ranger/information station.
    • Limit some trails in the Paradise complex to guided-only tours: Please consider limiting use of many of the subalpine trails in the Paradise areas, or even eliminating some altogether. Instead, consider increasing guided tours of the open trails to improve visitor education about the prairies, while having tour guides remind visitors when they stray from the trail. Perhaps leave just one trail open to visitors without a guide (maybe the main trail to camp Muir).
    • More low-income opportunity: Please find ways to help low-income families and individuals access the park more regularly. Create programs for discounted camping and entrance fees. Devise collaborations through Washington’s Department of Social and Health Services or Food Banks to increase outreach and engagement. Finding ways to include more of the public on public lands is important, as many of the spaces on Mt. Rainier have become increasingly inaccessible to lower income members of the public.
    • More language inclusive Signage/Pamphlets throughout the corridor: Signage and pamphlets throughout the park should be updated to include more languages. Particularly signs and products that deal with education or sustainable, responsible, and safe recreation.
  1. What is the park doing well to manage these issues that you would like to see continue?
    The park has started to use some in-park shuttle services during peak season. However, there have been few changes in the last 30 years to effectively address over-visitation.

General Comments:
Thank you the opportunity to comment on such an important process. Mount Rainier National Park should be managed sustainably so it remains an iconic destination for future generations. I support a Mount Rainier Nisqually-Paradise Corridor plan that improves the park experience for visitors, while not diminishing the park’s naturalness, habitat and wildlife. I do not support a plan with new roads and large, anthropocentric infrastructure to address current congestion issues. With species like wolverine returning to the park and the potential of extirpated species like wolf returning to the park in the future, not to mention species that may need to move to high-altitude habitats to adapt to climate change, planners should be seeking to improve and increase habitat, not limit or fragment it. It is clear restoring, protecting, and maintaining the park’s natural integrity should be a priority of any solution implemented.

Mount Rainier from Paradise Ridge. Photo: jamcgraw / iStockphoto. All Rights Reserved.