Thursday, November 22, 2012

Longmire to Paradise Road

The following is excerpts from the news release by the folks at Mt. Rainier NP, see announcement about the winter rules this year for the road from Longmire to Paradise. It is a significant change with the closure of the road on Tuesdays and Wednesday.

Here is the NPS' announcement as linked above.

"November's storms mark the transition from snow-free to winter conditions at Mount Rainier, one of the snowiest places on the planet.

Superintendent Randy King said "Mount Rainier provides outstanding winter recreation opportunities and has been doing so for over 100 years. It's a wonderful time to visit the park and the area, provided visitors come prepared for winter conditions. The recent, successful search for two overdue snowboarders above Paradise, and the tragic death of five visitors last winter, remind us that safe backcountry travel- whether going out for the day, or overnight- requires a high level of preparation, caution and knowledge.

The park transitioned to winter hours of operation and services in early November. The gate at Longmire is closed nightly through March to keep visitors and plow operators safe during road opening. New this winter and starting November 27, the road between Longmire and Paradise will be closed to public travel on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Longmire and the park will remain open seven days a week, barring major storm events.

We are strategically deploying available park staff and resources to provide access to Paradise Thursday through Monday, the five days of the week with greatest visitation," King said.

Visitation statistics show that Tuesday and Wednesday are, on average, the park's least visited days, with fewer than 60 visitor vehicles coming through the Nisqually Entrance on a typical day. By focusing staff on fewer days, the park will be better able to provide access and services during times of greatest visitation, including more consistent road plowing and emergency patrols for visitor safety.

The park is open for overnight winter camping with a valid permit seven days a week, but vehicle access will not be maintained from Longmire to Paradise on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Therefore, if visitors are parked at Paradise when the road closes on a Monday evening, they should not expect to be able to drive back to Longmire until the road opens on Thursday morning (weather permitting).

On Thursdays through Mondays, and every day during the Christmas holiday, the road from Longmire to Paradise will open as soon as the park's snow plows can make it safe for travel. In good weather the road may open as early as 7:00 AM, but in bad weather (or following a heavy snowfall) the road opening may be delayed to late morning or, in some cases, may not open at all. All vehicles are required to carry tire chains when entering the park. Road conditions can deteriorate quickly during the day and mandatory chain use may be required even for 4WD vehicles.

To better accommodate visitor needs and reduce energy costs, the visitor information center at Longmire will move across the road from the Longmire Museum to the historic Administration Building, in the space occupied by the Wilderness Information Center during the summer. Park rangers will be available seven days a week from 9:00 AM to 4:30 PM to provide information on hikes, locations of interest, and interpretive map talks for visitors to the Longmire Historic District. Watch for more information on hikes and other exciting programs that will be offered at Longmire on Tuesdays and Wednesdays!

he Jackson Visitor Center at Paradise will be open on weekends and holidays through March. The Paradise snowplay/sledding area will open during the Christmas holiday provided snow depth is adequate.

Highways 123 and 410, and the Stevens Canyon Road east of Paradise, and the White River, Sunrise, and Mowich Lake Roads are now closed to vehicle access for the winter, but remain open to winter recreation.

Backcountry travelers should get an update on current and projected snow, avalanche, and weather conditions before coming to the park, and be prepared to survive winter conditions."


karen said...

Personally, I wish they would keep Paradise open on Tuesdays and Wednesdays - some of us prefer to visit Paradise when it's not so crowded.

However, I understand that the powers-that-be at MRNP have good reasons to do so.

Karen Sykes

WSR Photography said...

I agree that it should be open 7 days a week through the winter, weather permitting. However, having spent a career in the USGS, sometimes you have to do with the money you have and if closing the road two days for a few visitors funds other things, then the decision becomes balancing funds with needs.

Consider the work to check and clear the road, clear the parking lot, and then check the lot before closing. That's expensive considering the cost of machinery and people if they're part-time or seasonal staff, and cutting two days saves funds for the road budget.

karen said...

I agree with you regarding the lack of funding/manpower at the national parks these days. It's a shame it's come to this. I used to instruct snowshoeing/scrambling classes at Paradise in the 1980s/early 90s and we'd have to sometimes wait quite a while for the road to Paradise to open (they were clearing the road). Didn't look like fun.

That only leaves Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays available to those of us who seek to escape the "madding" crowds.

WSR Photography said...

I suspect it has less to do with personnel costs than equipment. Two snowplows are not cheap to run and maintain, so two days saves a lot on mileage and wear. And saves on assigning someone to be there except when necessary.

The sad reality of politicians not respecting our national treasures (NP's, WR's, monuments, etc.) and federal employees to adequately fund them.