Posted at 11:55 a.m. Oct. 19, 2015

Keep nature alive despite politics

Erica Klimt

Bugling bull:

A large bull elk on top of Old Fall River Road begins to bugle at the start of rut season.

Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) is one of the most popular national parks in the U.S. In 2014 alone, the park welcomed more than 3.4 million visitors and is well on its way to breaking that record in 2015, according to a 9 News report.

In October 2013, the 16-day shutdown of the government resulted in the closure of all 401 national parks in the country. According to a 2014 National Park Service (NPS) report, the agency lost an estimated $414 million from the would-be 7.88 million visitors who were turned away at entrances across the United States.

With the possibility of another government shutdown, avid park visitors like myself are not happy with this threat. To us, there’s politics—and then, there’s national parks.

For me, RMNP holds a very deep and sincere place in my heart; it is my “home away from home.” My mother’s side of the family has been visiting the park for more than 75 years, beginning with my Grandpa Frank’s parents, “Gomey” and “Popey.”

Gomey and Popey were their nicknames, but they were never known as anything else. They were also known for their financial security and their ability to provide a comfortable life for their two children, including vacations to RNMP at a cabin by the river, every summer in the ’40s.

My Grandma Shirley and Grandpa Frank continued the tradition. They first took my mother, her two older sisters and younger brother to visit the park when my mother was only 5 years old. From the stories I’ve been told, it was either their ceaseless childhood energy or their simple enjoyment of nature, but my mother and her siblings honestly cherished and respected the outdoors.

My grandpa and grandma began the escapades with their children in a huge three-room, canvas tent. They needed all the room they could get with a six-person family. Many years went by before they upgraded to a pop-up camper; the enhancements in “camping” only slowed from there, with a final upgrade to a Winnebago when my mother was 15.

Ironically, my mother and father went full-circle and began taking my older brother to RMNP when he was just 2 years old, and they camped in a tent. I came along six years later and the exhaustion of relentlessly erecting and disassembling a tent wore thin. Camping ceased altogether because my parents divorced, and my mother simply couldn’t take on the task of tent-camping with two young children.

After I grew old enough to assist in the duties of camping (setting up the tent, collecting firewood and starting a fire, roasting s’mores over the coals), the escapades started back up again and have continued ever since.

We love to camp in many different places including sites near Rob Roy Reservoir and Vedauwoo. I particularly love the isolation that comes with, what we call, “primitive” camping (camping outside designated areas). But nothing beats camping in Rocky Mountain National Park. The area is swarming with wildlife and the smells in the air are so fresh and pure.

We keep the tradition alive by partaking in cabin camping in nearby Estes Park from time to time, more so recently because of my mother’s knee surgery. And we have our favorites, but find it quite fun to try a new cabin each time.

But again, it’s quite difficult to surpass the enjoyment of sitting by a fire, cozy cots warming feet away in the tent, looking up at the stars and truly taking in the candor of nature. Tent camping is the basis of my mother’s love of outdoors after being exposed to it at such a young age.

Luckily, the NPS under the Department of the Interior is also trying to keep the passion for nature alive. It has recently implemented the “Every Kid in a Park” program which allows families with a fourth-grader to enter all national parks free of charge. Normally it costs families $80 for an annual pass. “Every Kid in a Park” gives children the opportunity to explore the outdoors that I’ve come to cherish. This is just a fraction of the efforts the NPS has taken to ensure the interest of young naturalists connects them with the outdoors.

It’s ironic that the entity behind this wonderful program is also indirectly prepared to shut it down, even if only temporarily. All politics aside, keeping national parks open is imperative to preserving the sanctity of the outdoors. With fall already here, this is one of the most beautiful times of the year to visit RMNP. Shutting the gates will only hinder millions of visitors’ plans as well as cost the national parks millions of dollars.