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Special Live Chats on AOL


Guest: Dan Wenk

Tuesday, April 18, 2000

Topic: Our National Parks

Davinder Khanna


Superintendent, Mount Rushmore National Memorial (2000)

Dan Wenk joined the National Park Service in 1975 as a Landscape Architect at the Denver Service Center. Subsequent assignments included park landscape architect for Yellowstone National Park in 1979 with responsibilities for the planning and development aspects of the park. He was named Superintendent of Mount Rushmore National Memorial in 1985.

As Superintendent of Mount Rushmore he developed a public/private partnership with the Mount Rushmore National Memorial Society to raise over $50 million in non-federal funds for the preservation of the sculpture and the redevelopment of visitor facilities at the Memorial. This project was completed in July of 1998.

In 1995 he returned to the Denver Service Center for nine months as Acting Team Manager for the Rocky Mountain, Midwest and Southwest Regions of the National Park System, with responsibility for the planning design and construction programs for those three regions.

While Superintendent of Mount Rushmore was named Program Manager for the National Parks Pass authorized by Congress in October of 1998. In January of 1999 he was named Co-Chair of the National Park Service General Conference to be held in September of 2000.


HOST TRAVEL Park: Hello everyone, we are pleased to welcome you to our chat series "Parks & People Live." The topic of tonight's chat is "Our National Parks" as we celebrate the National Park Week (April 17-23). 
We are honored to have with us two distinguished guests, Dan Wenk, Superintendent of Mount Rushmore and Paul Pritchard, President of the National Park Trust.

Before we begin, I would like to thank HOST TRAVEL Jump, and LDRS TRAVEL Judi for their assistance in tonight's chat. HOST TRAVEL Jump will assist us in following a protocol so that the conversation can go smoother. 
Mr. Wenk and Mr. Pritchard, thanks for being our guest tonight.

Sup Dan Wenk: Good evening.
HOST TRAVEL Park: Ok, to start our session, Mr. Wenk, please tell us a little bit about the new National Parks Pass and your role as the program manager.

Sup Dan Wenk: The National Park Service launched the National Parks Pass today that allows entrance to all NPS fee areas in the system. The cost is $50 for one year. I had the pleasure of serving as the program manager for the design and sale of the pass.

Sup Dan Wenk: The benefits of the pass is not only entrance but also support of the NPS areas.

Sup Dan Wenk: Because over 80% of all revenue generated from sales goes directly to benefit park areas questions the park pass includes a collectable image - this year Yellowstone National Park.

Sup Dan Wenk: An important aspect of the pass is most of the revenue will benefit those parks that do not charge entrance. 

TallPrairy: What is your park doing for National Park Week?

Sup Dan Wenk: Mount Rushmore does not have any specific plans for National Park Week. We have been concentrating on the launch of the pass.

PHorstrans: Let me get this right. $50.00 for one year allows entrance to all parks charging a fee?

Sup Dan Wenk: That is correct, good for entrance fees only, additional fees may be charged for camping, boat, launch etc.

MJOB76: Is that all national parks?

Sup Dan Wenk: All NPS areas that charge an entrance fee will honor the National Parks Pass.

MJOB76: That's a good deal!

TallPrairy: Will the passes be sold at the parks?

Sup Dan Wenk: The National Parks Pass is available at NPS areas that have entrance fees as well as online at and the passes were available starting today

Nypop1: What is the procedure for applying for a volunteer position at a NP?

Sup Dan Wenk: You can apply at the individual park area that you are interested in volunteering. I would recommend that you write the Superintendent of that park.

Parkslands: What is the status of the Park's relationship with the Native American community?

Sup Dan Wenk: The park areas are making a concerted effort to include the native American community in our planning for the use and development of park areas. If you have a question about an individual park area, it would be best to contact that park.

PritchardP: I hope the pass makes more visitors aware of the needs in the parks.

Parkslands: Does the park interpret the significance of the region for Native Americans?

Sup Dan Wenk: We are working in our interpretive programs to tell the total story of the park area including the context of the communities that may have used the areas historically and for what purposes.

RCooper904: I understand there is a special pass for disabled. Is it available at the first park visited?

Sup Dan Wenk: That is correct. If you have a permanent disability, you are eligible for a Golden Access Pass. This is a no fee pass with no expiration. It can be obtained at the fee park area that you visit.

RCooper904: Thank you!

Parkslands: There have been many proposals to add Ronald Reagan to the assembled presidents. How do you handle the issue?

Sup Dan Wenk: First, Mount Rushmore is complete in the present configuration. Gutzon Borglum who carved Mount Rushmore did it as a tribute to the first 150 years of our country's heritage. Any additional figures is outside the intent of the artist and we believe that the memorial is complete today. In addition, the rock is not suitable for any additional figures because if is soft and fractured. the design had to be changed nine time during the carving to accommodate the four presidents now there. Simply no more room exist for more.

HOST TRAVEL Park: Sup Wenk, what's the process of becoming a partner organization to distribute the new National Parks Pass?

Sup Dan Wenk: The law allows the NPS to select retail partners. We are negotiating with a limited number of companies that support the travel industry or NPS area.

HOST TRAVEL Park: So, a nonprofit national park organization can apply to be that partner?

Sup Dan Wenk: Interested retail partners should contact the National Park Foundation, who is under contract with the NPS to manage the National Parks Pass program, at 202-785-4500.

Ahapyhiker: Isn't there a pass for seniors? What is age requirement, cost and durations of pass?

Sup Dan Wenk: The Golden Eagle Pass is available for a one time $10 cost to senior citizens that have reached the age of 62. This is also available at NPS fee areas. This is a life time pass.

WIGWAM3: Is there a fee to see Mt Rushmore now?

Sup Dan Wenk: No entrance fee, a limited amount of free parking is at the memorial, but most of the parking is operated by a concessioner with an $8 cost.

PritchardP: Dan, you are bringing a lot of innovation to the parks. Congratulations!

HOST TRAVEL Park: Hello every one, we also have Paul Pritchard onstage with us who will take questions on citizens involvement in protecting our national parks.

Parkslands: Are there any necessary treatments under way to preserve the rock sculpture?

Sup Dan Wenk: We have completed a structural analysis of the carving and determined the rock blocks that make up the memorial. We are currently monitoring those blocks to detect any movement. Currently, we know that no immediate danger exist at the Memorial.

Sup Dan Wenk: We do patch the cracks to make sure that water does not get into the carving and cause failure because of the freexe thaw cycles.

Scotkuilt: I've heard that fuel prices are hindering travel this summer, will this affect the NPS?

Sup Dan Wenk: The NPS has projected an overall increase in visitation this summer of 1.6%. We will all just have to wait and see. Other years, it has had minimal affect.

PritchardP: Scotkuilt, are the prices still going up where you live?

Scotkuilt: Yes

Sup Dan Wenk: Prices seem to have come down over the last few weeks.

PritchardP: Since most of the visitors come by car, fuel prices have always affected park visitation but usually, reductions only occur when there is a crisis.

Parkslands: Do you have a long range plan regarding transportation access to the Park?

Sup Dan Wenk: One aspect of visitation is that visitors can visit many park areas that are closer to their homes the NPS has 379 sites throughout the United States, many a short distance away.

PritchardP: Yosemite just came out with its major transportation plan. Every park has to deal with transportation separately

Sup Dan Wenk: In many places transportation systems are being considered and designed to reduce the impact of the auto on the park landscape. In most cases those are large western parks with heavy visitation

PritchardP: The NPS director is to be congratulated for separating jet skis as rec, not trans.

WIGWAM3: What can we do to assist with problems and challenges?

Sup Dan Wenk: Get involved, as volunteers as park advocates, learn more about the park areas that are near you

PritchardP: WIGWAM3, I agree with Dan. We need you as an active volunteer. I think it is best to adopt the park you like the most and help it.

Sup Dan Wenk: We are always looking for help and learn better ways to conduct our business.

Scotkuilt: We planned on going to Alaska from Florida for the summer, can't now. Too expensive.

Sup Dan Wenk: I understand the disappointment in not making that trip. However, I encourage everyone to visit the park areas that are more accessible to them. A wealth of history to be discovered in the park areas.

REX GIN 50: Is the great Smokey Mountain Park being hurt by traffic? 

Sup Dan Wenk: One of the most extensive natural resources research projects is being conducted there. I would suggest you contact that park for specific information.

HOST TRAVEL Park: Sup Wenk, are all cooperating associations in various national parks are automatically distribution partners of National Parks Pass or NPS will do the selection among them?

Sup Dan Wenk: Cooperating Associations are selling the pass in many park areas that are not fee areas. This is as a service to visitors to other units of the system. Not all cooperating associations will sell, but many are excited about helping the NPS.

Sup Dan Wenk: We also believe that many may purchase the pass to show their support for the NPS system.

GRAMER13: Why are all park accommodations listed with amfac? they are so hard to deal with.

Sup Dan Wenk: Amfac is just one of many concessioners in the NPS. Many other concessioners operate facilities in the parks, not at Mount Rushmore.

Parkslands: Are there noticeable impacts in your park from auto traffic?

Sup Dan Wenk:  We have constructed the facilities to accommodate the traffic.

WIGWAM3: I live near Rocky Mt Nat Park. Who would I contact to volunteer?

Sup Dan Wenk: Contact the superintendents office in Estes Park. Superintendent is Randy Jones

WIGWAM3: Thank you

Ahapyhiker: Is it allowable to volunteer on a part time basis, perhaps for 2 or 3 weeks?

Sup Dan Wenk: Absolutely. Many park areas have special projects to meet your areas of interest. They will work with your schedule to accomplish.

PritchardP: Another way to volunteer short or long term is to help a volunteer group. You can help more than just one park.

Ahapyhiker: Thank You

TallPrairy: What is the greatest danger to our national park system?

Sup Dan Wenk: Many things could be listed but I would suggest apathy on the part of the American public. It could be the biggest danger if we do not understand the treasures that have been preserved for this and future generations and support the system it will be diminished because of it.

PritchardP: I agree with the Supt. We need more concerned people. For example, many don't know there are private lands inside parks. 

Bago98: We're planning to visit Yellowstone in JUL. Is it in good shape for RV's?

Sup Dan Wenk: The roads are being fixed and the park is doing great. I hope you have a wonderful visit.

Bago98: Thanks

HOST TRAVEL Park: Well friends, the scheduled time with our guests is coming to an end. Our sincere thanks to Dan Wenk and Paul Pritchard for giving us their valuable time tonight. Hope we will have another opportunity to interact with them online. 
My thanks also go to Jennifer Mummart for her assistance.
Last but least, we thank every one in the audience for their participation.
Remember, the Keyword on AOL is PARKS. :)

PritchardP: Thanks to you all for caring.

HOST TRAVEL Park: Good night every one!


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