Longs Peak and the Unfulfilled Promises of America's National Parks
Published by: University of Oklahoma Press
Imprint: University of Oklahoma Press
In telling the history of Longs Peak and its climbers, Ruth M. Alexander shows how Rocky Mountain National Park, like the National Park Service (NPS), has struggled to contend with three fundamental obligations—to facilitate visitor enjoyment, protect natural resources, and manage the park as a site of democracy. Too often, it has treated these obligations as competing rather than complementary commitments, reflecting national discord over their meaning and value. Yet the history of Longs also shows us how, over time, climbers, the park, and the NPS have attempted to align these obligations in policy and practice.
By putting mountain climbers and their relationship to Longs Peak and its rangers at the center of the story of Rocky Mountain National Park, Alexander exposes the significant role outdoor recreationists have had—as both citizens and privileged adventurers—in shaping the peak’s meaning, use, and management. Since 2000, the park has promoted climber enjoyment and safety, helped preserve the environment, facilitated tribal connections to the park, and attracted a more diverse group of visitors and climbers. Yet, Alexander argues, more work needs to be done.
Alexander’s nuanced account of Longs Peak reveals the dangers of undermining national parks’ fundamental obligations and presents a powerful appeal to meet them fairly and fully.
“Democracy’s Mountain exposes the complex and fascinating history of our relationship with public lands, each other, and the nation itself.”—Phoebe S. K. Young, author of Camping Grounds: Public Nature in American Life from the Civil War to the Occupy Movement
“Democracy’s Mountain reveals the complex calculus behind national park management and gives us the tools to do better by the environment and by each other. Climbers and Coloradans, park managers and visitors, and anyone concerned with equitable access to public lands in the midst of climate change will enjoy this book.”
—Annie Gilbert Coleman, author of Ski Style: Sport and Culture in the Rockies
“Anyone who cares about the Colorado Rockies—and, for that matter, everyone committed to democracy, public lands, and the daunting but essential work of making our great outdoors more inclusive—should dive into this lucidly written and wonderfully approachable book.”—Thomas G. Andrews, author of Coyote Valley: Deep History in the High Rockies