National park village at centre of increasingly toxic row …


Talybont-on-Usk. Image via Google

Martin Shipton

A picturesque village in the Bannau Brycheiniog national park is at the centre of an increasingly toxic row over the decision of the Welsh Government to buy a local farm to help the Green Man festival’s diversification plans.

Opponents of the Gilestone Farm purchase have effectively taken control of Talybont-on-Usk Community Council and claim that the vast majority of local residents support their position.

But others in the village, as well as the managing director of Green Man – allege that those who support or are indifferent to the farm plans have faced bullying and intimidation.

Opponents of the £4.25m farm purchase say that a local consultation exercise resulted in 77% of those voting saying Gilestone Farm was not a suitable location for the Green Man scheme and 81% were against regular large events involving large numbers of people staying at the site.

Some 67% of residents said they were not “generally positive” about plans for commercial developments such as a brewery, bakery and baking school at the farm, while only 11% of local people said they had been given enough information about the scheme, with 89% believing they hadn’t been told enough about the plans.

The Stop Gilestone Farm Project group says the results mean the Welsh Government should now scrap the proposals and listen to local people.

Objective evidence

Local resident Tim Baxter, a member of the group, said: “This is strong, objective evidence that the local community does not want this Green Man scheme, and the government must think again. If they go ahead after these survey results, they will be using taxpayers’ money to impose a project on a rural community which doesn’t want it. That is madness.

“This scheme is a threat to rare wildlife at the farm, and the extra traffic associated with it will cause dreadful congestion and pollution on country roads which already struggle to cope. The community should have been asked before the government bought Gilestone Farm. Now we’ve made our views known loud and clear. It’s time to stop Green Man’s Gilestone Farm project and listen to us properly.”

However, in a letter to Mark Isherwood MS, chair of the Senedd’s Public Accounts and Public Administration Committee, Fiona Stewart, the founder and managing director of Green Man said: “In my view, the relationship with some of the residents has been soured by a well funded, negative scaremongering campaign which has deliberately sought to spread misinformation, confuse and frighten local residents, while discrediting me and my business.

“There is also evidence of bullying of local residents and members of the Community Council, Bannau Brycheiniog National Park, and Powys County Council by the opponents of the Gilestone Farm Project.

“This behaviour was raised by those present and minuted at our last meeting with residents and Government representatives on March 17 2023.

“I have been increasingly concerned about the wellbeing of the residents of Talybont-on-Usk who support the Gilestone Project or who don’t agree with the methods and behaviour of the objectors. The toxic atmosphere created by objectors has resulted in multiple resignations from the Talybont Community Council, including the second Chair in the last 12 months.

“Anyone who does not support the anti Gilestone project group has stood down and been replaced with people who do not want Green Man in Talybont or for the Gilestone Project to take place.”

Lease arrangement 

Explaining the relationship between Green Man and the Welsh Government, Ms Stewart stated: “The Welsh Government is considering entering a commercial lease arrangement with my business based on 21 years of Green Man’s success, our vision document), followed by a robust business plan which has been scrutinised by appropriate sectors of the Welsh Government.

“There is also recognition that developing business in rural Wales is challenging due to the natural ecology, poor transport links and the sensitivity of the landscape which makes property development permissions rare. Our business works within these parameters:

* ecological – any business operation taking place within the farmland will be in temporary structures for short periods of time which can work around and support ecological challenges such as biodiversity and rare species;

* transport – as standard working hours are challenging to adopt in a location with limited transport links, our flexible working patterns fits within these parameters;

* permission to build – we are not planning to build any new properties and won’t require planning permission

“The Welsh Government has concluded that my business and proposition is highly credible and would make a positive contribution in helping deliver its policies addressing the growing socio-economic issues such as the wealth and age gap in rural Wales. This view is also supported by Powys County Council and Bannau Brycheiniog National Park.

“At the meeting in Brecon with Powys County Council and the Bannau Brycheiniog National Park Authority on March 17 2023, Caroline Meeling Jones CEO Bannau Brycheiniog National Park and James Gibson Watts Leader of Powys County Council expressed deep concerns about the future of the Bannau Brycheiniog National Park and Powys as a result of these negative trends not being addressed. They recognised and agreed that the plan delivered on government objectives, commenting that: ‘if not this [plan] then what would be acceptable?’:

Local residents

Meanwhile a group of Talybont residents which broadly support the Green Man Gilestone plan has expressed concern about recent developments in the village.

A spokesperson for the group said: ‘We have witnessed a gradual attempted takeover of our community by wealthy individuals, some of whom do not even live in Wales let alone the village.

“These individuals, along with a few other established residents, have a distinct agenda to stop the project at all costs to protect their own selfish interests. We have been silent too long and have decided we have to speak out. We support the ideas behind the Gilestone Farm project, but have felt too intimidated to speak up publicly.

“The opposition group’s campaign of unsightly banners and fliers across the village are extremely off-putting to visitors and damaging to local businesses and their online tirades are full of hearsay and misinformation.

“We have taken the difficult decision to write to Welsh Government Ministers and Powys County Council expressing our concerns about the problems that the opponents to Gilestone Farm are causing to our village life, and ask why, when they are aware of this, are they not doing anything about it?

“The letter to Welsh Government Ministers expresses the residents’ support for the project and documents their experiences of intimidation. Members of Talybont-on-Usk Community Council have been forced to resign if they oppose this group, or their views differ and their positions have been refilled by individuals publicly affiliated to groups behind this campaign of misinformation and intimidation.

“The opposition group, in speaking for us as ‘the community’ have not only taken away our voice while putting words in our mouths but has also taken away the democratic rights of any individual they disagree with in Talybont. They do not speak for the village.

“The opposing group has manipulated the community survey results to portray incorrect and misleading figures that support their agenda to stop the project. Only 40% of those villagers eligible to take part in the survey responded, indicating a majority not having strong feelings either for or against the project.

“While the letter by those in favour has been signed by six residents there are many others in support who still feel too intimidated to publicly express their opinion.”

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What Was Your Most Unique Lodging Experience>


One of the Western cabins at Bryce Canyon National Park/Kurt Repanshek file

I’ve stayed in national park lodging from Cape Lookout National Seashore on North Carolina’s Outer Banks to Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve in Alaska. While some of those stays were very memorable, others were easily forgettable.

There have been nights in extremely basic lodgings (the cabins on Great Island at Cape Lookout, the cabins at Colter Bay in Grand Teton National Park, and the tent camps at Yosemite National Park), and a few in extremely sumptuous lodgings (Lake Hotel in Yellowstone National Park). And there have been nights spent in my own tent and lean-tos on the Appalachian National Scenic Trail that surpassed some of the park lodgings in overall experience.

There have been nightly rates that took my breath away, and accommodations that made me wonder why they were going for nearly $300 a night.

There are many lodges I haven’t spent a night in, including such high-end places like The Ahwanee at Yosemite, the El Tovar at Grand Canyon National Park, or Jenny Lake Lodge at Grand Teton. With that understood, here are my top five lodgings:

1. Lake Hotel, Yellowstone. This gorgeous, Colonial Revival structure on the north shore of Yellowstone Lake is elegant. Its accommodations are extremely comforting after a long day in the park, and if you snag a lakeside room the views are beautiful. The Sun Room off the dining room is a great place to relax with your favorite beverage while a string quartet plays. The history is rich, as the hotel was built in 1891 and today lays claim to being the oldest existing hotel still standing in the park system. It’s not cheap, with rooms in September ranging from $359 to $1,000. 

2. Old Faithful Inn, Yellowstone. Sit in a rocking chair on one of the interior balconies of the inn after sundown amid the log railings with their crooked branch supports with a view of the crackling fire in the massive, four-side fireplace down below, and you know you have one of the best perches in the National Park System. The rooms aren’t necessary something to write home about, but the entire experience — the magnificent log structure, rooms with views of the Upper Geyser Basin’s waterworks, the history tied to the world’s first national park — is superb. Rates are variable, from low $200s to over $1,000 a night.

3. Zion Lodge Cabins, Zion National Park. Located on the floor of Zion Canyon across from the lodge, these log cabins are charming, with hardwood floors, small stone-lined gas-log fireplaces in a corner, and queen or double beds. They’re not as spaced out as one might like, but they’re cozy. Rates in the mid-$200s and up, depending on the season.

4. The Inn at Death Valley National Park. Long known as the Furnace Creek Inn, this lodging rivals Lake Hotel. Its stone and adobe construction and Mission-style architecture are something you won’t quickly forget. With a landscape of palm trees you can explore via stone pathways and a pool to relax in before, or after, dinner, this serves as an elegant (albeit expensive) base camp for exploring the park. Rates quickly go from about $300 to over $400 a night.

5. The Lodge At Bryce Canyon, Western Cabins, Bryce Canyon National Park. A late-September, early-October stay in one of these cabins is a great way to close out a tour of the national parks in Utah. Gas fireplaces take the chill off the night, peaked ceilings held up by Ponderosa logs take you back a century, and the very short walk to the edge of the colorful rock amphitheater can make you feel like you own the park. Low $300s/night.

All of the above carry a definite sense of place, unlike some park lodgings that are nothing more than roadside motels. My list also is West-centric, mainly because there aren’t many park lodgings in the East or Midwest, and those I’ve stayed in didn’t greatly impress.

How about you? What are your favorite accommodations in the National Park System? Can we build a definite list of the best places to stay?

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Learn about Eastern Shore wildlife at free Kiptopeke State…


NORTHAMPTON COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — Kiptopeke State Park on the Eastern Shore is hosting a free special event on Sept. 23 in celebration of National Public Lands Day.

According to a release from the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, visitors will have the opportunity to learn about the Eastern Shore and the Chesapeake Bay through hands-on demonstrations and educational activities.

“Come celebrate National Public Lands Day and the great Eastern Shore at our annual event,” said Kiptopeke State Park Assistant Manager Stephanie Venarchick. “We are excited to highlight this park and its unique nature and natural beauty and share details about the Eastern Shore with guests.”

The free and family-friendly event will feature wildlife exhibits, arts and crafts, wagon rides, a dugout canoe demonstration, a U.S. Coast Guard response boat tour and more.

The event will take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sept. 23 at Kiptopeke State Park, which is located at 3540 Kiptopeke Drive in Cape Charles.

More information about the event can be found on the park’s website.

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Biden Administration Provides $5 Million For Bison


The Biden administration has released $5 million to help with bison restoration/NPS file

The Biden administration has released $5 million to help further efforts to restore grassland landscapes for bison.

“The funding will support tribally led initiatives to strengthen bison conservation and expansion, improved management of existing herds, and ecosystem restoration efforts in native grassland habitats,” said a release Thursday from the Interior Department.

The funding includes $3.5 million from the Inflation Reduction Act that will support the InterTribal Buffalo Council’s herd development and apprenticeship program created by Secretarial Order 3410. The Council is a collection of 80 tribes in 20 states that facilitates the management of more than 20,000 bison. An additional $1.5 million from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is available through the Bureau of Indian Affairs to federally recognized tribes and tribal organizations to support tribal bison herd expansion interests, including a focus on ecosystem restoration through bison conservation.

The American bison is inextricably intertwined with Indigenous culture, grassland ecology and American history. While the overall recovery of bison over the last 130 years is a conservation success story, significant work remains to not only ensure that bison will remain a viable species but also to restore grassland ecosystems, strengthen rural economies dependent on grassland health and provide for the return of bison to tribally owned and ancestral lands,” said Interior Secretary Deb Haaland. “This new funding from President Biden’s Investing in America agenda will help support tribal efforts to restore this iconic species and integrate Indigenous Knowledge into the department’s shared stewardship goals.”

Bison, North America’s largest mammal, were designated the national mammal of the United States in May 2016. With bulls standing 6 feet tall and weighing as much as a ton, they long have been viewed as icons on the landscape. They appeared on the back of the Indian Head nickel that was minted from 1913-1938, as a symbol of the Interior Department since 1917, and part of the National Park Service “arrowhead” emblem since 1951.

Once moving across the Great Plains in herds that stretched to the horizon, the “great slaughter” of the late 19th century decimated the species and left only pockets of the animals on the landscape. Yellowstone National Park today is home to the largest free-roaming herds of bison, and the shaggy animals are revered by tourists who come to the park. Though many of the animals head to the park’s high country for the summer months, in winter they descend to the river valleys, where they use their massive heads as snowplows to uncover the remains of summer’s grasses and forbs.

Under Haaland the Interior Department is continuing work on bison restoration that dates back at least to 2008 when then-Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne pushed the initiative.

The Interior Department’s 2008 Bison Conservation Initiative “set the goal of restoring herds to their ecological and cultural role on appropriate landscapes within the species’ historical range.”

In 2011, when then-Park Service Director Jon Jarvis issued his “Call To Action” document that was to serve as a blueprint for leading the agency into its second century, one plank called for returning “the American bison, one of the nation’s iconic species, to our country’s landscape. To achieve this we will restore and sustain three wild bison populations across the central and western United States in collaboration with tribes, private landowners, and other public land management agencies.”

Salazar nudged that initiative further in 2012 when he issued a directive calling for short- and long-term proposals to transfer bison from Yellowstone to other federal or tribal lands “with a goal of restoring bison to their historic, ecological, and cultural places on appropriate landscapes.”

In 2020, Haaland announced a decade-long initiative to better understand genetic pools held within the Interior Department’s roughly 11,000 bison and to bolster conservation and ecological efforts with states and tribes.

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In this Daily American file photo, a Navy sailor stands behind a wreath laid in front of the Wall of Names at the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville.

Schedule of events taking place at Flight 93 National Memo…


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West Nile Virus Detected In Crow At Fire Island National


Fire Island National Seashore/NPS file

A crow infected with West Nile Virus was found at Fire Island National Seashore/NPS file

A crow found dead at Fire Island National Seashore in New York had been infected with West Nile Virus, according to tests.

The crow was found by National Park Service biologists on August 31 at Blue Point Beach. They were conducting routine monitoring in the maritime forest there when they came across the dead crow. The crow was sent for lab testing, per Seashore protocol. The results showed that the crow tested positive for West Nile Virus. The collection and testing was a collaborative effort between the Seashore and Suffolk County Department of Health Services – Arthropod-Borne Disease Laboratory.

For the 2023 season, all mosquitos collected on Fire Island have tested negative for West Nile Virus. The seashore, along with Suffolk County, will continue its weekly surveillance program to monitor the severity and extent of WNV within the boundary of the Seashore. Due to the recent discovery of the crow and per the Seashore’s Mosquito Monitoring Protocols, there will be increased surveillance at numerous sites on Fire Island.

If threats to human health are identified, actions to protect the public may need to include control methods such as larviciding, spraying, or area closures. The National Park Service works closely with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Suffolk County Department of Health Services – Arthropod-Borne Disease Laboratory, Suffolk County Vector Control, and local Fire Island and Long Island municipalities to determine the best course of action to protect residents, visitors, and employees of the Seashore. The public will be notified 24 hours in advance of any spray event.

If you find a dead bird specifically a crow, a raven, a blue jay, an American robin, or a raptor (osprey, eagle, hawk, vulture, or falcon) you should call Suffolk County Department of Health Services – Arthropod-Borne Disease Laboratory at (631) 852-5255.

West Nile Virus is transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito. Visitors should take precautions to reduce exposure to the virus by avoiding areas with high densities of mosquitoes. If contact with mosquitoes is unavoidable, it is advisable to minimize outdoor activities when mosquitoes are active, wear protective clothing (long sleeved shirts, socks, and long pants) and use effective insect repellent, such as one containing at least 30 percent DEET. People most at risk of becoming ill are those over 60 years of age or whose health is impaired.

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What did NPS divers find?


PATERSON — It seemed like a magic trick straight from a David Copperfield television special: For the past three days, Paterson’s 77-foot-high waterfall disappeared.

The waters that normally spill from the upper section of the Passaic River to the lower portion were diverted through the historic hydroelectric plant, allowing scuba divers to do something that had never been done — survey underwater at the bottom of the Great Falls.

“I realized the assets we have in the park system — including an archaeological dive team,” said Darren Boch, the national park’s superintendent, who went diving with the crew. “We want to have a better understanding of what’s under the falls and how deep it is.”

What did the divers find?

Dive teams from the National Park Service (NPS) conduct dive operations at The Paterson Great Falls in Paterson, NJ on Thursday Sept. 7, 2023. The goal of the dive to explore the waters above and below the Great Falls for archeological and public safety purposes. Water from the Passaic River was diverted away from the Falls and into the power plant so the dive team and boat could safely operate. Paterson Fire Department assisted the NPS.

In searching the bottom of the falls, the divers retrieved two firearms — one that is so rusted it was hard to identify the model. But they still had a full day of investigating left, said Dustin Gunderson, a U.S. park ranger and Search and Rescue Team leader. Both guns were reported to the city’s Police Department. 

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National Park Service Proposes To Raze Old Buildings At


The National Park Service is proposing to raze the Henkle farmhouse and four other structures at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park in West Virginia/LOC

Five post-Civil War structures within Harpers Ferry National Historical Park in West Virginia that are in dilapidated condition would be razed under a proposal the National Park Service has opened to public comment.

The structures, located in a wooded area on Schoolhouse Ridge South about a mile south of Route 340 along Millville Road, are in a severe state of disrepair and pose a serious safety hazard to visitors and staff, according to the Park Service. Through this project, the park staff would remove the structures while leaving the foundations and any contributing cultural landscape features in place, including ornamental trees, shrubs and flowers. By removing these buildings, the existing landscape will more closely resemble the battlefield cultural landscape of the Battle of Harpers Ferry in 1862.  

Jacob “Furl” Henkle built his house and established Henkle Farm sometime after 1906, Park Service records show. The family then sold the property to the Standard Lime & Stone Company. The company likely built the dairy barn, milk house, silo, and shed/corn crib after 1920. The Standard Lime & Stone Company abandoned the farm in the 1950s, and it has since sat vacant and unused. 

Comments on the proposal are being taken through September 22. You can learn more about the project and leave your comments at this website.

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Park City’s Brittney Arndt announces retirement from USA L…


PARK CITY, Utah — Brittney Arndt has announced her retirement from the USA Luge Team to wide caring consternation, world-wide caring consternation.

The 25-year-old moved to Park City when she was 12, spending half her life in town. After starting the sport of luge, the Park City Luge track became her home track.

“An end of an era. I have countless people to thank for sticking by my side and giving me endless amounts of support these last 13 years,” Arndt wrote on Facebook on Tuesday. “Luge has been the most important thing in my life for a very long time and I’ll always cherish the memories, friends, and family it’s brought into my world. I’ve put a lot of love in and gotten a lot of love back, but it’s time for the chapter to end. Cheers.”

Arndt slid into first place last season in Park City’s Nation’s Cup in front of cheering crowds of her fans, friends, and family. Mere days later she placed third in the World Cup.

USA Luge named its 2022-23 team roster which included several Park City Sliders.
USA Luge named its 2022-23 team roster which included several Park City Sliders, including Brittney Arndt. Photo: courtesy of USA Luge

Youth Sports Alliance is the nonprofit, after school organization that Arndt joined from Ecker Hill Middle School, launching her luge career and introducing her to coach, Olympian, Jon Owen.

Shortly thereafter, she was named National Junior Luger of the Year. 

Park City’s Carl Roepke, a former USA Luge National Team member, has been the track announcer for nine Olympic events, most of them Luge. He told TownLift, “Brittney has, in the past, made the Park City Luge community proud to have her represent us on the global stage, and there’s no doubt in anyone’s mind that she will continue to make us proud in whatever endeavors, adventures and passions she now chooses.”

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Visitors To Shenandoah National Park Asked To Be Careful


Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park/Kurt Repanshek

With the busy fall color season soon to reach Shenandoah National Park, park officials are urging visitors to be careful with fire due to extreme fire danger/Kurt Repanshek file

Shenandoah National Park officials, who a week ago shut down angling in the park due to low streamflows and high water temperatures, now are urging visitors to be extremely cautious with fire because of the high fire danger in the park.

“Being aware of the obvious like cigarettes and campfires is certainly something we want everyone to do, but it’s also important to pay attention to other less obvious hazards,” said Joe Jarrells, a park fire technician.

With conditions dryer than usual, heat or sparks from vehicle exhausts can ignite grasses along Skyline Drive so parking on asphalt or gravel is recommended, a park release said Thursday.

Fires are prohibited in the park except in park-built fire grates in picnic areas, campgrounds, and at other facilities. While the park has not yet banned campfires, officials are urging visitors to be certain they are extinguished completely before leaving. Be sure to bring a container to carry water and something to stir with. Officials recommend dousing the fire with water, then stirring it to spread the coals. Don’t leave until the area has cooled completely. 

Shenandoah received less than two inches of rain in July and August. To date, the park has had 25.94 inches of rain, considerably off the mark to reach the yearly average of 56.54.  

As Shenandoah’s busiest month approaches along with the fall fire season, park officials are asking for the public’s help in preventing wildfires. If you see smoke or fire in the park, please call the emergency phone line: 800-732-0911. 

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