> How would you go about resolving this mess?
Classic debate technique. I'm not biting. It is obviously not an easy solution.
But I can tell you what is NOT a solution:
Removing all access from the parks.
Look, I feel all of your pain, and have at times been tempted to the Dark Side as expressed in Nick's rant. Crowds do, of course, damage the parks. Yellowstone was an awful crowded mess when I was there, but here's the rub- I accept that because I was just driving through on my way across the country and wanted to see some of it. I would not have been able to do that in a day if I had to hike in. I am at peace with the fact that I cannot do this at Maroon Bells.
I maintain that, as in most things, moderation is the key. I am VIOLENTLY anti-PC, so no, I dismiss your arguments that the philosophy of "access to all" will lead to tramways to the top of Half Dome. (Well, perhaps. It is in California, after all: Home of irrational PC.) I'm generally pretty middle-of-the-road when it comes to government regulation, but obviously this is one subject that by definition IS regulated. We as voters/citizens/politicians need to make responsible choices about what we include in the parks, and I would propose that having NO access is not a responsible choice.
I would not, for instance, resist a reservation system for access to high-use areas. Heck, there's a reservation system for back-country passes almost everywhere, right? We back-country types have to deal with that, so Joe Sixpack can deal, too. I think that there can be reasonable limits. As I said, I have no problems with a moratorium on new parks, and just sticking to designating new wildernesses. Heck, if I had my druthers every national forest would become a designated wilderness tomorrow!
If you say that the NPS is failing in half of it's mission then the solution is certainly NOT to abandon the other half! My God! Lord knows, I'd like to see the NPS better-funded and better-managed! No argument! I vote for it in every election! Then we could better manage trash, and have rangers every fifty meters in Yosemite Valley to keep the drones off the grass.
I maintain that parks and wilderness have different purposes. I adore wilderness! But I don't begrudge the old and infirm a ride in the family car to see Old Faithful, unlike Nick. Many (non-outdoor-fanatic) people can't seem to get out and see all these natural wonders until they retire, after all. And grandpa still won't be hiking the Continental Divide in Weminuche, so I can still have my solitude. And so can you. And, much of Yellowstone is still not paved, no matter how much it chaps Nick that the precise spot that HE wants to visit DOES have roads.
So, I maintain that this attitude is elitist and, perhaps, a little petulant. There are parks for all, and wilderness just for us, alone. I think we got a good deal, there.
Kudos to Craig, by the way. He obviously has a well-developed sense of civic duty.