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Carlsbad Caverns

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It is early evening, and soon this amphitheater will be standing room only for the evening show. Bats, hundreds of thousands of Mexican Freetail bats, a hungry "tornado" that swirls out of New Mexico's Carlsbad Caverns each night in search of food. It's one of the many sights enjoyed by the parks half-million visitors each year. There are more than 100 known caves in the Carlsbad Caverns National Park. One of the caverns is not only a popular attraction, but also a potential problem. About one in three visitors stop to "fuel up" in this underground lunchroom. The Park Service conducted an environmental assessment of the caverns, and in 1993 concluded that this lunchroom had to go. Among other problems, the study said that light, heat, and fumes associated with the lunchroom were probably damaging the delicate limestone formations that are Carlsbad's "crown jewels". There is also concern that it is disruptive to the bats. Trouble is, for many visitors the lunchroom is part of the show. Most every visitor that has ever been here before, you ask them what they remember, and they can remember the bats, and they can remember the underground lunchroom. "We ate lunch in the underground lunchroom." Picking up where his father left off, Frank Hodnet as built a multimillion dollar concession here, including a second restaurant and gift shop up top. Cavernous in itself, the entire lunchroom sits on a paved floor with seating for some 700 people. Some kiosks here date from the 30's, and they are solid concrete. Frank Hodnet maintains that tearing out of the facility would cause more enviromental havoc than leaving well enough alone. If you took everything out, and not allowed another visitor in here, it would never be restored to the natural state. So what we have to do is manage the resource the best we can. Rendy Rasmussen wasn't convinced. He ran the regional office of the National Parks Conservation Association. There are issues associated with demolition. And it has to be studied. But I think, in the long term, my organization and others would support those types of activities that remove these. Return this to a more natural state. Wandering through the enormous 8.2 acre cavern known as the "Big Room", tourists - even the kids - show a quiet reverence for the place. The Park Service and environmentalists say the lunchroom is a glaring contrast. This is like funneling the Yosemite Falls into a plastic tube and running the visitors through it into a giant water slide. It appears that, at the bottom of the scientific and political abyss, the food fight at Carlsbad Caverns is at least partly a matter of taste.

Video Details

Duration: 3 minutes and 3 seconds
Country: United States
Language: English
Producer: National Geographic
Director: National Geographic
Views: 109
Posted by: greenbo on Apr 30, 2011

Should a restaurant be allowed inside Carlsbad Caverns?

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