Mount St. Helens blew her top almost 30 years ago, and once the ash cleared, the government declared the volcano and the surrounding environs a national monument. But plenty of locals and fans don't think it's enough. They'd like to see Mount St. Helens declared the next national park.
Unfortunately, a committee designated to report on whether the mountain should remain a national monument within Forest Service control or become a national park ruled against the latter. Their comments will go to Washington senators and representatives who could push a bill changing the area's status through Congress.
But hope for Mount St. Helens National Park isn't gone: A vocal minority on the committee plans to submit an additional document dissenting from the majority and explaining why the mountain should become a national park. Two of the dissenting members agree with the committee's recommendations, but they have no faith that the Forest Service could pull those recommendations off. Instead, they think the NPS should step in.
“You never say never,” said Sean Smith, regional director of the National Parks Conservation Association in Seattle. “In many instances, the creation of new national parks took several years. While we obviously have supported the idea that it should be a national park, we’re willing to continue working with the communities and stay engaged in the process.”
Cold, hard cash remains the biggest incentive for making Mt. St. Helens a national park: As a monument, it receives around $500,000 a year, but if made into a national park, Helens might receive something closer to $4.5 million. That's the amount Lassen National Park, a similarly-sized and -themed park receives. The money would provide for infrastructure, visitor centers, and other park management costs.
Back in May 2008, we asked if Mount St. Helens should become the next national park. What do you think?
Image Credit: kckellner