Thursday, April 24, 2014

Branch Brook Park In Bloom

Branch Brook Park in Newark is one of the oldest county parks in the nation, and it also happens to have one of the world's largest and most diverse collection of cherry trees in the world. It's even larger than the cherry tree collection in Washington DC with more than 4,000 cherry trees. Many of them were blossoming this past weekend and this week looks to be the peak blooming period. Here's a small sample, and it's amazing to see this gem in the heart of Newark.

In fact, there are parts of the park that make one feel like you've entered a wilderness. It's truly a jewel of New Jersey.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Southern Utah National Park Touring

It was a trip that was over far too soon. There's so much to see across Southern Utah that there's no way to see everything you want in one shot.

So, after having taken in Bryce and Zion and Capitol Reef on a prior trip, we decided to hit Arches and Canyonlands on this on. Add to that a day trip to Mesa Verde and a stopover in Capitol Reef since it was essentially on the way back to Salt Lake City, and we had three major national parks on the itinerary, plus the well renowned Dead Horse Point State Park.

1,600+ miles driving later, and nearly an equivalent number of photos taken, here are just a sample of the shots.

The scenery in Arches is something straight out of a Dr. Seuss book, or a Dali painting. It is absolutely surreal, and there's no way to understand it unless you're out there and see these formations in person. Delicate Arch was a favorite, in part of the hike to get there, but Landscape Arch was perhaps more impressive since it was even more delicate - it is 200+ feet long, but six feet wide at its narrowest point. It wouldn't take much for that arch to collapse.

Mesa Verde provided a glimpse back in time, and left us with more questions than answers - namely what happened to the people who came to the region, built these structures in the caves, and left just as quickly as they came. Why did they leave? Where did they go? No one really knows.

Canyonlands, at least in the Islands in the Sky district, was most similar to a perch atop the rim of the Grand Canyon. Similar vistas, but with perhaps an even clearer sky - meaning more visibility. It was quite impressive, as was the neighboring Dead Horse Point State Park.

Capitol Reef is one of the lesser known national parks, but it's known for its solace, and dark skies. Of course, on this trip, it was overcast, so no night shots this time.

Delicate Arch from the Upper Viewpoint

Landscape Arch; one of the world's longest arches.

At the Windows

Double Arch

Delicate Arch after hiking 1.5 miles only to realize there was an oncoming sandstorm.

Courthouse Mesa

Only the Shadow Knows

Mesa Arch. This guy walked on top, but I wouldn't have. It's a long way down, and a gust of wind could have been real bad.

Islands in the Sky at Canyonlands NP.

Budding Flowers in Canyonlands.

The ponds are part of a potash plant that runs between Canyonlands and Dead Horse Point State Park. 

Jug handle Arch, which is appropriate since we're from the state that makes all turns from the jug handle. New Jersey.

Meadows at Capitol Reef National Park.

Swirling skies and shadows at Capitol Reef at sunset.

The Utah State Capitol at night.

Mesa Verde National Park - a panorama shot of Cliff House.

Arches After Dark

Courthouse Mesa and the Milky Way. This is still slightly out of focus as I was dialing in my manual focus, but I couldn't help but include it because a car driving up the main road bathed the mesa in a wonderful light.
Courthouse Mesa silhouetted against the Milky Way.
Balanced Rock capturing car light.
Balanced Rock at moon rise.

All the photos were taken with my trusty Canon 60D and Canon 18-55 IS lens.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Time To Eliminate Law Enforcement Responsibilities From the Port Authority

That's the video taken from one of the BASE jumpers who jumped from the top of 1WTC last September.

That incident, plus the more recent incident involving a teen climbing all the way to the top of the spire without anyone noticing anything wrong, shows how porous the WTC site is and how ineffective Port Authority security truly is.

I get how security can't be 100% perfect, but the Port Authority has made a show of how much security is there. It's a facade. They spent money on cameras, but didn't bother to install them.

They will repeatedly stop people attempting to enter the PATH but it's a superficial show and is hardly a deterrent when the search takes place at the base of the escalator bank.

Their police force is among the most highly compensated in the NYC metro area, and yet the site has repeatedly been entered by persons who don't belong. It is past time to turn over security at the WTC, and other Port Authority sites to the local law enforcement agencies, particularly the NYPD in NYC. There's nothing that the PAPD can do that the NYPD can't do - and the NYPD can do it better, and for far lower cost to taxpayers/riders/toll payers.

Eliminate the PAPD altogether. Consolidate law enforcement responsibilities in the local agencies and grant the NYPD and the New Jersey local law enforcement responsibilities and jurisdiction to handle the bistate crossings.

The PAPD was established because there are bistate bridges and tunnels, and this gets around the jurisdiction issues, but there are far too many problems with the PAPD that can't be solved with the existing system. The politicization of the Port Authority is a big reason. That politicization includes the Gov. Christie Bridgegate (GWB vendetta against Fort Lee Mayor for not endorsing him in a surefire reelection), and Gov. Cuomo and Christie's manipulation of a recent toll hike to make the governors look good even though they were approving massive toll and fare hikes.

Dismantling the bistate agency isn't going to happen anytime soon, not when both governors continue using the agency for their political purposes, but there has to be more accountability with the agency. Security problems at the WTC are only the latest issue. Cost controls on WTC reconstruction have long shown that the agency isn't interested in fiscal responsibility when they can get tolling and fares to cover any overruns. The agency is planning a vast capital program over the next decade, including rebuilding two bridges (Outerbridge and Bayonne) and building two new spans (new Goethals), plus major rehabilitation of the Lincoln Tunnel approach and the GWB. PATH is also getting expanded to Newark Liberty airport, but it doesn't appear that cost containment is in the picture, especially with the WTC PATH transit hub. And because there isn't sufficient cost control, money that could go towards other major capital projects is sucked up by the projects already in the pipeline.

Removing or at least seriously reducing the law enforcement responsibility will free up more money to do what the agency was intended to do in the first place - build transit infrastructure in the NYC metro area. It would help refocus the agency on its core mission.


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