When you think of the Grand Canyon, Yosemite National Park and other dominions of the U.S. National Park Service you think of the great outdoors, right? Living in the rough, in accordance with nature, sleeping under the stars.

It’s comforting to know that National Park Service employees are living lives of simplicity and austerity as they administer and guard over those great enclaves of untainted nature. Yes indeed, it’s inspiring to visualize those park rangers living a rugged life unfettered by the superfluous luxury that encumbers us poor urban folk.

Or perhaps not. It is true that Park Service employees may have to use an outhouse — but it’s a $330,000 outhouse. And they live in the park — in houses costing taxpayers over $29 million.

If you ever happen to find yourself near the New Jersey-Pennsylvania border you may want to venture to the remote Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. There you can see in what elegant fashion your tax dollars are being flushed down the commode.

If you did make that trip you could see “the mother of all outhouses.” This thing is built to last, with a 29-inch-thick foundation. (You never known when nukes might be directed at park outhouses.) The outside’s not neglected either — it’s got customized exterior paint, at $79 a gallon. You’ll be relieved to know that the toilet is an environmentally correct composter, rather than a mundane chemically cleansed throne.

Don’t miss the garden — you paid $720 a pound for those wildflower seeds. (Silly us, we thought “wild flowers” might even be free.)

Once you’ve toured your beautiful new outhouse you can head west to see more of the Park Service’s efficient building projects. If you’re not impressed by the wonders of the Grand Canyon, you’re bound to be impressed by the houses that Park Service employees have built for themselves. Not just one or two either, but 23 single-family homes costing taxpayers an average of $390,000 each.

The Grand Canyon Park service is, however, tight-fisted compared to their peers at Yosemite National Park. At Yosemite the Park Service built 19 single-family homes at an average cost of $584,000 each. Our friends in the building trade tell us that a first-class custom-made house can easily be built for under $100 per square foot, while less glamorous abodes can be built for far less. The Park Service paid a minimum of $325 per foot for its employee housing.

The chairman of the congressional subcommittee in charge of the Park Service, Representative Ralph Regula, said, “The average American cannot comprehend government housing of $600,000 or toilets in excess of $300,000.” The Park Service defended the costs on the grounds of “remote location,” the requirement to use union labor, and a desire for “energy efficient” housing.

Here at the DO we’re a little disillusioned. We had always kinda thought that Park Service employees lived in simple log cabins heated by roaring fires. But at least now we know who NOT to put in charge of the homeless problem.

(Source: Boston Globe.)

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