3/25/14

Melissa Spurr’s Presentation to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of Interior (DOI) officials:

My name is Melissa Spurr, and I live in Joshua Tree, California. To thank you all for giving us an audience today, I’d like give you these photographs taken in Joshua Tree National Park. I’m an artist and photographer, and I sell my work at Joshua Tree Art Gallery, Joshua Tree Realty, and at other venues that line the route to Joshua Tree National Park. I’d like to speak with you today about how increasingly poor air quality in the national park could ultimately decimate one of our area’s largest tourist-dependent industries—creative arts.

I live less than a half mile from Joshua Tree National Park, and I enjoy hiking and taking pictures there in all seasons. You can see from my photographs that I will work in almost all conditions—rain, snow, sleet, hail, sunshine—and at any time of day or night. But when the skies are hazy, and there’s a brown smudge across the horizon, I don’t even remove my lens cap.

And I’m not the only one whose enthusiasm is dampened by air pollution. On a clear day in Joshua Tree National Park, I encounter scores of tourists marveling at the dramatic boulderscapes and unusual desert flora, taking a ton of pictures and extolling the profound beauty of the place. But when the air is visibly dirty, I see far fewer visitors, and those that I do meet often ask me questions like, “Is it always this smoggy here?”

This disenchantment among park visitors deeply concerns me. Our local economy depends upon a constant influx of tourist dollars, and our arts community especially owes its vibrancy to a steady stream of new and repeat park visitors. Our local arts council boasts legions of members and hosts one of the largest art tours events in the country. Our community is home to thousands of artists and collectively, we sell hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of art annually. All of this is made possible by some 1.3 million tourists who spend 62 million dollars annually in Joshua Tree National Park gateway communities.

If you ever visit Joshua Tree National Park—and I hope that you will--you’ll be astonished by the phenomenal art that is virtually everywhere in the surrounding community. As you drive the main route to the park you’ll see countless galleries, boutiques, and gift shops, all packed to the rafters with local creations. You’ll even find original art for sale in unexpected places like office supply stores, realty offices, pizza parlors, libraries and hair salons.

We are awash in art, and with all this creative expression, our community is abundantly charming, as you might imagine. Travelers who come to explore Joshua Tree National Park are delighted to discover our pulsing local art scene. Enchanted with the wild wonder of the park, these visitors take reminders of it with them in the forms of photographs, paintings, sculptures, carvings and other handcrafted artwork. If the park continues to attract visitors, our creative industry will continue to thrive and grow. But if air pollution increasingly plagues Joshua Tree National Park, I fear that the flow of visitors will trickle to a halt, and the vibrant arts for which our area is famous will wither away. I, thus, urge you to ensure that the skies over Joshua Tree National Park are forever clear and brilliant blue. Thank you.

3/25/14

Peter Spurr’s Presentation to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of Interior (DOI) officials:

My name is Peter Spurr. I am a real estate broker who lives and works in Joshua Tree, California, the gateway to Joshua Tree National Park. And today I’d like to speak with you about how the air quality in Joshua Tree National Park directly affects my business.

Over the course of my career, I have come to realize that my real estate business depends on the park and the scores of visitors it draws.  The allure of the national park is impressive--its expansive beauty and hundred-mile views bring visitors to our area year-round. Often times these newly-enchanted people will stop into my realty office before returning home; these visits frequently with my finding and selling them a weekend desert-getaway.  Other times, circumstances permitting, visitors decide to make Joshua Tree their permanent home, again ending with more real estate sales.  Some of these new residents open businesses in the area that contribute to the economy.  But it all seems to start with a visit to the national park.

Our area has no manufacturing or general industry. Economic growth has been slow to the area, and what growth has evolved over time often centers on the national park, with tourism and hospitality being a good portion of our economy.  Many of us in the business community fully revere the national park both for its timeless beauty and its ability to deliver economic stability to the region. For this reason, the vitality and aesthetics of the park must be protected.

With the sun shining on an average of 330 days a year, most clear days in the national park are exceptional and memorable.  Conversely, when haze and air pollutants from other areas surround the park, the views and vistas are heavily impacted and far less striking and memorable.  A 2010 Visitor Use Study confirms this observation with 90% of respondents citing “views” as the # 1 value, and 89% citing clean air as important in the same study.  Further, I understand that a high level of airborne nitrogen not only assaults the park’s eco-system but heavily advantages non-native invasive grasses which dry up and become fuel for conflagrations that destroy thousands of iconic and virtually irreplaceable Joshua trees.

As a business professional whose livelihood depends upon keeping Joshua Tree National Park enchanting, I implore you to help ensure that the park stays visitor-worthy for generations to come.