WASHINGTON, DCIn an effort
to make America's natural wonders available to all citizens, the Department of the Interior announced Monday the creation
of a $2 million National Parks Website.
The new website clears the
way for the wholesale development of the parks: Next Monday, bulldozers will begin leveling more than 100,000 square miles
of pristine, federally protected national parkland, finally making it available for industrial use.
Jack Holm, designer of the
website, believes nature lovers will find it superior to the real parks in every way. "You will experience the same grand
mountains, lush grass and wide variety of fauna, without ever leaving your home," he said. "And when you spot an animal on
your cyber-tour, like a majestic elk, you can click on the elk and access information about its habitat and diet. Elks in
the wild do not offer this option."
The website, located at www.natparks.gov,
will feature 72 pixels-per-inch photos of parks and "hyper text" on the parks' histories and wildlife. It will also offer
camping options, with which visitors can set up a "virtual campsite" inside a national park and watch a quick-time movie of
the setting sun while RealAudio playback of crickets and coyotes runs at 44.1 kilohertz.
"We digitally enhanced actual
recordings of coyotes from Arizona's Saguaro National Park," Holm said. "It should sound better than the real thing."
According to National Parks
Destruction Chief Lew Hoffson, countless grizzlies, moose and bison will be incinerated when the 750,000-acre Yellowstone
National Park is slash-burned to make room for what he says will be the nation's largest factory outlet mall.
"Yellowstone, like the other
national parks, has proven to be a huge financial burden to taxpayers, costing more than $200 million a year to maintain,"
Hoffson said. "The new Yellowstone Factory Shoppes, on the other hand, are privately funded and should be immensely profitable
right from the word go. It just makes sense."
The economic advantage of
massive, unregulated development of the parks was only one reason for the website move. Safety was also a factor.
"Every year, between 30 to
40 national parks visitors are killed in accidents, ranging from animal attacks to falls off cliffs," Holm said. "The website
will be far safer, with the greatest danger posed to visitors being possible neck and back strain from prolonged sitting at
the computer station." To avoid such discomfort when visiting the new cyber-parks, Holm strongly advised taking a "stretch
break" every 15 to 20 minutes.
Yet another advantage of web-based
camping will be the chance for visitors to enjoy interacting with talking, anthropomorphic wildlife, such as PC Puffin, a
friendly, wise-cracking aquatic cartoon bird who gives visitors tours of Alaska's Denali National Park. "Non-cyber-parks do
not feature puffin-led tours, for in real life animals do not talk," Holm said.
U.S. Parks Department officials
said the department is also planning an endangered-species website, enabling people to observe and study rare species on their
computers. Once the website is up and running, the actual endangered animals will either be allowed to die out naturally in
captivity or be killed off wholesale by poachers.
U.S. Sen. Spencer Abraham
(R-MI), who sponsored the legislation, said that he and his family are planning a trip to the National Parks website this
July. "We've never been to Yellowstone," he said, "and I understand we'll be able to download a sound effect of hot, splashing
water digitally recorded right at Old Faithful. We're very excited."