McMansions in Zion National Park?

McMansions are often associated with sprawl but what happens when such homes are proposed for national park land?

There are 11,640 pieces of private land inside U.S. national parks. From Yosemite to Yellowstone, many have homes either built or being built on them. The land was owned before the national parks existed or ended up inside them as the parks expanded, according to the National Park Service.

Will Rogers, president of The Trust for Public Land, asked how big of an issue this is, he said, “It’s a really big deal. It’s like putting a fast food chain in the middle of the National Mall.”

He’s particularly concerned about what critics call a “McMansion” being built on a bluff overlooking a valley in Zion. Julie Hamilton was shocked to see it during a hike. “All of a sudden there’s this big house up on hill,” she said. “It’s like, are they going to build more? What’s happening here?”

What’s happening is budget cuts. In the 1960s, Congress established the Land and Water Conservation Fund — $900 million a year paid for with offshore drilling royalties from oil companies. That money was historically used to buy up private lands in national parks when landowners decide to sell. But two-thirds of the oil money is now routinely spent by Congress on other programs, leaving the parks unable to compete with wealthy buyers.

What if the homes being built weren’t McMansions but more modest structures? How about a green McMansion? Would these be more acceptable or is this really about any private development at all within national parks?

I suspect this is one of those cases where McMansion is a very effective to term to use because it contrasts strongly with the image of national parks. National parks equal pristine, rural land. McMansions evoke the idea of sprawl and SUVs. It is one thing to talk about homes or perhaps cottages, a term that might evoke images of Thomas Kinkade-like residences, but another to call them McMansions.

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