Visits to national parks set record
Visits to national parks set record This May 5, 2015, file photo, shows hikers on the Canyon Overlook Trail in Zion National Park. (Trent Nelson/The Salt Lake Tribune via AP, File/AP Photo/Brennan Linsley, file)
Visits to national parks set record
Lexile: 1380L

Assign to Google Classroom

Visits to U.S. national parks set a record in 2016 for the third consecutive year as landmarks such Zion, Yellowstone and Rocky Mountain experienced historic levels of popularity that brought collateral headaches stemming from overcrowded roads and trails and increasing visitor misbehavior.
At many parks, visitors waited an hour or more in cars to get through entrance gates and then spent the day trying to outmaneuver fellow visitors for parking spots and room on popular trails. They left behind enormous amounts of trash and sometimes, human waste.
Encountering a crowded, Disneyland-like situation when people were expecting peaceful serenity can lead to aggression and bad decisions, park officials said.
"The level of frustration, we've certainly seen an increase in that," said Kyle Patterson, Rocky Mountain National park spokeswoman. "Sometimes they take it out on each other and sometimes they take it out on a park.
It created a good news-bad news story for park managers. They praise the increased interest but are struggling to preserve iconic mountains, slot canyons and wildlife habitat for future generations. The National Park Service budget has remained basically flat, leaving parks to grapple with the problems without higher staffing levels.
"We love having people come to the park," said John Marciano, Zion National Park spokesman. "But our No. 1 goal, our mandate, is to preserve the park into perpetuity and to ensure our visitors have a best of kind and safe experience."
Overall visitation to national parks is on track to surpass 325 million in 2016, breaking the all-time high of 307 million set in 2015, federal figures show. The record-breaking three-year stretch came after parks visitation ebbed and flowed between 255-287 million for nearly three decades.
The National Park Service launched a major marketing campaign to celebrate its 100th birthday in 2016, including free passes for every fourth-grader and their families. That renewed attention coupled with reasonable gas prices and an improved economy likely fueled the increase, said National Parks Service spokesman Jeffrey Olson.
The agency's "Find Your park " campaign will continue this year and officials expect to surpass 300 million visitors again even if there's no record, Olson said.
Absent December totals, the Grand Canyon in northern Arizona hit 5.9 million visits. Yellowstone, which stretches into Wyoming, Montana and Idaho, had 4.3 million visits.
The final year tally for Rocky Mountain in Colorado was 4.5 million. Zion in southern Utah had 4.3 million visitors - nearly double the 2010 total.
Cramming all those people into the narrow confines of Zion where most visitors want to see the same iconic slot canyons and trails has led many days to hour-long waits to get in the park, lots that fill up by 9 a.m. and crowded shuttles, Marciano said.
"Then, you hike like ducks in a row up the trail because there are so many going up the same trail," Marciano said. "That's not what we want."
One employee spent her entire summer hiking every day to the popular Angels Landing trail to clean and put more toilet paper in two portable toilets designed for 40 visits daily that had 200, he said.
Both Zion and Yellowstone are reassessing how to create better crowd plans and Zion is considering a reservation system for park entries and a daily visitor limit.
Even though it is prohibited, more people are taking dogs on trails in the Rocky Mountain park. Visitors are also parking cars on native vegetation or fragile alpine tundra and leaving human waste right near backcountry trails, Patterson said.
This summer, for the first time, the park limited the number of cars allowed on two popular roads on certain days, she said.
After Yellowstone hit 4 million visitors for the time in 2015, park spokeswoman Morgan Warthin said the park implemented the "Yellowstone Pledge" last year urging visitors to follow guidelines that include not stopping on the side of the road to look at bears and staying on boardwalks. A man who stepped off a boardwalk died last year after falling into a boiling, acidic spring.
Yellowstone has also implored visitors to take "safe selfies" by staying far away from wild animals.
"They want that perfect picture so they're driven to get closer and closer to the point they're risking their own safety," Warthin said.

Source URL:

Filed Under:  
Assigned 49 times
What are the downsides to this record?
Write your answers in the comments section below

  • gabrielleb-pla
    2/06/2017 - 02:48 p.m.

    There is a record number of people that are visiting national parks, along with the problems that these numbers pose. The parks are having overcrowding issues, misbehavior, and disrespect of the nature. Because of these issues, the parks are trying to find solutions in order to keep the parks healthy and clean, but still share it with all of the country.

    This article involves civic engagement because as a country, we should care about preserving our nature, and finding ways to enjoy it safely and respectfully. By offering solutions and donating money, any citizen can have an effect on these wonderful gifts that the US has. I wonder if increasing publicity for visiting state parks would have an effect on this issue?

  • joes-5-pla
    2/06/2017 - 06:10 p.m.

    People traffic to America's national parks has upped past record attendance rates this past year. Although the higher traffic is an overall good thing people leave behind a lot more trash, litter, and "Human waste." Park staff say they love people coming to the parks but there number one goal is to preserve the natural land marks at the parks.

    More people coming to the parks means more money goes to the park but that money might be spent undoing the damage that the people did at that park. I think its great more people are going to national parks but they should be more respectful of the parks and pick up after themselves while they are there. I like the idea of reservations for park visites, It will allow people to enjoy the park without over populating it at the same time.

  • beatricep1-pla
    2/07/2017 - 09:42 a.m.

    This article explores the negative side of increased attendance to National Parks, far more than the positive side. National Parks are gaining more notice and far more people are going, hitting a record of 325 million people in one year. However, the article also states how the increased population is bad for the parks and people involved. The people have to deal with insane lines and cramped paths, while the parks get human feces and trampled plants. The article offers no opinion from anyone involved on how to improve the situation.

    I believe this shows civic engagement because people are getting involved more in the sense that they are showing up and utilizing park services. Not only that, but they are seeing more of this beautiful country, promoting the great National Parks as they do so.

  • makenziev-pla
    2/08/2017 - 09:23 a.m.

    Visitation to national parks is at an all time high. People all around the world are flocking to these parks to visit the wildlife and see the beautiful nature. The main issue is that after they leave, they are leaving garbage and trampling over the vegetative plants. People are disrupting nature and causing many problems.

    This article is an example of civil engagement because you see a surplus of people using the national parks. It is really incredible to see that numbers are at an all time high despite the world being in a primarily technology driven era. I think that it is really unfortunate that the people going are not fully respecting the parks. There is not an easy way for the government to try and change this but I think that if the government makes the negative changes more public, people may actually begin to change their actions.

  • emmah11-har
    2/08/2017 - 07:30 p.m.

    The downsides to this record are that with the rising numbers of visitors to national parks, there are also rising levels of trash are leaving being left behind. Visitors to the parks have been parking their car on top of native plants, died trying to get a better picture, and bringing dogs to trails where it’s prohibited. The rising levels of visitors are leading to more visitor misbehavior in the national parks.

  • miquelab-4-pla
    2/08/2017 - 07:43 p.m.

    This article showed us the amount of people that went to the National Parks. It showed us the good and bad things that were happening in the park. There is a lot of crowding problems and also people are not treating the park as well as they could be. I love nature. Looking at nature and admiring its beauty. When people do not treat nature and the Earth the way it should be it makes me really sad.

  • sophias1-4-pla
    2/09/2017 - 11:04 a.m.

    When I read this article, I remembered when I had went to the Grand Canyon. There weren't too many people, but enough to be a little crowded. When people leave trash everywhere, it won't be the same. It is a natural park for a reason and is super pretty due to people keeping up with it and not leaving it dirty. When people continue to make disasters out of it, it will get ruined and will later become no park at all. People need to realize what they are doing and need to either stop it, or figure out solutions to the problem. Throughout this article, they also talked about injuries. Many people tried taking close pictures which the animlas did not prefer. Many people ended up getting injurded. People were not very smart and just didn't use common sense. If people used their senses, half off these accidents wouldn't have happened.

  • karinaf-7-pla
    2/09/2017 - 03:31 p.m.

    In this article they talk about what the arising problems are within National Parks. And it expresses why they have seen huge rises in numbers of tourists that have came to the parks. Along with the high number of visitors, comes a lot of complications that they are causing. I really liked learning about the record breaking numbers, and problems and solutions that they want to apply.I really hope to one time visit these parks and see how busy, and problematic they are.

  • noahr-ste
    2/10/2017 - 01:43 p.m.

    This is a very interesting place to visit but the issue is the environment is having trouble keeping up with the visitation rate.

  • mataosj-ver
    2/10/2017 - 02:26 p.m.

    I just wish they would not damage the parks and let them be, I would just relax and be happy that people are there to experience the beauty the parks had to offer.

Take the Quiz Leave a comment