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
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Visits to U.S. national parks set a record in 2016 for the third consecutive year. 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. Then they 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. She is 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 they are struggling to preserve iconic mountains, slot canyons and wildlife habitat for future generations. The National Park Service budget has remained basically flat. That leaves parks to grapple with the problems without higher staffing levels.
 
"We love having people come to the park," said John Marciano. He is the 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. That would break the all-time high of 307 million. It was 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. 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. That was nearly double the 2010 total.
 
Cramming all those people into the narrow confines of Zion can be a problem. Most visitors want to see the same iconic slot canyons and trails. That 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. 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. Some are 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 offered the "Yellowstone Pledge" last year. The pledge urged 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.

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
What are the downsides to this record?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (10)
  • averys1-bla
    1/27/2017 - 08:21 a.m.

    The article is about United States national parks. People would come to the parks in large numbers. So therefor, there was a huge increase in the amount of visitors. The park was very happy about that. On the other hand, the visitors would vandalize the park. They threw their trash all over the parks. Also things like human waste were in the park. They didn't want people the make the beauty not beautiful. The parks are creating better crowd plans in the parks. They are also putting a limit on the amount of visitors in one day. This will help them control the trash flow, and keep an eye on the people that visit. My opinion on the article is that I very much so like it. They have many great ideas on how to keep the park on good terms at all times. The downsides are that people that travel from all over the world to see the parks may not be able to because of the set amount of people aloud per day. It would make me very mad if I was in a car for 10 hours then could not go in the park because it is full.

  • brycew-orv
    1/27/2017 - 01:50 p.m.

    the down sides to this record is that there are to many people there. and the reason that it is a down side is because there to many people there for other people to enjoy the national park. or unless that's ur thing to be around a lot of other people. or ur ok wit it.

  • olivial-orv
    1/29/2017 - 05:31 p.m.

    The downside to the record is that the park might have to make some changes. It said in the article that they might have to make a daily limit to how many people can enter. I think that this might make tourists angry, and cause even more disruptions to the environment then the park already has.

  • temmy-dav
    2/01/2017 - 06:55 p.m.

    In response to this article I agree that it is bad to have such a record breaking attendance. One reason I agree is that I have been to a lot of national parks and it is so pretty and we do not want to lose that. Another reason is that there are many people that still want to go and see its beauty. It says in the article there is a lot of waste and that will ruin the parks. A third reason is that this kind of waste could harm the animals. Even though I say its a bad thing, I think
    that it could be a good thing for some people.

  • mtaylor-dav
    2/02/2017 - 08:06 p.m.

    This article is about national parks having a record breaking attendance. There are negative and positive affects of having over populated parks. Some negative reasons are people are leaving trash and sometimes human waste for the workers to clean up. Also the otter cane harmful to living things. In the article it says "But they are struggling to preserve iconic mountains, slot canyons and wildlife habitat for future generations," which is a negative affect. Another reason is that with so much of an increase of people in one year, they predict it will keep getting larger and more crowded. Lastly the roads are very crowded, along with the trails up the mountains. There is barely enough room for everyone to walk with having enough space. The positive affects of the population increase is the higher wage workers will be getting. In the article it says, "They praise the increased interest."

  • carmenh-orv
    2/03/2017 - 11:15 a.m.

    The downsides of this record are that the more people that are there it would be harder to stay safe and keep and eye on people. If it is not safe for people to go the parks popularity will lower.

  • wesleya-
    2/07/2017 - 08:41 a.m.

    they want to keep on going to more record which lead less focus on the park and to the people as well

  • izzyb1-har
    2/09/2017 - 04:52 p.m.

    Some of the downsides of this record are people want to go to the national parks before some of these restrictions come true then there will be more people trying to get to the parks before that happens so they do not have to wait as long. Another downside is some people will be angry and will make a protest adding to the stress that is put on our country already and we do not need this at all.

  • cesars-
    2/17/2017 - 08:38 a.m.

    The downsides to this record is a place were people visit to enjoy themselves and a good place to look and explore.

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