Tuesday, May 16, 2023

Be a responsible park visitor

Grand Canyon National Park

Whether you’re a local or enjoy visiting the United States, some of the most recommended places to see are the country’s 62 national parks. These sites have unique features or ecosystems, recreational opportunities, and natural beauty that attract people from all over the world. As summer approaches, national parks will be busier than ever.

Yellowstone became the world’s first national park in 1872. Now there are more than 400 separate areas designated as national parks, forests, seashores, preserves, monuments, recreation areas, lakeshores, parkways, scenic trails, battlefields, and historical sites.

Old Faithful in Yellowstone

Conservation as a guiding principle

The US National Park Service was created in 1916 to “conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and wildlife therein, and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.”

That mission is still the driving force behind conservation efforts and decisions regarding our national parks. If you’ve ever visited one of these outstanding places, you probably shared your experience with others, maybe even recommending that they also take a trip there. With Instagram, Facebook, and other social media sites so popular for sharing images and experiences, the parks have become increasingly popular destinations, resulting in many more people than some of the parks can reasonably handle.

It’s a paradox that the parks often depend on tourism for their maintenance, which also keeps people intrigued and wanting to visit. Yet preservation of nature and wildlife depends on minimal interruption.

Is there a solution?

Taft Point in Yosemite NP
In parks like Yellowstone and Glacier National Park in Montana where visitors can still drive their vehicles (reservations are needed for Going to the Sun Road), limited parking spaces come at a premium. Other parks like Zion and Grand Canyon have developed a shuttle system to alleviate disappointed, even angry, responses when people get frustrated by the limitations. Rapid modernization including WiFi service, makes visiting Yosemite more convenient but creates other struggles as the park tries to cope with the changes the come with growing numbers.
Check for reservations on Going
to the Sun Road, Glacier NP

Zion National Park, Arches NP, Rocky Mountain NP, and others either have or may start limiting the number of people who can visit each day. Visitors may have to sign up for a certain time slot in which they are allowed to enter the park, obtain a parking space in advance, hike on a specific trail, or book a seat on the park’s shuttle bus.

While these requirements may be viewed as restrictive, it’s imperative to find a balance between visitor numbers and park preservation. If that means your visit requires preplanning for a parking spot or getting on a shuttle, then realize that action is necessary to ensure continued enjoyment of scenery, wildlife, and activities for all. 

Timed reservations are needed to visit Arches NP

As visitors, we should appreciate that responsible behavior (including keeping the park clean and exercising civil behavior) is the only way to keep these places available and as wonderful and magical as they truly are.

Information courtesy of Amanda CroweConsultant | Researcher, Digital Content & Mediaamandacrowe.consulting@gmail.com

Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier

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