Crisis in our national parks: how tourists are loving nature to death

NMC_EXP

Explorer
DATE: 11/20/2018

SOURCE: The Guardian

LINK: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/nov/20/national-parks-america-overcrowding-crisis-tourism-visitation-solutions

Long but interesting article regarding the increase in visitors to popular outdoor destinations and all the problems the increase causes. The authors attribute much of this increase to social media, an opinion I share.

The overcrowding is why we rarely visit places that are considered must see "destinations".

Article excerpt below. Use the link to read access the entire thing. It is worth the time.

[begin excerpt]

Just before sunset near Page, Arizona, a parade of humanity marched up the sandy, half-mile trail toward Horseshoe Bend. They had come from all over the world. Some carried boxes of McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets, others cradled chihuahuas and a few men hid engagement rings in their pockets. But just about everyone had one thing at the ready: a cellphone to snap a picture.

Horseshoe Bend is one of the American west’s most celebrated overlooks. From a sheer sandstone precipice just a few miles outside Grand Canyon national park, visitors get a bird’s-eye view of the emerald Colorado river as it makes a U-turn 800ft below. Hundreds of miles from any large city, and nestled in the heart of south-west canyon country, Horseshoe Bend was once as lonely as it was beautiful.

“It was just a local place for family outings,” recalls Bill Diak, 73, who has lived in Page for 38 years and served three terms as its mayor. “But with the invention of the cellphone, things changed overnight.”

Horseshoe Bend is what happens when a patch of public land becomes #instagramfamous. Over the past decade photos have spread like wildfire on social media, catching the 7,000 residents of Page and local land managers off guard.

According to Diak, visitation grew from a few thousand annual visitors historically to 100,000 in 2010 – the year Instagram was launched. By 2015, an estimated 750,000 people made the pilgrimage. This year visitation is expected to reach 2 million.

Numbers used to peak in the summer but tourists now stream in all year round – nearly 5,000 a day.

“Social media is the number one driver,” said Maschelle Zia, who manages Horseshoe Bend for the Glen Canyon national recreation area. “People don’t come here for solitude. They are looking for the iconic photo.”


[end excerpt]
 

hemifoot

Observer
same up here in bc/alberta .banff and jasper are crazy with tourists in the summer.we stopped visiting national parks several years ago because of the overcrowding.we wander around northern canada where it's still wild.but you can't really blame people for wanting a little bit of natural wilderness,it;s cheaper than a lot of the alternatives.
 

roving1

Well-known member
I stopped going to National Parks in the early 2000's. I can't even imagine what they are like now. BLM land is 1000 times better to me since I am not much of a hiker. I think you can still have a good experience over night hiking but doing anything other than just passing through is not worth the hassle to me anymore.
 
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krick3tt

Adventurer
Years ago I bought a Nat. Park pass, senior rate, good for life, but then it was $10. Now it is $80. Only go when we travel and it is close to our route. Lots of people at all times. Have to go early in the day to get a spot anywhere. Prefer dispersed camping.
Don't go to preferred camp sites although Campendium sends me emails all the time.
 

MCX

TalesFromTheDesert.com
I stopped going to National Parks in the early 2000's. I can't even imagine what they are like now. BLM land is 1000 times better to me since I am not much of a hiker. I think you can still have a good experience over night hiking but doing anything other than just passing through is not worth the hassle to me anymore.
I'm with roving1. There is just as much beauty in open BLM land where there are no crowds. I can find places every bit as beautiful as most national parks that are very secluded, going days without seeing others. Don't get me wrong, I love our national parks...they help drive conservation and get people outside and away from their televisions. I just don't care for the crowds, so I usually choose BLM land. Cheers!
 

JaSAn

Active member
Too many people and not enough protected Park lands.
The problem isn't not enough park land, it is everyone wants to go to the same parks. Half of the park visits were in 27 of 417 National Parks and Monuments:

Great Smokey Mountains National Park, 11,338,893 visits in 2017​
Grand Canyon National Park = 6,254,238 visits​
. . .​
Great Basin National Park = 150,000 visits​
Hagermen Fossil Beds National Monument = 30,000 visits​
Adding park land isn't going to change that dynamic.
 

rkj__

Adventurer
I read the whole article. It's interesting, because in many cases, nobody is doing anything particularly wrong. Sure, there are a few bad eggs in every group, but the problem being highlighted here, is that there are too many people visiting popular areas. Hidden gems are no longer hidden. That's something we can't undo.

It seems to me like the best thing to do is limit and enforce parking. Unfortunately, parking restrictions require enforcement, which bears a cost.

For me, it's frustrating to see local spots that were once quiet, and free to enjoy, get overrun by tourists, and then see a fee station go up. It's also frustrating trying to book a spot, at the earliest possible booking time, only to be beat out by thousands of others trying to make similar bookings at 6:59:59am.

All you can do now, is explore at off peak times, and travel further from population centres. As the global population continues to grow, even that will become harder and harder. Then you run into the bigger issue of global overpopulation, which strains all of the planet's resources, not just our pretty parks. It's sad to imagine the issues that I might see in my lifetime.
 

BobsCreek

Adventurer
The problem isn't not enough park land, it is everyone wants to go to the same parks. Half of the park visits were in 27 of 417 National Parks and Monuments.
Yes and no.

A major factor is that many Parks don't have what people want. They have limited wildlife, or no "gand canyon" and so forth.

If you want to got see wolves, you have pretty much one Park.

You want to see the Elk rut? You have a handful.

The limited protected areas where wildlife congregate cause people to descend upon those regions.

If we expanded regions of protection then people will also expand where they go.
 

JaSAn

Active member
Yes and no.

A major factor is that many Parks don't have what people want. They have limited wildlife, or no "gand canyon" and so forth.
No more 'Grand Canyons' to be parkerized and all our National Parks have indigenous semi-wildlife. Unfortunately, most of our National Parks also have what people want: paved roads, resorts, hotels, restaurants, gift shops, wildlife pictures for their Facebook page and high density campgrounds that will accommodate their 30+ foot mansion on wheels; so they can have a campfire before retiring to watch a movie before bed and tell everyone they are roughing it in the wilderness. I want a few nice places left that take a minimal amount of effort to access to keep then from being crowded and touristy.
. . .
The limited protected areas where wildlife congregate cause people to descend upon those regions.
When I was a child, on my first trip to Yellowstone, my sister and I stopped counting bears at 100. How may bears did you see on your last trip? When crowds come lots of animals leave or are removed.

If we expanded regions of protection then people will also expand where they go.
We have 'expanded regions of protection': National Wildlife Refuges, Wilderness Areas, etc. They are protected from the crowds that would spoil them by their more difficult access.
"paved paradise, put in a parking lot"
 

BobsCreek

Adventurer
I would love to hear when it was that you "stopped" counting. Sounds like back when they allowed people to feed bears.
 

JaSAn

Active member
Would have been in the '50s some time, probably '57 or '58. And yes, people idiots were feeding the bears. I'm dating myself.
 

BobsCreek

Adventurer
@JaSAn , well I suspect that why you saw way too many bears :) there are many more people in YNOP but the bears are more scattered now, due to using natural sources for food.

And yes, we have expanded refuges/etc, they however, at least in part, don't get as many people because of a multitude of issues.

I don't go to most refuges near me due to hunting being allowed on them and the wildlife being scared of humans. (This isn't saying "hunting bad", it's just pointing out that wildlife behaves differently due to such).

I say expand more. Science has been pushing that to just keep current level of biodiversity, we need much more land protected from development, we need to fight fragmentation of habitat.

Also, it wouldn't be a bad idea to tackle the most significant issue, human population. As long as more people want to go "out" into diminishing space, well, ya know...
 
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