Is the Solution to Overcrowding More Parks?

As children, we’re taught about supply and demand. If something is needed, you make more of it. Is it time for more national parks?

National parks are seeing record-breaking numbers of visitors. While we usually urge our customers to get out into our national lands, we’ve been suggesting caution. They’re so crowded you might not get the experience you want. Parking can be tricky, paths are congested and reservations are needed in some spots.

Sen. Angus King, an Independent from Maine, thinks the solution is more parks. “If you have a demand problem, one way to beat it is to increase the supply.” He wants to have hearings on the matter to get the conversation moving. “I don’t have anything specific in mind, but I think it would be useful to have the park service and those interested outside parties like the park foundation examine this question and discuss it further. My whole idea with the subcommittee is I want to try to anticipate problems and deal with them before they become a crisis.”

A different problem for the parks is the need for more and updated infrastructure. Last year the parks received an enormous investment of money to help shore up crumbling infrastructure. It was celebrated with a free day at the parks with fees. But that money might not be enough. The parks need a lot of ongoing help, and with more and more visitors, they are under a lot of strain.

Phil Francis, a retired park superintendent and the chair of the Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks, agreed with Sen. King. “I think he’s right, and I also think that they need to look at the day-to-day operational funding. With the numbers we’re seeing and the interest that seems to be occurring, to me, you know, we probably need more parks — and we need more funding.”

Others disagree and think that creating more parks without figuring out funding first would actually be disastrous. “Creating new national parks without corresponding funding increases — or without a sustainable solution to the agency’s maintenance problems — could further strain an already-strained National Park System,” Shawn Regan, vice president of research at the Property and Environment Research Center. 

Sen. Steve Daines, a Republican from Montana, is open to creating new parks but thinks an excellent first step is directing visitors to lesser-known national parks. So many people go to the “big name” parks. The U.S. has 63 national parks, and not all of them are packed to the gills. Getting people to the “hidden gems” could relieve the stress. And it would help people see beautiful sights they might otherwise miss on their way to Yellowstone, Yosemite or the Grand Canyon.  

When you go to the less busy but preexisting national parks, there are already visitor centers, parking, shuttles and paths. But you won’t have to line up to use them! And, in those less heavily trafficked parks, you might have a quieter, more relaxing trip without encroaching on new parts of nature.

There is a lot of discussion happening about the national park crowding problem. If you are heading to a national park, do your research and know what you are walking into. A crowded park can still be fun if you have the correct mindset. Or pick a quieter one if that’s more your speed. We also love state parks because they are closer to home and often overlooked!  

Banner image: Pixabay via Pexels
September 10, 2021
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