Searching the internet, these sites gave the following information.
Now, here are 10 problems that our national parks are facing, in no particular order. I gathered much of my information from 10 Top Problems with National Parks, as well as a few other sources included in hyperlinks throughout the article.1. Waste Management 2. Air Pollution 3. Things Are Getting Old 4. Wildlife Trouble 5. Invasive Species* 6. Climate Change 7. Water Shortages 8. Tourist Attraction: Too Much and Not Enough 9. Budget Problems 10. Energy
National Geographic Magazine - Putting this toward the top to show more people is not always a good idea.
BY STEPHEN STARR PUBLISHED OCTOBER 4, 2019
Overtourism is stressing our national parks. Here’s how visitors can help. Indiana Dunes’ recent surge in guests is part of a growing issue—but solutions are in sight.
Last February, Indiana Dunes—a 25-mile stretch of Lake Michigan shoreline less than an hour’s drive from Chicago—finally achieved a decades-long goal with its designation as a national park. Now, at the end of its first summer as a destination of national and international repute, it finds itself facing major changes—and some challenges. “What we’re seeing change is true ‘national park folk’ coming here on their bucket list,” says Lorelei Weimer, executive director of Indiana Dunes Tourism, which markets the park in partnership with the National Park Service (NPS) and runs an on-site visitor center. “We started to realize quickly that the new visitors coming want to experience the park in a different way, to have a robust experience.”
Prior to the change, the country’s 61st national park saw an annual average of 1.8 million visitors from the United States and abroad. But since attaining national park status, the park’s numbers have rocketed, with overall visitorship expected to rise by 60 percent this year. And it’s far from alone.
Overtourism: a growing concern While there are lessons to be learned from overtourism management at major tourist hot spots in Europe, the growing crowds at U.S. parks pose unique challenges. NPS records show that annual recreation visits have grown 16 percent in the past ten years—a steady climb felt most strongly in big-name parks, but also in parks closer to urban centers and those recently named national parks. St. Louis’s Gateway Arch National Park and Indiana Dunes National Park—both designated in the past two years, both easily accessible from major cities—experienced similar surges in visitorship.
For Indiana Dunes, parking is the biggest challenge. A little over a thousand spaces are available—but with 42,000 visitors in July alone, demand is exceeding capacity. Restroom facilities face a similar problem. And staff were forced to pull in seasonal NPS workers from elsewhere to assist visitors. At Gateway Arch—which received national park status around the same time as it finished a $380 million revitalization scheme that included a renovated museum and visitor center, an amphitheater, and a grass-covered interstate overpass connecting the park with downtown St. Louis—visitation ballooned 60 percent from 2016 to 2019. Local business owners in a neighboring historic district say the park’s new facilities and designation have resulted in tourists contributing to half of all sales activity in the area.
While crowds might make for happy local business owners, they also result in less comfortable experiences for parkgoers. What’s more, finding ways to offer a great experience without alienating visitors is far from straightforward. In search of solutions
The NPS itself has ramped up efforts to deal with overtourism by collecting information from across the parks system, says Jeff Hallo of Clemson University’s Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management.
“We are reaching a point where the management of people cannot be taken casually in parks,” he says. “This will mean that systems and policies to manage use, like access permits and regulations for visitor behaviors, will likely become more common.” Several popular parks in the U.S. have unveiled or are considering vehicle and other reservation systems as a way to control attendance. Due to safety concerns, in 2011 California’s Yosemite National Park rolled out a permit system limiting the number of climbers allowed to scale Half Dome Mountain. When space is in short supply at Ohio’s Cuyahoga Valley National Park, staff head to the parking lots to communicate with visitors and monitor spacing; the park’s new visitor center, opening this month, will also add around 100 spots. Colorado’s Great Sand Dunes National Park, where visitorship rose 48 percent from 2015 to 2018, has modified its entrance station and parking setup and is looking at further infrastructural changes to deal with traffic congestion. And at Indiana Dunes, park officials are also considering an on-demand shuttle service to bring visitors to the park from a less-congested off-site parking lot. Tourists: part of the solution Combatting overtourism lies in tourists’ hands as much as in parks’, and there’s plenty park visitors can do to help—often with rewards. Indiana Dunes staff hands out reusable water bottles to anyone who takes a bag to collect trash on the trails, and Gateway Arch rewards off-peak visitors with variable pricing for its Tram to the Top tour, which runs to the highest point of the Arch.
When planning to visit a national park, read up on the NPS’s work documenting congestion-related issues across the parks system. Check the park’s webpage for information on the best times to visit—Cuyahoga Valley, for example, offers an “Avoid the Crowd” resource explaining how to get the best out of your trip, and Indiana Dunes recommends hitting the beach on weekdays, when parking is less packed. And while local and state parks don’t draw the same crush of visitors, they regularly offer programs and events scheduled for weekdays, often specifically for kids and families. So while it might be tempting to take home that iconic national park photo, you might consider spending your time at a lesser known park that deserves just as much love.
The National Park Service currently manages 423 sites, with 15 percent of them — or 63 — classified as national parks. Altogether, the agency controls more than 85 million acres in all 50 states; Washington, D.C.; and U.S. territories, a mass of land that’s more than twice the size of Florida. There’s no doubt about it: Americans love their national parks. So much so, that grassroots U.S. national park advocacy groups are often trying to build upon “America’s best idea” by giving more spaces this designation.
But growing pains in some of the newest parks show the National Park Service’s crown-jewel status isn’t flawless. More visitors mean more money for local communities—so isn’t that a good thing? It can be. It can also leave local communities behind.
For the first time in its history, Indiana Dunes National Park will require entrance fees beginning March 31, 2022. These fees—including rates of $15 per person (maximum of $25 per family), or $45 for an annual pass—will fund maintenance and new projects. This includes trails, parking, transportation, and visitor services, which are all increasingly important with growing crowds, the NPS says.
While a flurry of new national parks would protect natural resources, some argue it won’t solve another issue plaguing existing national parks: crowds. New parks don't automatically break up existing crowds in other destinations. Litter, human feces, and the widening of social trails (unofficial trails created via erosion from foot traffic) are among the many byproducts of recent increased visitor numbers.
Longtime Indiana resident and community organizer Samuel Love, who lives near the park in Gary, Indiana, worries this move will price out the very people who rely on Indiana Dunes recreation most: local residents.According to Love, the communities bookending the park include low and high-income housing, with much more racial diversity than other communities in the region. He sees the park’s national park designation as “more of a negative” because of the increasing property values and decrease in affordable housing near the park. Plus, he said the new entry fees create a major barrier lower income and working-class people.“The decision makers clearly don't want those people in the park,” Love says, noting a nearly $50 expense (for the annual pass) isn’t feasible for many in the area. “And in the case of communities like Gary and Michigan City, it's literally our government telling citizens they're no longer welcome to recreate in something that is in their own neighborhoods.” As Indiana Dunes shows, national park status comes with its fair share of faults, particularly for local communities.
And unprecedented visitation in 2021—Great Smoky Mountains National Park alone reached 14 million guests, a 57 percent increase in the past decade—means these problems won’t simply go away on their own.
That’s why, instead of creating new parks, some experts suggest allocating the national park budget to manage visitation at existing, crowd-throttled parks. This could be new shuttle systems to ease car traffic, building new campgrounds to disperse visitors, or hiring more staff, according to an article on The Land Desk. Yu-Fai Leung, a professor of parks, recreation, and tourism management at North Carolina State University, agrees with prioritizing existing parks. “Using funds to improve visitor management, maintain facility conditions, and protect resources would help ensure the right balance between conservation and use of these existing national parks, especially those that contain sensitive resources or suffer from overuse,” he said.
What’s more, national park budgets fluctuate by administrations, Leung says. Some administrations may boost the overarching NPS budget, but others slash it, leading to extensive maintenance backlogs that make these parks feel like an afterthought—rather than America’s best idea.Re: STEPHANIE VERMILLION,