Is Anyone Visiting America’s National Parks?

There is perhaps nowhere in the world that has both the quantity and quality of National Parks as those which grace the backcountry of America.

That is why I found it so depressing to recently learn that attendance in these National Parks is dropping at alarming rates.

According to an article by Julie Cart in The Los Angeles Times, America’s National Parks have seen a 20% decrease in overnight visitors in the last ten years and a 24% decrease in those camping in the backcountry. Even Yosemite, the most famous of the National Parks has seen a 9% decrease.

This is simply horrendous!

The amazing natural resources in our own backyards should not be neglected and ignored. They cost very little to visit and offer a wealth of beauty, respite, and solace in return.

So why the decrease?

If you ask me, I could go on a long diatribe about modern laziness, expectation of immediate gratification, pre-packaged Disney adventures, a dying sense of adventure, and an obsession with safety.

The National Park Service has a few ideas of their own. A basic premise is that family vacationers are still seeking out “soft” adventure but would rather retire to a nice hotel afterwards and are therefore vacationing elsewhere.

Another theory, based upon a recent Nature Conservancy study, hardly comes as a surprise to me. Apparently there is a “correlation between the drop in national park visits and the increasing popularity of at-home entertainment, including video games and the Internet.”

One surprising answer uncovered in the article is the lack of appeal the parks have in the minority community. Come to think of it, I almost never see minorities when visiting National Parks–just campervans full of toe-headed kids and their lily-white parents. I’m not sure why, but the National Park demographic is something right out of the O.C.

So, it seems that a variety of factors are affecting attendance and none of them are good. I suppose, however, that if there is a silver lining, it is the fact that the parks will be less crowded in the future and therefore more enjoyable.