Hidden away in a remote corner of the Pacific Northwest, the North Cascades National Park is amongst the least visited parks in the entire U.S. system. On an annual basis, only about 20,000 people pass through its gates, despite the fact that it contains some of the most breathtaking backcountry in all of North America. There is a movement afoot to expand the park’s borders, however, and if successful, advocates of the plan believe that it could attract many more travelers to the region.
A group of conservationists, led by former U.S. Senator Dan Evans and mountaineer Jim Wickwire, have proposed an expansion to the North Cascades National Park that would add an additional 237,000 acres to its already impressive 500,000+. They also propose spending $23 million over five years to add or upgrade park amenities – something that is a bit of a tough sell with Congress these days.
Proponents of the plan feel that the addition of the extra land would move park boundaries closer to main access roads, giving it a higher profile with travelers passing through the region. It is hoped that the easier access and enhanced amenities would at the very least lure a few more visitors from Seattle, a major metropolitan area, which sits less than three hours away.
There will be major obstacles to the proposal getting the green light. As already mentioned, a looming budget crisis is likely to make the expansion of any national parks very difficult in the near future. In fact, most could be facing significant fiscal shortfalls in 2013 as Congress looks to cut spending across the board. Opposition is also expected to come from outdoor enthusiasts who don’t want to see more lands fall under the National Park Service‘s domain. While the NPS provides excellent protection for those lands they also greatly restrict how they can be used.
No matter the outcome, we’re likely a few years away from having this proposal get any serious attention. Still, if you enjoy hiking, camping or backpacking in remote areas, then you should make an effort to visit the North Cascades. Its snow capped peaks, pristine forests, idyllic waterfalls and more than 300 glaciers make it a fantastic destination for anyone who enjoys the outdoors. Considering how low the visitation numbers are, you’re also likely to have the park mostly to yourself.