National Parks: Make Your Reservation Today.

Could the U.S National Park Service become too successful for its own good? The NPS centennial in 2016 saw a record in park visitation, with numbers soaring to 331 million people. The U.S boast 59 National Parks from the Alaska frontier to the coast of Maine. The increase in park attendance has frustrated visitors and park employees alike. Concerns over preservation of parks ecosystems has also risen due to the number of visitors that parks are experiencing.

Due to high visitation rate, park managers have considered making reservation a requirement for entry. The NPS plans to reach a decision by 2018. Many Parks are designed to withstand the large amounts of visitor traffic, and most have systems in place to mitigate the impacts created by these crowds. However, the current numbers of visitors to parks has well surpassed expectations and manageable numbers. In 2015, national Parks experienced more visitors than Disney Theme Parks, the NFL, NBA, MLB, and NASCAR combined.

“We have to do something,” stated Jack Burns, an employee with Zion National Park since 1982. “If this is going to remain a place of special importance for generations, we have to do something now.”

Zion is located in Southwest Utah, and its story mirrors that of many National Parks. Heavy traffic, names carved in the landscape, unregulated drone flights, improperly disposed of trash, has all contributed to increased stressed and damage to the park ecosystems. Climate change and budget shortages are also contributing factors to the NPS’s mounting stress. Overall, the park system has more than $11 billion in backlogged maintenance, and the Trump administration has proposed a 13 percent budget cut for the NPS.

Norma Dunton, has been hiking in Zion National park for 40 years. “As much as I don’t like the idea of reservation to get into the parks,” she said. “It would be worth it to save the parks if that’s what they have to do.” The reservation system would phase entry for cars and put a cap on daily park visitors. This system would be limited to parks that experience the greatest visitation rates, such as Zion, Yellowstone, The Grand Canyon, and others.

Historically, parks like Zion have had to adjust accessibility to protect park health. Fifteen years ago, Zion created a mandatory shuttle system to get visitors through the park. This was due to high traffic and air pollution. Parks have also taken to using social media platforms to inform the public on their visitation status, as well as the latest news regarding the NPS.

Former park superintendent Joan Anzelmo speculated “we’re getting used to having to make reservations for concerts or other popular activities, and we might need to start thinking that way for some of our most popular National Parks.”

Presently, the National Park Service is in a state of flux. Three proposed visitor plans were submitted by administrators at Zion National Park. The first, would require the public to make online reservations. The second, would require reservations only in specific areas of the park. The third, would be to make no changes.

America’s modern day National Park Service was not created overnight. Congressional Acts created over time evolved the National Park Service into the present model. With the preservation of America’s wilderness and beauty taking center stage in the mid-19th century, came the creation of the Yellowstone National Park Act of 1872. Over two million acres of wilderness was set aside in Montana and Wyoming, creating Yellowstone National Park. Pleasure, recreation and conservation were the driving force behind the creation of Yellowstone and future National Parks.

The Antiquity Act of 1906, built upon the earlier Yellowstone National Park Act. The Antiquity Act, allowed the President of the United States to proclaim and reserve areas of historical and scientific interest. In 1916, the Organic Act was passed, which established the foundation of the current National Park Service’s mission, philosophy, and policies.

“The national Park Service preserves the unimpaired the natural and cultural resources and values of the National Park System for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of this and future generations.”

The mission of the National park Service is currently in jeopardy, due to the threat of budget cuts, combined with record breaking visitation, climate change, and human inflicted ecological degradation. Creating a reservation system may be one of the ways to help preserve America’s National Parks for this and future generations to enjoy.

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