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National park visits hits record for 3rd consecutive year

More than 4 million people came to visit Yellowstone National Park last year.

(iStock)

Visits to US national parks set a record in 2016 for the third consecutive year as attractions such as Zion, Yellowstone and Rocky Mountain experienced historic levels of popularity that it brought collateral headaches arising from the overcrowded roads and paths and the increase of visitor misconduct.

In the many parks, the visitors waited an hour or more in the car to get through the gates, and then during the day try to outsmart other people for the number of parking spaces and the room on the popular routes. They left behind huge quantities of waste and sometimes, human waste.

Faced with a crowded, Disneyland-like situation in which people were expected to quiet serenity can lead to aggression and bad decisions, the park, the officials said.

UTAH’S ZION NATIONAL PARK HAS MANY VISITORS, EVEN IN THE WINTER OFF SEASON

“The level of frustration, we have definitely seen an increase in that,” said Kyle Patterson, Rocky Mountain National park spokeswoman. “Sometimes they take it out on each other and sometimes they take it to the park.

It was a good news-bad news for park managers. They praise the increased interest that it is difficult to retain iconic mountains, slot canyons, and wildlife habitat for future generations. The National Park Service budget remains basically flat, allowing parks to grapple with the problems without increasing staffing levels.

“We love having people come to the park,” said John Marciano, Zion National Park spokesman. “But our Number 1 goal, our mandate, is the preservation of the park in perpetuity and to ensure that our visitors have the best of the kind, and safe experience.”

Total visits to the national parks is on track to exceed 325 million euros in 2016, breaking the all-time high of 307 million in 2015, federal figures show. The record-breaking three-year piece came after parks visitation ebbed and flowed between 255-287 million for almost three decades.

The National Park Service launched a major marketing campaign to celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2016, including free tickets for every fourth-grader and their families. That renewed attention in combination with the favourable gas prices and a better economy probably contributed to the increase, said National Parks Service spokesman Jeffrey Olson.

The agency’s “Find Your park” campaign will continue this year, and officials expect to exceed 300 million visitors again, even if there is no record, Olson said.

Absent December totals, the Grand Canyon in northern Arizona affected 5.9 million visits. Yellowstone, which stretches into Wyoming, Montana and Idaho, it had 4.3 million visits.

In the last year to count for the Rocky mountains in Colorado was 4.5 million. Zion in southern Utah had 4.3 million visitors – almost double the 2010 total.

Cramming all those people in the narrow borders of Zion, where most visitors want to see the same iconic slot canyons and trails has led to many days to do an hour long wait to get in the park, a lot to fill it to 9 o’clock in the morning and press shuttles, Marciano said.

“Then you draw just like ducks in a row along the route, because there are so many go the same path,” Marciano said. “That is not what we want.”

An employee has her whole summer hiking and every day to the popular Angels Landing trail cleaning and more toilet paper in two portable restrooms designed for 40 visits daily that had 200, he said.

Both Zion and Yellowstone are the review of the creating better crowd plans and Zion is considering a booking system for the park entrances and a daily visitor limit.

Even though it is forbidden, more people that dogs on the trails in Rocky Mountain park. Visitors are also parking spaces for cars on the original vegetation or fragile alpine tundra, and leaving human waste in the vicinity of backcountry trails, Patterson said.

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This summer is the park on certain days for the first time limited number of cars allowed on two popular roads, ” she said.

After Yellowstone hit 4 million visitors for the time in 2015, park spokeswoman Morgan Warthin said the park last year, the “Yellowstone Property” urging visitors to follow guidelines that are not to stop on the side of the road to watch the bears and stay on the boardwalks. A man who stepped off a boardwalk died last year after falling into a boiling, acidic spring.

Yellowstone has also begged visitors of the “safe selfies” by staying far away from the wild animals.

“That wants that perfect photo, so that they are driven to closer and closer to the point that they have with danger for their own safety, Warthin said.

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