Americans are still flocking to many of the country’s national parks at alarming rates. The increased visitor numbers have led to traffic jams, trash and vandalism, threatening to disrupt the very environment drawing people to the outdoors in the first place.
In response to the overcrowding problem, the USA Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources held a meeting on Wednesday, July 28, in hopes of finding solutions to curb overtourism at national parks.
“It’s great to see so many Americans take advantage of these parks; that is, after all, why we protect these lands in the first place,” Chairman Angus King (I-ME) said at the committee hearing, according to The Spectrum. “However, at the same time, we must recognize that overcrowding in the parks itself can degrade the natural resources and wildlife that these units are designed to protect. We can accidentally love our parks to death.”
Over 32 million people visited national parks in July, according to the National Parks Service. And though that is a tick below the 33 million visitors parks saw in 2020, these numbers are often too much for the limited staff to manage.
“The growth in visitation is posing one of the greatest challenges NPS has ever faced,” Kristen Brengel, senior vice president at the National Parks Conservation Association, told the subcommittee via Bloomberg.
Zion National Park uses shuttle buses to combat overcrowding © 4kodiak/Getty Images
Several parks around the country have instituted timed entry to alleviate the onslaught of arrivals, while other parks are expanding or looking into shuttle bus services to cut down on the number of cars entering parks. However, even that has its drawbacks. The Press Herald reports, waiting times for Zion’s shuttle service ballooned to four hours this summer.
President Biden’s $1 trillion infrastructure bill, which is currently being negotiated, includes a $3.5 billion allotment for national parks that would improve the parks’ infrastructure, create jobs and fund conservation efforts around the country.
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