HomeOutdoorsNewsVisitor Surge at National Parks Has Congress Concerned About Overcrowding

Visitor Surge at National Parks Has Congress Concerned About Overcrowding

by Amy Myers
Photo by Robert Alexander/Getty Images

Even without seeing exact figures, it’s fairly obvious that our national parks have become more popular within the last couple of years. And while the new crowd of adventurers brings much-needed revenue to our public lands, this influx also translates to problematic overcrowding that puts a strain on our natural resources and transportation systems.

Congress has taken note of the arising problems and in response held a public meeting to better understand the potential repercussions of overcrowding in our 423 National Park Service sites. Among them was Rep. Katie Porter (D-CA) and Blake Moore (D-UT), who worry about how crowd management systems will affect access to the public in future years.

“Some parks like Yosemite are national attractions, for parks like that overcrowding must be actively managed,” Porter said, per News10.

Congressmen and women also questioned the place of reservation systems in the National Park Service’s future.

According to Zion National Park Superintendent Jeff Bradybaugh, though, “It’s not one-size-fits-all, we do need to understand how these particular situations in different parks manifest themselves.”

National Park Service May Implement Reservation Systems in 2023

Because this is a fairly new issue for the National Park Service, the answers to these questions still aren’t quite clear. It’s possible that some of the more popular national parks may continue to use reservation system during the busy season, typically late spring to early fall. Among the most popular parks are the Grand Canyon, Rocky Mountains, Acadia, Grand Tetons and Yosemite. Most of these parks used vehicle or individual reservation systems to help combat gridlock and overcrowding this past year.

Last year, Michael Reynolds, a regional director for the National Park Service, addressed a Senate subcommittee and cited parks like Acadia as examples of new programming currently in place to fight overcrowding.

In particula, Acadia National Park implemented a pilot vehicle reservation system that expanded transit services and commercial tours. According to Michael Reynolds, a regional director for the NPS, the park also has plans to construct the Acadia Gateway Center, a transit hub and regional visitor center located outside of the park.

Meanwhile, national parks have begun facilitating their own periods for public comment following these reservation programs. In particular, Yosemite National Park has just concluded its own pilot system, and for the rest of the year, visitors won’t need to reserve a spot online before heading to their destination. Once park officials have presented this year’s data to the public, they will be holding public meetings to hear the thoughts and concerns of locals and patrons.

“Yosemite has been grappling with congestion—even gridlock—for decades. We want to build from the lessons learned from the last three summers of managed access,” the park stated. “Look for an announcement in December, when we’ll start seeking your help to design an approach that provides a great visitor experience while protecting Yosemite’s natural and cultural resources.”