National Parks just can’t keep up with the hoards of crowds they’re seeing this record-breaking season. In the wake of all the shut-downs and chaos of the past year, the outdoors are seeing an insurgence of visitors looking to escape city life. Folks may have heard the expression “the more the merrier” and in some ways it still rings true. Families connecting over our country’s natural beauty is a wonderful thing. However, with more people comes more trash, longer lines and waiting times, as well as increased odds for accidents. The National Parks Service thinks it found a solution to combat some of these problems. In addition to the new timed ticket entry and crowd-monitoring apps, the NPS is looking into what they call “Selfie Stations.”
National Parks Admissions Break-Down
The National Parks Service recently celebrated its 105th birthday last week. It continues to reach new milestones as we begin to slowly transition from Summer to Fall. The Guardian reports several record-breaking feats.
Overcrowded parking lots created a safety hazard for emergency vehicles and forced Arches National Park to shut its point of entry over 100 times this summer. Yellowstone National Park reached 1 million visitors for the first time ever back in July. In terms of album sales, that would make Yellowstone the highly sought after “Platinum” status if you’re trying to wrap your head around what 1 million visitors looks like. Zion National Park experienced similar exponential growth with wait times for simple hikes upwards of 4 hours. This growth rate is frankly not sustainable, but that’s where the new trick up NPS’s sleeve comes in.
Selfie Stations: What To Know
Between the growing piles of trash left behind by irresponsible visitors, the National Parks Service is also seeing an uptick in other reckless behavior. When people stray from the marked trails, bad things happen. Wooden selfie stations could prevent some of these accidental injuries and deaths, hopes the National Parks Service. Set up in lesser-known areas of the parks, these stations can spread crowds in a way that makes logistical sense while actually enhancing the visitors’ overall experience. The stands would offer a completely safe, hands-free selfie experience set to beautiful, natural backdrops.
Selfie Stations already exist in a good portion of Iowa, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. In addition to providing the perfect photo-op, the stations also serve to educate visitors about the sites’ history. The leader of Iowa’s County Conservation System, Tom Hazelton, was directly involved with the installation of over a hundred selfie stations in his state. When talking to The Guardian, Tom said: “They’re nice, sturdy, cedar stations. They are getting used and they are low maintenance and easy to build: the signs are $30 and the wood is another $60 and there you go.”
With so many changes already, it’s hard to picture what experiencing the future of the National Parks will look like. Other reported changes include the possible addition of autonomous vehicles, quiet zones, and crowd-centered predictive technology. At the end of the day, the National Parks Service is celebrating all its newfound progress. They are also trying to keep up with visitors by rolling out updates as soon as possible. Here’s to another successful century and many more thereafter.