Visits are down at almost all national parks, even at Yosemite, notorious for summertime crowds and traffic jams. Meanwhile, most of the 390 properties in the park system are begging for business.
I thought this was a good thing?? Do we really need populated places to justify funding to protect them?? Isn't that the whole idea behind setting aside natural places
Meanwhile, the parks' most loyal visitors over the last several decades are vacationing elsewhere. Baby boomers are changing the way they play. Some of the more adventurous have embraced mountain biking and similar sports that are not allowed in many national parks. But as they age, most boomers are less interested in pitching tents and sleeping on the ground.
"I do believe that there is a significant trend, 'Done before dinner,' " said Frank Hugelmeyer, president of the Outdoor Industry Assn. "Baby Boomers want hard adventure by day and soft adventure by night. They want to paddle and rock-climb and also their Cabernet and almond-crusted salmon with asparagus. And a nice bed."
I don't care for the cab and salmon routine, but sometimes it is easier to just rent a cabin or get a motel room and grab some daypacks than to pull everything together - As I get older, I still like the adventure but sometimes my 47 year old back hurts just a little too much to keep crawling in and out of a tent or sit on a rock for dinner... I used to help out a small outings company and there were always numerous paddling and backpacking trips with tent camping on the calendar each year. The schedule seemed to start to change around 2000-2002. Clients were aging and would rather have cabins/rooms with showers and day-hike.
Many young families, too, are spurning the parks. According to Emilyn Sheffield, a social scientist at Cal State Chico on loan to the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, children have more say in family vacation destinations than ever before and, if they must be outdoors, they prefer theme parks.
Of my 30 some-odd coworkers that have kids. All that is ever talked about is beach vacations, golf course vacations and Disney. Backcountry adventures simply are not an option to folks who grew up in cities and/or are heavily orientated towards fashion and technology.
I am leading a cub-pack now and trying to put together a short hike to a shelter on the AT, 18 miles away. I am receiving feedback from some parents that that is just to far to drive for a hike when our town has 2-3 parks in the city limits (these aren't parks with trails, just small village parks with a ball-field, restrooms and pavilions) - And why do the kids have to hike so far, can't they just walk around the park and then play on the swing set?. I will continue to work on them. (what if.... someone gets hurt? ...snakes? Bees?...rocks....etc...)
A Nature Conservancy study funded by the National Science Foundation and released last July found a correlation between the drop in national park visits and the increasing popularity of at-home entertainment, including video games and the Internet.
So.... Will most tents now be purchased for camping out at the local big box store awaiting the release of the newest fad.....
Author Richard Louv writes of a "nature deficit disorder" and suggests parental fears about kidnapping and crime are keeping children off neighborhood streets and out of parks.
Aha!!! But there is the Discovery Channel and Animal Planet to keep them informed, No???
"We scare them to death with signs and pamphlets warning them about bears, snakes, spiders, poison oak, drowning, driving on ice and in snow and all the other disclaimers we provide," said Alexandra Picavet, the spokeswoman at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. "Small wonder they are terrified."
We were in Ontario a few days ago and stopped on the Niagara Parkway at Whirlpool Rapids where The Spanish Aero Car touches the cliff before it returns to it's dock. the parking area has a 20' drop off at the edge and the only thing to protect you from going over is a is a 3" curb. I commented to my wife that in US, that would never work because it is incumbent upon the nation to protect the citizens from doing absolutely stupid things. we'd have a huge guard rail/Chain Link Fences and and Big signs saying, "Warning!!! Do not drive over the curb".
I think as a nation we capitalize on protecting people from their own stupidity due to all the litigation. I sometimes think the new outlets are a new form of terrorism by continually warning (scaring?) folks about everything that could possibly harm them. (announcements on TV... "Could your child wind up dead tomorrow morning from .....yadayada... Tune in to channel 11 at 6PM to see what happened...."
One example of inadvertent exclusion was at Kings Canyon, where rangers began to notice in recent years that Latino families from the Central Valley visiting for the day complained they could not find enough space at family picnic sites.
The park service had assumed that a family would be able to fit at one picnic table that seated about six people. But the extended Latino families visiting Kings Canyon often numbered 15 to 20 people, a size the park defined as a "group" requiring a permit.
That happens in our local parks here - We have some sizable Latino areas. You stop by a park on a weekend afternoon to enjoy the sunshine and let your child play on the playground, but there are no picnic tables -They are all being used by large extended family gatherings sometimes all moved together or sometimes they have their stuff spread out on all the tables, but put 2-3 together as the main area. (there are not group pavilions that can be reserved for groups of 10-40, I have found them empty many times).
I think many folks start to avoid going to the parks or drive to parks further out in the suburbs to either get a picnic table or have some solitude and avoid the crowds and the loud music.
Some members of Congress have offered solutions they say would put parks more in step with what Americans want, including more commercialized activities and businesses. With the backing of industry, some politicians have called for opening more parks to motorized recreation.
I can't help but think that this is a bad thing. Members of Congress are the ones that are usually completely out of touch with the average constituent and feel that throwing money against it (especially if in their geographic area) will solve the problem (Which I am still not sure exists...)
James Gramann, a social scientist at Texas A&M University and visiting chief social scientist for the park service, cautioned, "We can't be driven simply by changes in public tastes, because we also have responsibilities to resources that we are mandated to protect."
Critics contend that if park service officials become slaves to recreational fashion, national parks would roar with the sound of jet skis, snowmobiles and all-terrain vehicles, and cellphone towers would rise among redwoods and touch-screen computers would dot wilderness trails.
"When you put technical contrivances in, it replaces nature, and what sets the parks apart is their authenticity," said Bill Tweed, former chief resource ranger at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.
"The next generation will challenge the national parks. They might ask, 'Why do we need parks when we can simulate them?' In a rush to make parks relevant, we will end up destroying what makes them unique."
I find it amazing that the folks desiring to protect the park are considered "Critics". I suddenly appreciate Gov. Baxter's rigid insistence on the land he set aside way back when....