It’s a Park Thing

1 03 2010

Last year, the National Park system hosted more than 285 million visitors.  This number represents a 10 million-visitor increase over 2008, and comes just shy of breaking the record (287.2 million in 1987).  Last week, the Department of the Interior released a report indicating that the National Park system supports more than 223,000 jobs and nearly $14 billion in economic activity across the country, particularly providing support for smaller, local economies.

Despite this indication that interest in the National Parks is at a high, and despite the economic support generated by the National Parks, the FY2011 federal budget provides for a $21.6 million funding decrease over the current FY2010 budget.  While this is a small percentage, in reality the National Park system is already facing a $580-million annual operating shortfall and a backlog of maintenance projects that exceeds $9 billion.  Moreover, the decrease reverses a committment by the government to restore the operations budget for the National Park system, and falls short of fulfilling the promise of the Obama administration to address the already-existing funding shortfall.

There are others out there who have written on this topic with more detail and depth than I am today.  Instead of repeating all of the arguments already made, I’m going to answer one question:

Why are National Parks important?

  • A National Park vacation can be an affordable alternative to expensive family trips to Disney World, beach resorts, and other popular destinations.
  • Americans are becoming increasingly sedentary, and increasingly content to sit inside and immerse themselves in technology.  The beauty and accessibility of the National Parks provides much-needed inspiration to get outdoors, get some exercise, and leave the Blackberry at home.
  • National Parks are places of wonder.  Waterfalls, canyons, desert, forest, wildlife…as Joni Mitchell once complained, let’s not pave paradise and put up a parking lot.  What’s more, however, the National Park Service makes these spaces of wonder accessible to Joe and Jane Six-Pack…and to you and me.

Those are my reasons for asking for a restored budget for the National Park Service, and the reason I donate to the National Park Service.  Americans are interested.  It stimulates the economy in a real, sustainable fashion, because when visitors come to the parks (domestic and international visitors), they are also supporting local business.  Most importantly, I love visiting the National Parks, learning in them, and sharing them with others.

All I’m asking today is that you visit a National Park.  Think about the importance it has to you.  And then do something about it.

© Her Side of the Mountain, 2010.



2 responses

2 03 2010

This year I am venturing out of my own National Parks in Alberta/British Columbia, Canada to explore one of yours. I leave for Zion National Park on May 8th for six days and I can hardly wait!

2 03 2010

Congrats on your upcoming trip! You’ll love it. Stay tuned…I’ll post some Zion tips…

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