Thursday, April 20, 2017

Big crowds at national parks in recent years leading to an increase in emergency situations

Big crowds at Old Faithful at Yellowstone National Park
(National Park Service photo by Neal Herbert)
National parks in recent years have been overrun with large crowds, leading to an increase in emergency situations, David Erickson reports for the Billings Gazette. A sharp increase last year in visitors to Yellowstone National Park and Montana's Glacier National Park led to an increase in "arrests, car accidents, search and rescue operations, traffic headaches, full parking lots, long lines at overused bathrooms, crowds in scenic overlooks, full campgrounds and a myriad other problems."

Norma Nickerson, director of the Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research at the University of Montana, said "many park managers are now having to deal with the same emergency situations as cities that have a police force and other city departments to manage the problem," Erickson writes.

Nickerson, who recently published a report on overcrowding at national parks, said Glacier saw a 20 percent increase in visitors last year. Also, visitors were up 23 percent at Crater Lake National Park, 20 percent at Yosemite National Park, 18 percent at Zion National Park and 13 percent at Arches National Park. While two of the most popular national parks, the Grand Canyon National Park and Yellowstone only saw increases of eight and four percent in 2016, that's up from increases of 17 and 16 percent in 2015.

At Yellowstone, search and rescue incidents increased 61 percent in 2015, injuries were up 167 percent, emergency medical responses were up 37 percent and Life Flight evacuations were up 25 percent, Erickson notes. Last year nearly three million people visited Glacier, where it's not uncommon in July and August for some parking lots to be filled up by 11 a.m. and many campgrounds to be fully booked every day during those two months.

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