The National Park Service (NPS) announced 330,882,751 recreation visits in 2017—almost identical to the record-setting 330,971,689 recreation visits in 2016. While numbers were steady, visitors actually spent more time in parks during their 2017 visits compared to 2016.
Increased attendance at parks, 1.5 billion visits in the last five years, also means aging park facilities are incurring further wear and tear, according to a NPS news release.
President Trump has proposed legislation to establish a Public Lands Infrastructure Fund that would help address the $11.6 billion maintenance backlog in the National Park System. The fund would take new revenue from federal energy leasing and development and provide up to $18 billion to help pay for repairs and improvements in national parks, national wildlife refuges, and Bureau of Indian Education funded schools.
“Our National Parks are being loved to death,” said U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke.
“As visitor rates continue at a high level, we must prioritize much-needed deferred maintenance including aging facilities, roads, and other critical infrastructure. President Trump’s proposal to establish a Public Lands Infrastructure Fund is a step in the right direction. This is not a Republican or Democrat issue, this is an American issue, and the President and I remain ready to work with anyone in Congress who is willing to get the job done.”
National Park System 2017 visitation highlights include:
- More than 1.44 billion recreation hours in 2017, an increase of 19 million hours over 2016
- Most—385 of 417 parks in the National Park System—count park visitors
- 61 of the 385 reporting parks set new visitation records (about 16 percent of reporting parks)
- 42 parks broke a record they set in 2016
- 3 parks had more than 10 million recreation visits—Blue Ridge Parkway, Golden Gate National Recreation Area, and Great Smoky Mountains National Park
- 10 parks had more than 5 million recreation visits
- 81 parks had more than 1 million recreation visits—one more million-visitor park than 2016
- Half of national park visitation occurred in 27 parks
- The total solar eclipse last August brought visitors in record numbers to several parks
- More than 10,000 people descended on Homestead National Monument of America near Beatrice, Nebraska, for the total solar eclipse on August 20, 2017. Homestead set an all-time visitation record for the day, the month and the year.
Parks that passed notable recreational visit milestones for the first time:
- Grand Canyon National Park: 6 million
- Zion National Park: 4.5 million
- Glen Canyon National Recreation Area: 4 million
- Boston National Historical Park: 3 million
- Glacier National Park: 3 million
- Bryce Canyon National Park: 2.5 million
- Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park: 2.5 million
- Big Bend National Park: 400,000
- Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve: 400,000
- Mississippi National Recreation and River Area: 400,000
- Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site: 200,000
- Congaree National Park: 150,000
- Great Basin National Park: 150,000
- Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site: 150,000
- Monocacy National Battlefield: 100,000
- Waco Mammoth National Monument: 100,000
- Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument: 75,000
- Palo Alto Battlefield National Historical Park: 75,000
- James A. Garfield National Historic Site: 50,000
- National Park of American Samoa: 50,000
- Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site: 50,000
- Agate Fossil Beds National Monument: 30,000
- Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument: 30,000
- Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve: 30,000
When your spirit cries for peace, come to a world of canyons deep in an old land; feel the exultation of high plateaus, the strength of moving wasters, the simplicity of sand and grass, and the silence of growth.