National Park Service Sets Recreation Visits Record in 2017

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.

Grand Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Grand Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

Blue Ridge Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Blue Ridge Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

“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.”

Boston National Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights

Boston National Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.
Congaree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights

Congaree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights

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

Worth Pondering…

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.

—August Fruge

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