Almost anyone who travels the U.S. is aware of the 100th birthday of the National Parks system. Beginning this past March, we have seen a series of articles detailing the crowds at the most popular parks and as a frequent traveler and visitor I was more than a little dismayed to hear of this. I could only imagine the effects of overcrowding in these beautiful places set aside for people to appreciate. If you want to read the descriptions, check out the reporting on www.npr.org , and www.TheNewYorkTimes.com as well as other sources.
As I traveled through Oregon, Idaho, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico the past few days, I thought about whether restricting access is the best answer or whether trying to direct people to other, less popular, parks is a viable alternative. Then I drove past Canyonlands and The Arches near Moab, Utah. And I saw the lines of cars, campers and people first hand. Ouch! There it was right in front of me. I did not get in line.
I drove on into Moab, stopped at a brewery and picked up a few craft beers and continued on south. And here’s where the idea occurred to me. No, I had not opened any of the beers. I pulled off at a rest stop where there were three cars, two motorcycles and about seven people. The pictures above are from that area but not in the park. We have visited several of the very popular parks in the past including Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, Yosemite and Sequoia. So, I wondered if there might be yet another alternative for so many people who love the outdoors and especially these exquisitely beautiful surroundings.
Here’s the suggestion. For those of you who are campers, find a campground near a park and then explore the areas around but not necessarily in the park and you will often find very similar features. If you’re not a camper, stay at some other accommodation in the immediate area and ask the locals where to go to see and experience the same kinds of things. And finally, find the off peak hours, if possible, and go in early or late or certainly not on a weekend. Summertime doesn’t seem to matter what day it is.
These natural resources were set aside to be preserved so that all could enjoy and obviously, 100 years ago, all weren’t lining up to get in. In addition to the National Parks many states have well-developed state park systems. As one example, the first state park in Colorado is right smack in the middle of Denver, Cherry Creek State Park, 4,300 acres, 800 of which make up a reservoir. Wonderful wildlife too.
These are just a couple of alternatives so that more people can enjoy and appreciate a plethora of natural resources without having a negative impact on our National Parks. Happy Birthday to the National Parks as you begin your second century!