Well, according to some statistics, the answer is yes. Several statistics showing declining visitation for the Park system as a whole since peaking in 1987. Not only are people visiting less often, but they’re also visiting for a shorter amount of time and they’re camping less.
Furthermore, Americans are spending less time on outdoor related activities in general.
Although many explanations have been put forth, such as increased time watching TV, playing video games or surfing the internet, the article states that the biggest reason Americans aren’t visiting our National Parks is because they’re flocking to big cities for their vacations now. Instead of Yellowstone or Yosemite, families are now opting to visit New York or Las Vegas.
Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on your point of view, visitation in the Smoky Mountains has held steady over the last 8 years. Yes, the Park had more than 10 million visitors in 1999 and 2000, but if you look at the long-term picture (see graph below - visitation statistics are from 1959 through 2007), visitation in the Smokies has slowly trended upwards.
Looking at the National Park System as a whole, should falling interest in our National Parks be cause for alarm for those of us that love them? The thinking goes that if we as a nation no longer support the Parks, we may no longer want to pay for them.
Maybe Ken Burns’ new documentary series will spark a renewed love affair with our Parks.
Are you at all concerned about these trends? Is there anything that we as a nation should do?