Maybe it's just me, but I'm having a hard time trying to understand what the “America’s Great Outdoors Initiative” is all about. Seems to me that it's just an excuse to just spend more money - our tax dollars.
According to coverage of the event in Asheville yesterday, the listening session focused on how to get kids more interested in the outdoors. Some of the suggestions that were brought up include:
• More education about the outdoors in schools, as well as more funding for outdoor learning and field trips.
• Increased funding for local, state and federal parks and programs to promote the outdoors.
• Draft public figures and celebrities to launch a media campaign to encourage young people to get outside.
I don't understand why this is an issue. Let's take a look at total park visitation trends for the entire national park system from 1979 through 2009:
After a sharp increase in the early-eighties, visitation to our national parks has been relatively flat. Why is that bad? I would also point out that with the sharp increase in the number of wilderness areas around the country in recent years, there may be more people who are electing to go to those places rather than a national park.
Furthermore, the Outdoor Foundation found in its 2010 Outdoor Recreation Participation Topline Report that Americans are spending more time outside. The report shows a 3.3% increase in what they call “core” outdoor activities (from 97.5 million to 100.7 million Americans ages 6 and above) during 2009. The report also found that participation in hiking has increased by 8.4% over the last nine years.
Perhaps more importantly, why do we want more people in our parks anyway? Is it really a good thing?
Just a few years ago the headlines were constantly screaming that we were loving our parks to death. Now we want to make them even more crowded?
If the purpose of this listening tour is to try to encourage more children to visit our parks, this obviously means they'll likely be visiting during the summer when school is out. Think about how crowded parks like the Great Smoky Mountains, Yellowstone, Grand Canyon and Yosemite already are during the summer months.
From my vantage point, I don't see a lack of love for our national parks as being a problem. What do you think? Am I missing something?
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