Greedy for nature and the great outdoors, never before have more Americans want to visit national parks. An economic boon as much as a nuisance, reveals this report from the Wall Street Journal.
With its two national parks, Arches Park and Canyonlands Park, the southeastern state of Utah “Has long been one of the most popular tourist destinations in the United States”. But this year, visitors are more likely to spend time stuck in their car, waiting in line to access the parks than enjoying the majestic nature and the joys of the great outdoors, report it Wall Street Journal.
“Where we go, there is a line”, Thus testifies Libby Preslock, a tourist who had just been turned away from Arches National Park at nine in the morning, which had already filled up with visitors. Libby was forced to change her plans and opt for a visit to Canyonlands Park, some fifty kilometers away, “Where she still had to wait more than half an hour in her vehicle before being able to enter”, underlines the newspaper.
It must be said that attendance at national parks has never been so high. In Arches National Park, it increased by 15% in April 2021 compared to April 2019 (in the same season, in 2020, the park was closed due to confinement). In Canyonlands, attendance increased by 30% over the same period.
And Utah is far from the only state affected by this new mass tourism: in Wyoming, Buffalo Bill State Park has seen a 37% increase in visitor numbers; while Yellowstone Park, straddling the states of Wyoming, Idaho and Montana, recorded a record with 50% more visitors during Memorial Day weekend (celebrated the last weekend of may).
Windfall effect and damage
This influx of tourists certainly has positive economic benefits at the local level, as in the small town of Moab, Utah, whose businesses are flourishing and where the labor shortage is such that the “The city’s McDonald’s is looking to hire team members with an hourly wage of $ 18 an hour, which is double the minimum wage”. But it is also accompanied by nuisances.
As the national parks offer only a few authorized camping places, many visitors opt for wild camping, degrading the surrounding nature, leaving their waste behind them while risking starting fires.