Welcome to February 2020’s “News From the Parks,” our monthly series where we round up for you the latest info about happenings in America’s Greatest treasures.
2019 Visitation Numbers:
This month the National Park Service released its visitation numbers for 2019. Confirming that the parks continue to be a popular destination, 2019 was the fifth consecutive year that recreation visits exceeded 300 million, with a total of 327.5 million visitors – The third highest since record-keeping began in 1904. Additionally, visitation in 2019 surpassed 2018 by more than 9 million, a 2.9 percent increase.
2019 also saw Thirty-three parks setting new recreation visitation records in 2019, with two parks breaking long-standing records – Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, with 432,818 recreation visits surpassed a record held since 1976, and Capulin Volcano National Monument broke a 1968 record with 81,617 recreation visits in 2019.
Of the 419 National Park Service sites, three parks had more than 10 million recreation visits giving them the top spots of the year – Golden Gate National Recreation Area, Blue Ridge Parkway, and Great Smoky Mountains National Park. From there, 11 parks had more than five million visits, and 80 parks had more than one million.
After Golden Gate, Blue Ridge the third through seventh most-visited sites in 2019 – Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Gateway National Recreation Area, the Lincoln Memorial, Lake Mead National Recreation Area, and the George Washington Memorial Parkway – retained their 2018 order.
Visitation to the Natchez Trace Parkway finished just ahead of visitation to Grand Canyon National Park for the eighth most-visited site.
Gulf Islands National Seashore was number 10.
Of the 62 Congressionally Designated National Parks, Great Smoky Mountains National Park with 12.5 million and Grand Canyon National Park with 5.97 million continue to hold the first and second most-visited national parks in the United States. Rocky Mountain National Park held on to third place and set a new visitation record at 4.67 million. Zion National Park stayed in fourth place, and Yosemite National Park recovered after a drop in 2018 due to wildland fires to move past Yellowstone National Park for fifth place. The remaining top 15 spots go to Yellowstone, Acadia National Park, Grand Teton National Park, Olympic National Park, Glacier National Park, Joshua Tree National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Indiana Dunes National Park, and Gateway Arch National Park.
If you’d like to read even more 2019 numbers check out this article from RV Miles:
Mount Rainer Closes:
With heavy snowfall and life-threatening mudslides and flooding, Mount Rainer National Park closed indefinitely early February. As of last Monday, the entrance on State Route 706 east of Ashford opened again, allowing visitors access to the Longmire and Paradise areas. Essential staff remained within the park during the closure, maintaining emergency access and services, as well as securing critical water, wastewater, electrical, and drainage infrastructure inside the park.
Flooding within park boundaries caused damage to roads, trails, and historic structures, including the National Park Inn and other nationally-significant buildings within the Longmire National Historic Landmark District. Several buildings in Longmire lost critical systems as sump pumps were unable to keep up with water intrusion.
Elsewhere in the park, access to the Carbon River area is blocked due to a washout on Pierce County’s Fairfax Forest Reserve Road, and SR 410 is currently blocked by four slides near the park entrance. These roads will remain closed until they can be cleared of water and debris.
Pierce County is projecting the Fairfax Forest Reserve Road will require a long-term closure and is assessing a detour route for future use.
COVID-19 May Impact Yellowstone Tourism Revenue:
As COVID-19 continues to dominate headlines, a major drop in tourism to Yellowstone is expected 2020, as the coronavirus continues to devastate mainland China, and the US tries to stave off its spread stateside.
About a quarter of all foreign visitors coming to the park are from China or nearly 10% of all visitors.
Near Yellowstone, the hardest-hit gateway community will be West Yellowstone, Montana. Almost half of all visitors come through the West Entrance, and according to a recent article from rocketminer.com, a publication serving Southwest Wyoming, businesses who have invested heavily in advertising to Asian populations will be impacted the most in the coming season, including tour bus companies, hotels, and gift shops.
The impact could be devastating for some vendors inside and outside the park.
And while businesses are focused on the economic issues, the World Travel & Tourism Council is worried that any Asian tourists who do visit the United States may face discrimination. In a Salt Lake Tribune article, Tiffany Misrahi, vice-president of policy for the organization, expressed concern that the mainland China travel ban will only promote a stigma and increase discrimination, while doing nothing to protect against the virus saying, “evidence indicates that travel restrictions directed at individual countries are unlikely to keep the virus out of a nation’s borders while exacerbating the outbreak’s social and economic tolls.”
How long the effects of the coronavirus outbreak may last is uncertain, but its effects are far-reaching. “It is critical that during such challenging times the world comes together to promote a message of peace and tolerance, rather than discrimination and stigma,” Misrahi said. A Yellowstone spokesperson noted that visitors from China would be “treated like any other visitors to the park.” The tourism season for Yellowstone begins late spring and continues through early fall.
The National Park Service has announced Jennifer Flynn, a 29-year veteran of the NPS, will step into the role associate director for visitor and resource protection beginning April 12th.
As associate director, Flynn will serve as the senior official responsible for 30 service-wide programs, 850 employees, and a budget exceeding $200 million. Her areas of responsibility will include law enforcement, security and emergency services, fire and aviation management, risk management and occupational safety, public health services, regulations, and special park uses, wilderness stewardship, the NPS component at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, and the U.S. Park Police.
National Park Releases New Short Video to Honor Black History Month:
The National Park Service marked Black History Month with a variety of new tours, exhibits, and digital media honoring and acknowledging the struggle, resilience, and beauty of the African American experience as reflected in America’s national parks.
As part of Black History Month, the NPS released a new short video titled Twenty & Odd. Using vocal and artistic imagery to advance messages of African American empowerment, remembrance, education, inspiration and engagement, and featuring Dr. Maya Angelou’s recording of her poem “Still I Rise,” the video and its online companion guide were developed to encourage dialogue about racial equity, representation, and change within the social system.
The piece was filmed on location at more than a dozen National Park Service sites that highlight aspects of African American history and culture, including New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park, Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site, African Burial Ground National Monument and Carter G. Woodson Home National Historic Site.
This month, several NPS sites celebrated birthdays including Jewel Cave National Park, Bandelier National Monument, and Death Valley National Park.
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Today’s show was sponsored by L.L.Bean, follow the hashtag #BeanOutsider, and visit LLBean.com to find great gear for exploring the National Parks.