Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, people have been visiting national parks more than ever before. This rise in interest in the parks can be largely attributed to the desire to get out of the house and away from the many stresses that come with pandemic life without being exposed to large groups of people.
This newfound interest can do more than just help people get out without spreading the virus. The increase in visitors can also help promote the preservation efforts of national parks.
The United States National Park Service was created in 1872 when Congress signed an act that designated Yellowstone as the first national park. Since then, more than 100 countries have followed in the footsteps of the U.S. and created their own national parks. In the U.S., there are now over 400 national parks dedicated to preserving natural wildlife and history.
The National Park Service provides a way for people to learn not only about the park itself, but also about the surrounding area. Visitors are able to learn about the history and culture, either by going on tours and guided hikes or just spending time in the parks and taking in the natural history, as well as taking a look at informational placards in the parks.
One of the main purposes of the National Park Service is to protect the natural history of these iconic landmarks and beautiful natural areas around the country. The parks help preserve both the wildlife and the history contained within by hiring people from all backgrounds, such as historians, archaeologists, curators and more.
National parks are primarily funded by Congress, according to the National Park Foundation, with additional funds coming from the park entrances and parking fees. Besides that, funds come from other charitable organizations and donations.
Like many places in the U.S., most of the parks are still operational during the pandemic, but with some social distancing restrictions. The National Park Service is asking guests to wear masks in all facilities, practice social distancing in the parks and continue wearing masks outside if there is not enough room for proper distancing on crowded or narrow trails.
At some parks, guests are able and encouraged to pay entrance fees beforehand in an effort to gauge capacity for the day. This also helps eliminate the amount of time guests are spending in lines, close to people or with their engines running.
National parks have always been an important staple of U.S. tourism. There are blogs dedicated to planning road trips that take you to as many parks as possible across the country. The national parks annual America the Beautiful pass is a great resource that allows visitors to access all parks for a yearly fee.
The New York Times reported national parks saw a record number of visitors in 2020. People flocked to the parks for a socially distanced getaway, which also happened to bring awareness to preservation efforts in the parks.
Over the last 165 years, the National Park Service has been working toward documenting and preserving natural landscapes around the country.
The Historical American Landscape Survey was officially deemed a permanent federal program in 2000, and since then, more than 300 Cultural Landscapes Reports have been made and more than 700 Cultural Landscape Inventories have been documented. This is just one example of how the National Park Service is working to preserve the natural history of the country.
Being able to get outside and away from the monotony and stress of quarantine life is important. This rise in interest and visitation indicates not only an increase in awareness, but an increase in funds from entrance fees, parking fees and donations from visitors. There is hope that the rise in interest in the parks will continue postpandemic in ways that can help the National Park Service grow even more.
The new influx of entrance fee funds has the ability to help create new projects, help with upkeep of landmarks and more.
By visiting the national parks, both the guests and the National Park Service win. Spending time outside helps to decrease stress in a time where it feels like stress is more abundant than air. Taking the time to go outside and enjoy the world around you helps both personal health and the continuation of natural history preservation at our national parks.