State park attendance trends suggest parks will be overburdened by mid-century

national park
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

A combined team of researchers from Utah State University and North Carolina State University has found evidence that suggests state parks in the U.S. will become so crowded by mid-century that states will have difficulty paying for their upkeep. In their paper published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the group describes their study of historical attendance records of all the state parks in the country and what they mean for the future.

State parks in the U.S. are a big deal. People from all walks of life visit parks to get away from the bustle of daily life. Combined, they greet far more visitors than the National Park system, and in general, enjoy a good reputation as a welcome respite. But that reputation might be in jeopardy if the state bureaucracies operating the parks do not take into account the rising numbers of visitors.

To learn more about likely future attendance at America's , the researchers looked to the past. In so doing, they found that attendance at most state parks has been rising, along with operating costs. They report that since 1984, state attendance across the country rose by 6.6 percent. The researchers did not look into the reasons for the increase in attendance; they may be too varied to count accurately. But with a rising and state parks serving as a reasonably inexpensive getaway, it seems likely that they will continue to be a draw. The researcher do note that there is also another factor involved—. As the planet heats up, people will have longer warm seasons, allowing more opportunities to visit state parks. Also, climate change could add to the costs of maintaining parks in general.

**State park attendance trends suggest parks will be overburdened by mid-century
Estimated average marginal effects by year across all 50 state park systems. Credit: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2019). DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1902314116

The researchers used the data they collected to make projections about the future. In one scenario based on attendance records of the past and increasing temperatures, they found that operating costs for parks nationwide could see an increase of 756 percent in just 30 years. Such an increase, the researchers note, would push budgets far past their current levels, putting state parks across the country at great risk. They note that lawmakers need to start considering their options before the parks start to degrade.


Explore further

Pollution is a 'significant' problem at 401 national parks, report says

More information: Jordan W. Smith et al. Attendance trends threaten future operations of America's state park systems, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2019). DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1902314116

© 2019 Science X Network

Citation: State park attendance trends suggest parks will be overburdened by mid-century (2019, June 4) retrieved 21 July 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2019-06-state-trends-overburdened-mid-century.html
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.
137 shares

Feedback to editors

User comments

Jun 04, 2019
The National Parks are almost unusable, almost unenjoyable. I was a Yosemite Camp 4 habitué in the late Sixties. I visited there again for my seventieth b'day and to celebrate Honnold and Cauldwell and the Fiftieth Anniversary of the last real Firefall.

It is a good time to be old, as good a fatal pandemic as any. Too bad that our off spring will never see the glory that was Yosemite.

And the state parks must take up the overage and soo they will be overrun with ... ...

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more