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Reader Participation Day: How Important Are National Park Visitation Data to You?


How important is it to you to know that Glacier National Park saw record visitation in 2010, that visitation to Great Smoky Mountains National Park dipped, or that overall visitation to the National Park System declined by 1 or 2 percent or rose by 1 or 2 percent in any one year?

Are visitation numbers indicators of the overall health of the National Park System and the resources it contains, or a popularity contest? If overall park visitation peaked one year say, to 300 million, should the National Park Service aspire to welcome 325 million visitors the following year?

Visitation to the parks is important for an array of reasons: public health and enjoyment, appreciation, economic stimulus for gateway communities, business for concessionaires, and hope that more and more of those visitors will become strong advocates for the National Park System and get involved in supporting the parks.

And while the National Park Service certainly needs the data for overall managerial purposes, is too much emphasis put on those numbers in the public arena?

Are you truly interested in these visitation numbers, or, for instance, would you be more interested in learning how many park visitors took an interpretive tour, how many youngsters got involved in Junior Ranger programs, or how natural resources benefited, or suffered, during the previous 12 months?

Tell us, travelers.


I think that the more information available to potential visitors, the better. People visit the parks for varied reasons; one may be to avoid crowds, so monthly--or even weekly--visitation numbers would provide significant information, as would that on tours and activities for children, historical information, weather data, and any other information that would be interesting and helpful.

I first visited Yosemite as a child in 1950 and have fond, vivid memories of it's beauty. While it is still beautiful, time and climate chang have certainly taken their toll. I have since visited other parks and am an avid supporter of the national system.

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