“Leading up to the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service back in 2016, there was much discussion about the future of the parks. Perhaps the hallmark was the Second Century Commission’s report, prepared following a year of listening sessions, professional input, and discussion. Within its outline for strengthening the Park Service and the national parks in the 21st century were recommendations for better conservation of park resources, both natural and cultural. A decade later, the Park Service remains strapped for funds, overworked, and struggling in some places to manage crowds that impact natural resources and stress staff.
Now, with many parks starting to emerge from weeks of being closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, is the time right for taking a longer look at what the “national park experience” should be? That might be presumptuous, in that different people, cultures, and ethnicities surely approach that experience differently. Yet many onlookers would agree that the overall “park experience” has been impacted by overcrowding and visitors who, in some eyes, don’t see national parks with the proper reverence.
Last week Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility said now, with parks designing their reopenings, is the time to implement the mandate Congress gave the Park Service in 1978: identify visitor carrying capacities for parks.”