The second link makes for a theory of mine: Sure, people should care about National Parks protections. But doesn't more visitors create more park problems?
The second weakness in Searle's analysis is his tendency to focus too narrowly on national parks rather than recognizing that conservation is something that must play across the whole Canadian landscape. Of course, because of their fundamental mandate for ecological integrity, national parks must demonstrate the highest standard of conservation practice. But if Canada puts all its hopes for biodiversity conservation and ecological health into the tiny four percent of our land mass that is enclosed in national park boundaries, we simply have no hope. I found myself frustrated from time to time by the degree to which Searle's vision seemed to be confined inside park boundaries. Fundamentally, all land is sacred. National parks should not necessarily be treated as more sacred; they should be the places where we study to understand the sacredness of our native land, and then take those insights home with us. If Canadians fail to sustain Canada, no amount of protection will sustain our parks.
Camping Trips Decline in some National Parks;
Boomers to Blame
Tourism experts say the Baby Boomers' preference for cushier vacations, including traveling by recreational vehicle (RV), is contributing to a decline in campers, RVers and other visitors at national parks nationwide.
According to an Associated Press report, Maine's Acadia National Park saw annual visitation fall 15% from 1999 to 2004. Only 72,000 people camped out there last year, a drop of 22% in the past decade. Nationwide, camping at national parks fell 12% between 1999 and 2004.
The aging population is just part of the reason, said Jim Gramann, a professor at Texas A&M University and the visiting chief social scientist for the National Park Service. Other factors include hectic lifestyles, competing recreational options, an uncertain economy, a drop in international visitors, shorter vacations and even an increase in ethnic populations unfamiliar with the park system.
"As people get older they may stop visiting parks for health reasons or because they've already been, and the younger visitors who are more technologically sophisticated and who have grown up in a digital environment may not be attracted," he said. "People are asking 'Do you have wireless in your campground?'"
Boomers are opting for recreational vehicles, dude ranches and lodges. They're also taking amenity-filled vacations on cruise ships and buying vacation homes near the beach or mountains, said Derrick Crandall, president of the American Recreation Coalition in Washington, D.C.
The declines don't mean the parks are deserted. There were 276.9 million visits to the National Park System last year.
The Great Smoky Mountain National Park in North Carolina and Tennessee reported the following visits:
* Total Recreation Visits for FY 2004- 9,205,037
* Total Recreation Visits for FY 2003- 9,189,543
* Total Recreation Visits for FY 2002- 9,215,812
Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a wildlands sanctuary preserving the world's finest examples of plant and animal diversity in a temperate deciduous forest. This wild landscape, rich with traces of its human past, calls visitors back again and again.
Much of the Smokies can be enjoyed from your vehicle and from accessible facilities and programs. Activities range from viewing scenery to exploring the intricacies of the forest floor to learning about the resourceful people who made a living from this wilderness.
Auto Tours - The park's backroads offer a chance to escape traffic and explore remote areas. A road guide and self-guided auto tour booklets are available for several popular, and a few quieter destinations in the park including Cades Cove, Newfound Gap Road, Roaring Fork, Tremont, and Cataloochee.
Trails - Most trails in Great Smoky Mountains National Park are steep and rugged. However, a new accessible trail made possible through a public-private partnership is located on Newfound Gap Road, just south of Sugarlands Visitor Center. Accessible interpretive exhibits located along the one-half mile paved trail describe the unique historic and natural features as the trail winds through second growth forest along the West Prong of the Little Pigeon River. Clay tactile exhibits, a large print brochure, and porcelain enamel wayside exhibits are available on site. Look for the tracks of a black bear that wandered across the freshly poured concrete when the trail was built!
Visitation is down sharply in Maine's rugged North Woods, a region that has drawn people for decades to climb Mount Katahdin, fish for trout and salmon, hunt deer and moose, and camp. And people who do visit the North Maine Woods aren't staying as long, said Al Cowperthwaite, whose organization handles camping reservations for the region. "People still like to have a remote experience, but they want to do it in three days and be back home connected to the Internet and their cell phones that are ingrained in our society these days," Cowperthwaite said. That's especially true for kids, said Butch Street, who runs the National Park Service's statistics office. "These kids are looking for high-powered stuff, and the idea of watching a sunset is boring for them," Street said. "I don't think they understand that the idea is to give your mind a break."