The National Park Service (NPS) announced 330,882,751 recreation visits in 2017 – almost identical to the record-setting 330,971,689 recreation visits in 2016. While numbers were steady, visitors actually spent more time in parks during their 2017 visits compared to 2016.
According to a press release, increased attendance at parks, 1.5 billion visits in the last five years, also means aging park facilities are incurring further wear and tear. President Trump has proposed legislation to establish a Public Lands Infrastructure Fund that would help address the $11.6 billion maintenance backlog in the National Park System. The fund would take new revenue from federal energy leasing and development and provide up to $18 billion to help pay for repairs and improvements in national parks, national wildlife refuges and Bureau of Indian Education funded schools.
“Our National Parks are being loved to death,” said U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke. “As visitor rates continue at a high level, we must prioritize much-needed deferred maintenance including aging facilities, roads and other critical infrastructure. President Trump’s proposal to establish a Public Lands Infrastructure Fund is a step in the right direction. This is not a Republican or Democrat issue, this is an American issue, and the President and I remain ready to work with anyone in Congress who is willing to get the job done.”
National Park System 2017 visitation highlights include:
- More than 1.44 billion recreation hours in 2017, an increase of 19 million hours over 2016.
- Most – 385 of 417 parks in the National Park System – count park visitors.
- 61 of the 385 reporting parks set new visitation records (about 16 percent of reporting parks).
- 42 parks broke a record they set in 2016.
- Three parks had more than 10 million recreation visits – Blue Ridge Parkway, Golden Gate National Recreation Area, and Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
- 10 parks had more than 5 million recreation visits.
- 81 parks had more than 1 million recreation visits – one more million-visitor park than 2016.
- Half of national park visitation occurred in 27 parks.
- The total solar eclipse last August brought visitors in record numbers to several parks.