Visits to U.S. national parks set a record in 2016 for the third consecutive year as landmarks such as Zion, Yellowstone and Rocky Mountain experienced historic levels of popularity that brought collateral headaches stemming from overcrowded roads and trails and increasing visitor misbehavior.
The Associated Press reported that at many parks, visitors waited an hour or more in cars to get through entrance gates and then spent the day trying to outmaneuver fellow visitors for parking spots and room on popular trails. They left behind enormous amounts of trash and, sometimes, human waste.
Encountering a crowded, Disneyland-like situation when people were expecting peaceful serenity can lead to aggression and bad decisions, park officials said.
“The level of frustration, we’ve certainly seen an increase in that,” said Kyle Patterson, Rocky Mountain National Park spokeswoman. “Sometimes they take it out on each other and sometimes they take it out on the park.”
It created a good news-bad news story for park managers. They praise the increased interest but are struggling to preserve iconic mountains, slot canyons and wildlife habitat for future generations. The National Park Service budget has remained basically flat, leaving parks to grapple with the problems without higher staffing levels.
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