More people visited US national parks in 2014 than in any previous year.
Visitation at national parks was at an all-time high with 292,800,082 visitors, eclipsing the previous record of 287.2 million set in 1987. Why all the sudden interest in national parks? For one reason, the National Park Service (NPS) is preparing to celebrate its centennial in 2016. The NPS has been making strong efforts to encourage visitation leading up to the centennial.
NPS Director Jonathan B. Jarvis says:
As the National Park Service strives to share a more inclusive and well-rounded version of the American story through the places we care for, it is gratifying to see more people than ever coming to their national parks to enjoy nature, learn about history, and spend time with their families. As we look ahead to our centennial in 2016, I am looking forward to announcing a new record-breaking number of visitors coming to experience national parks next year and beyond.
Also it is important to recognize that while 2013 was a down year for visitation of National Parks, some of that can be attributed to the government shutdown during the prime fall colors season in October that prevented many visitors from enjoying the parks. The visitation in 2014 is an increase of 19 million from the 2013 numbers and more than 5 million higher than the prior record.
One of the benefits of the national park system is the economic benefits to the communities and business that operate in and near our national treasures.
Jarvis said that, “Visitors spending in the communities near national parks supports hundreds of thousands of mostly local jobs in America year after year. With this record visitation we should see something on the order of $15 billion in visitor spending, 250,000 or more jobs and a $28 billion effect on the U.S. economy when our annual economics of national parks report comes out in April.”
Several parks report individual records set as well in 2014 including Rocky Mountain, Joshua Tree, Glacier and the Grand Teton National Parks. As usual, the National Park with the highest visitation was the Great Smoky Mountains on the Tennessee/North Carolina border. Expect the crowds to continue, especially if gas prices stay lower in 2015.
To view more national parks visitation stats you can visit https://irma.nps.gov/Stats/.