Eighty Organizations Call for Forum to Address NPS Issues

Washington, D.C. – More than 80 organizations recently wrote to the U.S. Secretary of the Interior calling for an inquiry into why the national park system is failing to provide the American public with the appropriate level of visitation to meet the nation’s mental, physical and spiritual needs. The organizations represent millions of outdoor recreation enthusiasts and segments of the recreation industry with sales exceeding $100 billion annually.

The letter notes that the national park system was created to provide enjoyment in the form of recreation and education. The U.S. system has inspired the creation of park systems around the world and has continued to grow in area in the U.S., now consisting of nearly 400 units covering more than 85 million acres. Yet, as the letter points out, despite this growth in size and a 25% increase in the U.S. population over two decades, and despite increased awareness of the value of parks in providing Americans with safe and enjoyable opportunities for physical activity, park visits have declined.

According to the American Recreation Coalition (ARC), which coordinated the letter, the National Park Service faces many challenges – but none more important overall than the threat of losing relevance to American families. “Support for national parks has been strong and broad,” according to ARC President Derrick Crandall, “and has been anchored in memories of visits to Yosemite and the Grand Canyon. Americans have visited those parks and brought home a sense of grandeur – and a new commitment to conservation. But today national parks attract just 63 million visits annually – or about one visit per every five Americans. In reality, large numbers of international visitors and repeat visits by park enthusiasts mean that the actual percentage of Americans visiting our national parks is quite low.”

Crandall said that the letter signers hope Interior Secretary Kempthorne will direct the National Park Service to create a forum to address these and other concerns, including a failure to promote greater awareness and use of units of the national park system’s national recreation areas, national seashores, national lakeshores and national parkways. “Many of these areas are ideal locations for helping Americans build a relationship with our legacy of the Great Outdoors,” said Crandall. To achieve this goal, he added, “We need to explore ways to welcome activities ranging from mountain biking to geocaching to rock climbing to better interpretation and education using new wireless technologies.”

The 80 organizations which signed the letter to Mr. Kempthorne believe that Americans need our national park system today more than ever before – and that more use and enjoyment today are compatible with preservation of the resources for generations to come. “We look forward to working together to investigate and reverse the reasons for decline in benefits to the American people being provided by the national park system,” concluded Mr. Crandall.

The American Recreation Coalition (ARC) is a Washington-based, nonprofit federation formed in 1979. Since its inception, ARC has sought to catalyze public/private partnerships to enhance and protect outdoor recreation. ARC provides a unified voice for recreation interests to ensure their full and active participation in the government policy making that is shaping present and future outdoor recreation resources, facilities and opportunities.

To see the letter, click here.