The U.S. National Parks Service was created in 1916 when congress passed the National Park Service Organic Act, creating the agency that would manage the country’s national parks as well as some national monuments.
Since then, 59 national parks have been designated, beginning with the iconic Yellowstone National Park. Today, with the parks popularity rising, there are new risks to the parks we love. Unfortunately, the parks’ ecosystems are suffering a toll as a result.
Park managers are beginning to consider new measures to lessen the impact of visitors without outright denying visitors access. For Zion National Park, that means potentially requiring visitors to make a reservation online before being allowed to enter the park. NPS employees aren’t thrilled by the idea but they don’t know what else to do.
“We don’t have a choice,” said Jack Burns, a 35-year employee at Zion in an interview with the New York Times. “We have to do something. If this going to remain a place of special importance for generations, we have to do something now.”
It isn’t only the environment that suffers a toll. Visitors also find the parks to be less enjoyable when swamped by people who don’t always leave it as nice as they found it. Many visitors simply turned around and left due to the gridlock.
It isn’t just Zion that experiences these problems. Many national parks around the country have found themselves swamped with visitors, and with new funding cutbacks to the NPS, they’re less equipped to deal with threats posed to the often delicate ecosystems.
So what can we do?
If you’re planning to visit a national park, brush up on recreation.gov’s general rules:
- Camp only in designated places. Don’t pitch a tent off road.
- Do not drive off road.
- Honor quiet hours, typically between 10pm and 6am.
- Do not camp for more than 14 consecutive days.
- Don’t litter. Keep all foreign substances out of lakes and streams.
- Dispose of your garbage in proper containers provided by the park.
- If there are any campfire restrictions in the park, honor them. Fires can be prohibited at any time.
- Build fires only in designated campfire rings, grills, and fireplaces.
- Always extinguish your fire before falling asleep or leaving. Do not leave a fire unattended.
- If you’re driving through a park, obey all traffic signs and laws.
- Park only in designated areas.
- Keep pets on a leash at all times while in developed recreation areas.
- Pets, with the exception of guide dogs, are not allowed in swimming areas or sanitary facilities.
- Saddle or pack animals are only allowed where authorized by posted instructions.
- One simple rule: don’t bring them. Don’t use them. All fireworks and explosives are prohibited.