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"America’s national parks face a popularity crisis," writes Michael Childers in MinnPost, and a reservation system—like the one implemented for many parks during the pandemic—could help preserve the lands as intended and make the experience more pleasant for visitors.
The "exponential growth" in many parks' popularity "is generating pollution and putting wildlife at risk to a degree that threatens the future of the park system." As Childers notes, "[p]ark horror stories have grown common in recent years. They include miles-long traffic jams in Yellowstone, three-hour waits to enter Yosemite, trails littered with trash and confrontations between tourists and wildlife."
"The parks are underfunded, overrun, overbuilt and threatened by air and water pollution in violation of the laws and executive orders that protected them," Childers writes. He acknowledges that a reservation system "won’t be a popular solution, since it contradicts the founding premise that national parks were built for public benefit and enjoyment." But to preserve the parks "unimpaired," he argues, "crowd control has become essential in the most popular parks."
Childers also suggests promoting less visited national parks, monuments, and historical sites. "Sites such as Hovenweep National Monument in Colorado and Utah and the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site in Kansas deserve attention for their natural beauty and the depth they add to Americans’ shared heritage."