Recreation Management Rec Report - The Newsletter for Recreation, Sports & Fitness Facility Managers

Feature Story

March 2018

More Than 330 Million Recreation Visits Recorded in 2017 for National Park System

The National Park Service announced that there were 330,882,751 recreation visits in 2017—almost identical to the record-setting 330,971,689 recreation visits in 2016. While numbers were steady, visitors actually spent more time in parks during their 2017 visits compared with 2016.

Increased attendance at parks, 1.5 billion visits in the past five years, also means aging park facilities are incurring further wear and tear. President Trump has proposed legislation to establish a Public Lands Infrastructure Fund that would help address the $11.6 billion maintenance backlog in the National Park System. The fund would take new revenue from federal energy leasing and development and provide up to $18 billion to help pay for repairs and improvements in national parks, national wildlife refuges and Bureau of Indian Education funded schools.

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke said the parks are "being loved to death." He added, "As visitor rates continue at a high level, we must prioritize much-needed deferred maintenance, including aging facilities, roads and other critical infrastructure."

National Park System 2017 visitation highlights include:

  • More than 1.44 billion recreation hours in 2017, an increase of 19 million hours over 2016.
  • Most—385 of 417 parks in the National Park System—count park visitors.
  • 61 of the 385 reporting parks set new visitation records (about 16 percent of reporting parks).
  • 42 parks broke a record they set in 2016.
  • Three parks had more than 10 million recreation visits: Blue Ridge Parkway, Golden Gate National Recreation Area, and Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
  • 10 parks had more than 5 million recreation visits.
  • 81 parks had more than 1 million recreation visits—one more million-visitor park than 2016.
  • Half of national park visitation occurred in 27 parks.
  • The total solar eclipse in August 2017 brought visitors in record numbers to several parks.

The top 10 National Park System properties and their deferred maintenance requirements include:

  • Blue Ridge Parkway: 16,093,765 visits / $186,619,608 deferred maintenance
  • Golden Gate National Recreation Area: 14,981,897 visits / $325,814,011 deferred maintenance
  • Great Smoky Mountains National Park: 11.388,893 visits / $64,049,392 deferred maintenance
  • Gateway National Recreation Area: 9,190,610 visits / $788,419,471 deferred maintenance
  • Lincoln Memorial: 7,956,117 visits / $33,868,238 deferred maintenance
  • Lake Mead National Recreation Area: 7,882,339 visits / $205,540,564 deferred maintenance
  • George Washington Memorial Parkway: 7,562,793 visits / $233,441,316 deferred maintenance
  • Natchez Trace Parkway: 6,326,062 visits / $10,656,651 deferred maintenance
  • Grand Canyon National Park: 6,254,238 visits / $329,437,056 deferred maintenance
  • Vietnam Veterans Memorial: 5,072,589 visits / $625,250 deferred maintenance

The top 10 most visited National Parks include: Great Smoky Mountains National Park; Grand Canyon National Park; Zion National Park; Rocky Mountain National Park; Yosemite National Park; Yellowstone National Park; Acadia National Park; Olympic National Park; Grand Teton National Park; and Glacier National Park.

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