Traipsing around Yosemite National Park yesterday, the chaos that festered during the month-plus federal government shutdown seemed to be only a bad memory. Guests overall seemed orderly; only a couple items of trash were on the ground (a change from January; impressive as the tour buses were back in full swing thanks in part to blue skies and stellar weather) and evidence of damage resulting from wayward visitors was either repaired or well-hidden.
Other national parks and monuments, however, may not be so lucky; and just because damage isn’t visible to the naked eye doesn’t mean that the ecological impacts won’t remain for decades, as in the case of some parks such as Joshua Tree National Park in the Southern California desert.
The stubborn fact remains that the National Park Service (NPS) is stretched far too thin with too many tasks and not enough funding. Whether fixing potholes in major Washington, D.C. thoroughfares such as the George Washington or Baltimore-Washington parkways; the 7,000 acres of land across D.C. itself; or for repairs to the national capital’s stellar memorials—yes, by now you get the picture, as D.C. alone offers plenty of work for the NPS.
As one spokesperson representing NPS properties in New Jersey recently summed up, “The American public, we’re loving our parks to death.”
Of course there are plenty of steps the public can take to make the everyday tasks of preserving our parks easier—with the mantra of “leave no trace” as only a start.
But as I said earlier this year, and at the risk of sounding and repeating like a parrot again, more U.S. companies could step up and consider the national parks as part of their corporate responsibility efforts. Some companies are—the usual suspects, of course: REI with yet another round of grants; Patagonia with its relentless political activism; and NPS’s sister charitable arm, the National Park Foundation, lists a bevy of generous supporters, from American Express to Subaru.
More could be done to help protect U.S. national parks, however; from waste management to infrastructure to the harnessing of technology to help the NPS communicate its mission, the to-do list is long.
So, who’s next to support this national treasure?
Image credit: Leon Kaye
Leon Kaye has written for TriplePundit since 2010, and became its Executive Editor in 2018. He's based in Fresno, CA, from where he happily explores California’s stellar Central Coast and the national parks in the Sierra Nevadas. He's lived in South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay, and has traveled to over 70 countries. He's an alum of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Southern California.