Tourists Are Leaving a Mess at National Parks

Four months of pent-up demand has led to more Americans getting out of the house, especially drive trips and local visits.

With 419 different places covering 84 million acres across the country, that makes heading to a National Park a natural.

What isn’t natural is the mess that people are leaving behind.

According to a story in Time Magazine, America’s national parks are being besieged by trash and graffiti, among other things.

California resident Ellie Mora told Time that the Santa Paula Canyon in Ventura County, Calif. has become a mess.

“I can’t tell you how much pee and feces were littered along the trail,” Mora said. “It’s disgusting.”

It’s not the only place. And it’s not just trash.

Many visitors are not wearing face masks nor practicing social distancing.

“A lot of tourists who come through here, they think it’s unfair that we’re trying to have a lockdown and that we’re trying to keep outsiders out,” Alberta Henry, a member of Navajo Nation who operates a camping rental business outside the Grand Canyon, told Time. “A caucasian man from Tennessee came onto the reservation and told my nephews, ‘Get those effing masks off! What’s wrong with you?’ People are openly racist, even in front of my children.”

Time noted that in 2019, the National Park Service tallied 327 million visits—9 million more than the previous year, and the third-highest total since record-keeping began in 1904. Certainly, 2020 won’t be as high as that, given that national parks shut down for the better part of two months in March and April due to the pandemic. But more and more people who have never been to a national park are venturing out, and are unfamiliar with park protocol, at best. At worst, they just don’t care.

Wendy Koenig, the mayor of Estes Park, Colo.—the town that sits at one of the entrances to Rocky Mountain National Park, the third-most visited park in the country—said “It’s really in the hands of the visitors. If they will cooperate and wear their masks, they can keep all of us safe and keep their vacation destinations open.”

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