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National Park visitation continues downward trend

"The issue isn't numbers of visitors -- it is that the national park system has the potential to provide more Americans with more benefits and more memories while still being protected for future enjoyment." --Derrick Crandall, American Recreation Coalition

From the National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior (March 14, 2007)

The National Park Service (NPS) reports that units of the National Park System received 272.6 million recreation visits in 2006, representing an overall 0.3% decline, or 0.9 million fewer visits than in 2005. This continues a downward trend which began after 1999 when visitorship peaked at 287.1 million recreation visits, according to Tom Wade of the NPS Public Use Statistics Office.

"The Midwest led with a 5.0% decline, but the Pacific West Region had the steepest decline in actual numbers with a decrease of 1.3 million visits."

The Alaska Region experienced the sixth year in a row with an increase in recreation visits (4.5%). The Southeast also saw a modest increase of 1.5%. The National Capital Region was the only other region showing an increase in recreation visitorship (2.0%), but the NPS attributes this to a first-time counting of 2.2 million participants in the Cherry Blossom Festival.

All of the other regions experienced a decline in recreation visits in 2006. The Midwest led with a 5.0% decline, but the Pacific West Region had the steepest decline in actual numbers with a decrease of 1.3 million visits. The Intermountain Region's annual recreation visits decreased for the eleventh time in the last thirteen years. The Northeast region shows the smallest variation, with a decline of just 0.2%.

American Recreation Coalition (ARC) President Derrick Crandall said that ARC will continue to work vigorously with its recreation community partners and the National Park Service to develop strategies for reversing the continuing decline. "The issue isn't numbers of visitors -- it is that the national park system has the potential to provide more Americans with more benefits and more memories while still being protected for future enjoyment," said Crandall.

The Northeast Region has been remarkably consistent over the last three years, varying by less than 0.2%. It has the most units with over 1 million visits (15) and the most with over 2 million visits (8). The Statue of Liberty National Monument's decrease of 972,000 visits and Independence National Historic Park's decrease of 419,000 visits were the result of counting procedure changes. Cape Cod National Seashore had 775,000 more visits this year than in 2005 when it had some severe weather.

The Pacific West Region had an annual decrease of 1.3 million visits, the largest regional decrease in the nation. Led by Olympic National Park's decrease of 394,000 visits, 58% of the Region's units reported a decrease in visits. Four units account for 53% of the Region's visits: Golden Gate National Recreation Area had 13.5 million visits; Lake Mead National Recreation Area had 7.8 million visits; San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park had 4.0 million; and Yosemite National Park had 3.2 million visits.

The Southwest Region is the most visited region with 62.0 million visits. Despite this year's increase, the Region still reported 7.3 million fewer visits than in 2002 when it received its largest annual visitation in its history. Its top three units (Blue Ridge Parkway with 19.0 million visits, Great Smoky Mountains National Park with 9.3 million visits and Natchez Trace Parkway with 5.7 million visits) account for not only 55% of the Region's visits but for 12% of the entire NPS' visits.

Both Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield's increase of 311,000 visits and Mammoth Cave National Park's decrease of 1.3 million visits were the result of counting procedure changes. Blue Ridge Parkway finally repaired its road damage, leading to an increase of 1.1 million visits. Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area's increase of 331,000 visits reflects the renewed interest in water activities in the Atlanta area. The effects of the 2005 hurricanes are shown in Everglades National Parks' decrease of 280,000 visits (unable to complete the necessary repairs) and Gulf Islands National Seashore's increase of 297,000 visits (Florida unit is restored to near normal).

For further information please contact: Tom Wade by phone at 303-987-6951 or email at tom_wade@nps.gov, Jim Gramann by phone at 202-513-7189 or email at james_gramann@partner.nps.gov

Public Use Statistics Office Web site: http://www.nature.nps.gov/stats

Social Science Program Web site: http://www2.nature.nps.gov/socialscience

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