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U.S. national parks set an attendance record last year

  • 2015 national park attendance beat the previous record, set in 2014, by 12 million visitors.

The National Park Service announced yesterday that 305 million people visited the United States’ national parks in 2015.

That beats the previous record, set in 2014, of 292.8 million visitors.

“The increasing popularity of our national parks comes as we are actively reaching out to new audiences and inviting them to explore the depth and breadth of the national park system,” National Park Service (NPS) director Jonathan B. Jarvis said in making the announcement.

The NPS manages 409 parks comprising 84 million acres that preserve cultural, historical, and natural landscapes in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and some U.S. Territories.

As the NPS prepares a number of celebrations for 2016, its centennial year, the new record is not expected to last long. Luckily, the U.S. Congress approved a nine percent funding increase for the NPS in late December 2015.

“The increase in Congressional appropriations comes at a critical time for the National Park Service and will help us to serve the growing number of visitors,” according to Jarvis.

The NPS director is adamant, however, that the record crowds will not impinge on any visitor’s ability to get away from it all while visiting a national park.

“Even with record breaking visitation, visitors can still find quiet places in the parks for those willing to seek them out,” Jarvis said. “I can take you to Yosemite Valley on the Fourth of July and within five minutes get you to a place where you are all alone.”

Grand Canyon National Park is one of the jewels of the National Park system. Photo by Rhett Butler.
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