The results are in for 2016 total visitors of Joshua Tree National Park tallying 2,514,839. The increase of over 500,000 has the West Entrance of JTNP backed up at times nearly 2 miles and an hour wait to get in. The Facebook Page for Joshua Tree National Park Association showcase some less than legal or smart parking by visitors along roadways, over curbs and destroying vegetation. They attempt to educate visitors with suggestions on what not to do and alternatives as to when to enter the Park and reminders of the North Entrance found in often forgotten Twentynine Palms.
All this tourism activity is certainly good for our gateway communities and local businesses but those visiting the Parks are feeling the crunch with a lack of camping and ease of access. The entire National Parks System has seen a huge rise in visitors partly due to their Find Your Park campaign and Parks such as Yosemite, Zion and Joshua Tree are scrambling to accommodate the masses. This isn't new news but an ongoing problem as suggested in 2015 when High Country News reported overcrowding issues after the National Parks released their Mighty 5 very successful marketing campaign or as Adventure Journal published a poll regarding a solution for National Park overcrowding after the closing of Arches National Park Memorial Day 2015.
What's the takeaway from all this? Seems outdoor enthusiasts traveling to the National Parks should be prepared for a less than stellar experience. Be smart in visiting by purchasing Park passes at Visitor Centers (opposed to the gate), going off-season, off-days, explore some of the less popular destinations and maybe most importantly express to the NPS that infrastructure, funding, and improvements need to be recognized in support of our public lands. Pushing campaigns for visitors comes with responsibility wouldn't you agree?
A little fun-fact for the Find Your Park Campaign is depicted in this flashy image and taken from the National Park Service Centennial Report - visitation, revenue, programs and social media have all increased. Seems we're not the only ones that want our Parks!
So back at Joshua Tree National Park, it's best to anticipate busy entrance lines and full campgrounds. However, in efforts to elevate some congestion, JTNP is working with the Morongo Basin Transit Authority to implement a shuttle service. Which reported by KCDC the "RoadRunner Shuttle" could start running as early as March 2017 to select areas of the Park. JTNP Press Release states potential for reservation only camping could be in the works too. Will overall visitor experience be reduced or improved? Only time will tell but JTNP beauty is some of the most magical in the west and certainly warrants a little inconvenience and patience on our part.
Stay tuned to the Rent29 Blog for upcoming reports surrounding Joshua Tree National Park, Morongo Basin Happenings and what might turn out to be a banner Wildflower Season.