More visitors at TRNP in 2009Despite a weak economy, 2009 brought more visitors to national parks across the country, including Theodore Roosevelt National Park near Medora.
By: Lisa Call, The Dickinson Press
Despite a weak economy, 2009 brought more visitors to national parks across the country, including Theodore Roosevelt National Park near Medora.
“In a lot of cases, park visitation tends to go up when the economy is bad,” said Eileen Andes, chief of interpretation and public affairs at TRNP. “That could have to do with value. People are looking for value these days and national parks really are a good value.”
In 2008, about 516,800 visitors stopped at TRNP and though 2009 numbers will not be finalized until the end of February, about 579,000 were reported to have visited the park.
The U.S. has 58 national parks and of those, TRNP ranks 31st for visitation numbers.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee and North Carolina took the top seat for visitation, sitting at about 9.5 million for 2009.
Campgrounds in TRNP also saw a spike in occupants.
“In a normal year our campground, especially the South Unit, would fill maybe fewer than a half dozen times in a summer season,” Andes said. “But this year, we went at one point over 40 nights in a row where the campground was full. That is really incredible.”
Judie Chrobak-Cox, TRNP’s South Unit district interpreter, also said full campgrounds generally only occur about a dozen times a season and this year was an exception.
Butch Street, management analyst for the National Park Service, said he attributes most of the increase to foreign visitors.
Street said many foreign travelers will visit up to 40 parks during their vacation, adding to the increased numbers more so than domestic visitors do.
“Anecdotally, it does seem like there is a little bit of an increase in foreign visitation and that’s because how the dollar is doing against other countries,” said Kathy Kupper, spokesperson for the NPS in Washington, D.C. Street said the presidential inauguration brought an additional 2 million visitors through the Park Service in 2009.
Kupper said several factors are a driving force in higher national park visitor numbers, one being “nature deficit disorder.”
Kupper said the NPS feels another driving factor in increased numbers is the desire to take “long weekend vacations.”
“You can make it as economical as you’d like as a vacation,” Kupper said. “It’s easier to get away for these shorter trips than the grand two- week vacation.”
Despite other states reporting higher park numbers paired with lower accommodation numbers, North Dakota’s stayed parallel.
Heather LeMoine, marketing manager for the North Dakota Tourism Division, said accommodations statewide put North Dakota ahead of the game.
State parks and national parks had a good year, LeMoine said. “We know North Dakota was really just defying the nation in how well the accommodation sector was doing.”
LeMoine said North Dakota was the only state that didn’t have to discount hotel rooms in order to fill hotels.
The U.S. Travel Association cited 2009 as one of travel’s most challenging periods, according to a North Dakota Tourism Division’s newsletter.
NDTD reported that in the third quarter of 2009, the state saw 326,110 visitors to the state’s national park, as compared to 278,629 in the third quarter of 2008.
National parks with most visitors in 2009
- Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee, North Carolina - 9.5 million
- Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona - 4.3 million
- Yosemite National Park, California - 3.7 million
- Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho - 3.3 million
- Olympic National Park, Washington - 3.28 million
- Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado - 2.9 million
- Zion National Park, Utah - 2.7 million
- Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio - 2.59 million
- Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming - 2.58 million
- Arcadia National Park, Maine - 2.2 million
- Glacier National Park, Montana - 2 million
- Hot Springs National Park - 1.33 million
- Joshua Tree National Park, California - 1.3 million
- Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii - 1.23 million
- Mount Rainier National Park, Washington - 1.2 million
- Haleakala National Park, Hawaii - 1 million
**Final totals will not be complete until about the end of February.
**Out of 58 National Parks, Theodore Roosevelt National Park ranks 31st.