Get Out There

Are We Abusing Our Parks?

We love the national parks and state forests. We recommend visiting them all the time. But, ever since social distancing rules came into place, the parks have been inundated with visitors. Now some require reservations, many have extra rules and the park service is struggling to keep up with demand.

Many of the people who work in the park are volunteers, and they are under tremendous stress trying to keep things running at an odd time. Park rangers do everything to keep people safe, protect the animals and nature and educate anyone interested. But, the National Park Service is cutting staff while seeing more and more visitors. The lands are suffering, trash is mounting and no one can keep up with demand.

Right now, California has shut our national forests because of current fires and the risk of more fires. This is a big disappointment for hikers and campers right before the holiday weekend. The worry is that people could be harmed in the fires. And, if people are in forests that aren’t currently ablaze, the risk is just too high while our state is so dry. Having people in the woods increases the risk because human activities — smoking, campfires, cooking and more are all dangerous. Large roads are open through the forests, but the rules are clear. “No picnicking, no stopping for lunch, no stopping to sightsee.”

Earlier this summer, a man got in trouble for golfing in national parks. A man was previously fined $8,000 for trespassing on the thermal grounds of Yellowstone National Park. This week, a woman, Madeline Casey, from Connecticut has been sentenced to a week in jail for walking on the thermal grounds at Norris Geyser Basin in Yellowstone.

The ground is fragile and thin, and scalding water just below the surface can cause severe or fatal burns,” said Morgan Warthin, a Yellowstone National Park spokeswoman. “More than 20 people have died from burns suffered after they entered or fell into Yellowstone’s hot springs.”

There will always be those like Ms. Casey who don’t get it,” said Bob Murray, the acting U.S. attorney. “Although a criminal prosecution and jail time may seem harsh, it’s better than spending time in a hospital’s burn unit.”

There are obvious signs marking where you can and cannot walk. We always talk about doing your research before going to parks. We don’t know why Ms. Casey decided to ignore the signs. But, when people ignore the signs, historically, they put in more barriers and make it harder for other people to enjoy the site.

If you are heading to the parks or any public lands, be sure to read about it beforehand and follow the rules. Be kind to the staff. Bring your trash out with you. And be considerate to others. We can all enjoy the parks, but they are under a great deal of stress right now, and some visitors aren’t making it any easier for them!

Banner image: Norris Geyser Basin in Yellowstone National Park. Photo: LUFANG CAO via Unsplash

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