Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Now get off my lawn

So the youngsters aren't going to the national parks much anymore (H/T Instapundit). That's not really a surprise to me. I have have to agree with this assessment. Anecdotally, I have noticed on most of my sojourns in the parks around Northern Virginia located outside the metro area, like as not I will see older folks on the trails. It you think about this, it makes sense. There is an aging population, and those people with the most time are older. The 'new' focus for the aging population is to stay active and healthy (or die quickly under Obamacare), so those are the ones that will frequent the parks.

The systemic loss of young families, discouraged by economics, means that the concept of a family piling into the car for a camping trip in the mountains just doesn't happen that much anymore. I would wager that most public and private campgrounds are haunted not so much with vacationing 'families' as geezers in RVs.

I do have to say that I have not frequented a National Park for a while - well except bike rides through Prince William Forest, a national park just north of Quantico, VA. National park fees have gotten ridiculously high as their funding has been cut and cut some more in order to attract the attention of Congress for 'necessary' ancillary pork. Predictably, the high fees have discouraged visitors. I have frequented National Forests. There are no fees, but the trails are not as well maintained. There is a wildness there that you just can't find in the more groomed and 'civilized' National Parks.

Is there an answer for this? I don't think more 'wifi' hotspots or additional app development is going to help. The geocacher in me says that if they relaxed their policies on placing caches that might help a little, but I doubt the actual numbers back that up. No, I am thinking that if they really want to attract more young people, the Parks people have to think outside the box, and do something radically free market - like drop the admission fees back to say the mid 90's level. It's not like they have a limited capacity area like a movie theater, where doubling the number of visitors would be impossible, thus they have to maximize the profit for those that they allow in. Or here's a radical idea, do away with fees altogether. I wonder how much their ancillary profits would swell in that case?

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