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No Selfies with Bears! National Park Advocates Offer Visitor Tips

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Monday, July 5, 2021   

INTERNATIONAL FALLS, Minn. -- With COVID-19 restrictions behind them, many Americans are jumping into the wilderness with both feet.

National park sites report strong crowds again this year, prompting recommendations to keep visitors from being let down, while also protecting natural spaces.

Last year, the National Park Service said overall visits were down during the height of the pandemic, but some sites saw bigger crowds than others, with people finding safe ways to travel.

Kati Schmidt, communications director for the National Parks Conservation Association, said this summer, people feel even more comfortable in taking a trip. She hopes they keep some things in mind.

"Looking at the park website and seeing if there's anything new for this year closed. Maybe closed to services or reservations needed and that sort of thing. And also making a back-up plan," Schmidt outlined.

She also suggested trying to plan your visit during non-peak hours. These ideas can help to ensure people aren't sitting in idled cars outside the park waiting for entry, potentially creating more air pollution around the site.

Schmidt noted more manageable crowds prevent trash from piling up in remote areas. Minnesota has six National Park Service-managed sites, including Voyageurs National Park.

Advocates said people shouldn't feel ashamed if they decide to plan a trip at a time when parks are being stretched thin.

Schmidt acknowledged it's wonderful to see growing interest in the assets, but added a respectful mindset is still needed, including when you get inside the park.

"If you see one of the incredible wildlife animals that make their home in our national parks, maybe just enjoy seeing it from afar and, you know, get out your binoculars if you have them," Schmidt urged. "This is not the year for selfies with grizzly bears and bison."

Last year, Congress approved the bipartisan Great American Outdoors Act to help close the maintenance funding gap for park sites as they try to manage the crowds.

But Schmidt pointed out it only covers about half of the current deferred maintenance backlog. Her group called on Congress to make additional investments, so sites can boost their staffs and address overdue upgrades.


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