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Contact: George Land, 760 367-5507
Twentynine Palms, CA Joshua Tree National Park – Over 2.5 million people visited Joshua Tree National Park in calendar year 2016, up over 500,000 from 2015. While that is good news for the park and surrounding communities, it has translated into long entrance lines, full campgrounds and congested parking.
“While we are delighted so many people are enjoying the park and the unique landscape it has to offer, we are challenged by “being loved to death”, said Superintendent David Smith. “The desert is a fragile eco-system and many visitors don’t realize how easy it is to destroy vegetation as well as seriously impact the terrain itself”. Off road motor vehicle travel and illegal parking is damaging the resource and high levels of traffic are causing hazards and road congestion. While a busy spring break is anticipated, park officials are encouraging people to take advantage of lesser visited parks and public lands such as Mojave National Preserve or regional Bureau of Land Management areas.
In order to ease congestion, the park is planning future projects including additional entrance facilities, a new visitor center and a shuttle service in cooperation with the Morongo Basin Transit Authority. Park officials are also considering a “campsite by reservation only” program to help ease camping capacity issues.
Park officials recommend visitors come early in the day and consider mid-week when possible, to avoid crowds. Campers are encouraged to consider reserving a private site out of the park or even camp on surrounding BLM lands.
“This past year of record visitation has taught us that people really love Joshua Tree”, said Smith. “Our job is to give them the opportunity to love their park without killing it”.
While increased visitation has created challenges for park management, national park tourism is a significant economic engine for local communities returning $10 for every $1 invested. Joshua Tree gateway communities are enjoying a noticeable increase in business over the past few years.
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