2017 was record year for park visitation


It’s no mystery to anyone living in Three Rivers or waiting in line to enter Sequoia National Park at the Ash Mountain entrance. Visitation to the nearby national parks is trending up. Currently, the parks remain busy on weekends even though it’s the traditional off-season. 
Earlier this month, Sintia Kawasaki-Yee, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks public affairs officer, released the visitor numbers for 2017, and it is a new all-time record. The number of tourists who entered Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks was 2,026,063. 
That represents a jump of nearly 20,000 more visitors than in 2016 and the first time the two-million mark has been eclipsed.
The upward trend began more than a decade ago but the numbers are affected by variables like weather, road construction, and winter conditions when chains are required. In recent years, the fee-free days have also had an impact. 
Woody Smeck, superintendent of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, said he thinks the parks will continue to set records for visitor numbers and the park is preparing for the onslaught.
“We’re looking at ways like online advance sales where we can expedite quicker entry into the park,” Smeck said. “The biggest obstacle is that the canyon narrows at the Ash Mountain entrance station and we just don’t have any more room to expand the roadway.”
One solution is to relocate the entrance station a mile up the road near the Foothills Visitor Center. Smeck said the national parks remain a great vacation bargain for families and that the publicity of the NPS centennial celebration in 2016 prompted many folks to discover national parks for the first time. 
Next week a table will be published of visitation numbers for the past 100 years. The numbers below reflect totals for the past decade: 
2008 – 1,504,881
2009 – 1,574,466
2010 – 1,601,184
2011 – 1,573,393
2012 – 1,697,617
2013 – 1,476,818
2014 – 1,541,405
2015 – 1,565,570
2016 – 1,862,187
2017 – 2,026,063

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