52 minutes | Feb 3, 2021

Camping Newbies cause massive damage to National Parks [2021 Update]

Hundreds of thousands of camping newbies are flocking to our federal lands, with many of them ignorantly - but sometimes intentionally - causing damage to National Parks. It is a nationwide problem, unprecedented in scope, brought about by COVID travel restrictions and the need for people to get away. And the flood of new campers and RVers shows no signs of abating. posing great threats to the sustainability of our national parks, already hamstrung by bare-bones budgets and hiring freezes. That's the topic of our interview of the week on the RV Podcast as we talk to the superintendent of one of our most pristine hunks of federal wilderness, the beautiful Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore along Lake Superior in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. You can listen to the podcast in the player below or scroll down this page for shownotes and a transcript of the interview, plus links and resources about all the things we talk about. The interview can be heard about 26:20 in. About the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and the stress caused by Camping Newbies  Some of the Lake Superior Cliffs of the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore... photo from  National Parks Service Our guest is David Horne, the Superintendent of the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, which hugs the south shore of Lake Superior in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. It's known for the dramatic multicolored Pictured Rocks cliffs and its unusual sandstone formations like Miners Castle and Chapel Rock. It covers the south shore of Lake Superior in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and has pristine beaches, rugged hardwood forests, abundant wildlife, and little development. BONUS: Click Here for our blog post on seven special attractions in Michigan's Upper Peninsula Size of the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore It covers 73,236 acres (114 square miles), roughly between the towns of Munising on the West and Grand Marais on the east. Hiking trails crisscross the lakeshore, with the most popular being a 42-mile section of the North Country Trail that traverses the hilly lakeshore.  There are three rustic, but small, campgrounds. Backcountry camping is available by permit through the lakeshore. Normally, the park gets around half a million visitors every year. But this past year was anything but normal. The number of Camping Newbies exploded last year Here is a video we shot last fall that shows parts of the Lakeshore which even in the fall, saw every campground filled:  Over a  million people flocked to the lakeshore in 2020, shattering the 2019 record of 859,000, which itself broke the previous year’s record of 815,000. The growth started about 2015 when the park averaged around a half million visitors a year. The result has been more than troublesome. The visitors and camping newbies have damaged trails. Made their own trails where they shouldn't. They have so congested some of the two-lane roads in and around the park that many places had traffic jams, with hundreds of cars competing for a few dozen parking spots. Trash, human waste, littering, illegal camping, and a massive strain on the park's infrastructure and staff have reached a point of crisis. Again, this is not happening just at the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. It is all across the country. But in looking at the problem through the lens of what the invasion of the camping newbies and other new visitors have brought to just one park, perhaps we can better understand what is happening everywhere.  So we can figure out what to do about it. Yes, I said "we." For those parks are our parks. And they, and the dedicated staff that works so hard to protect them for us, need all our help. 12 Mile Beach on the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore - photo from National Parks Service Interview with David Horne, Superintendent of the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore David is a 26 year veteran of the National Parks Service and took over running the lakeshore in 2018.
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