1 Ranger for Every 105,000 Visitors to Zion National Park

 
PRESS RELEASE
  FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Date:   July 13, 2005
Contact:   Ron Tipton, NPCA Senior Vice President of Programs, 202-454-3915
Kelli Holsendolph, NPCA, 202-454-3311


1 Ranger for Every 105,000 Visitors to Zion National Park

Washington, D.C. - Zion National Park—one of the earliest additions to the National Park System—enjoys millions of visitors annually and manages an exemplary transportation system, which makes it easy for visitors to keep coming back. However once in the park, there is approximately one interpretive ranger for every 105,000 visitors, according to a new National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) State of the Parks® report released today—a shortage which limits meaningful visitor experiences and might keep some visitors from returning.

“We know that visitors are less likely to re-visit a national park if services are not sufficient,” said Ron Tipton, NPCA senior vice president of programs. “During busy summer months, visitors to Zion wait in long lines at visitor centers just to talk with rangers. For gateway communities like Springdale, Utah, whose economy depends on tourism to Zion National Park, it becomes essential to maximize visitor experiences in the park.”

Results from a recent Zogby International poll reveal that 45% of likely voters plan to visit national parks or historic sites this summer, but if the parks don’t meet their expectations nearly half (47%) say they are not likely to return. According to the Zogby poll, 72% of likely voters say it is “very” or “somewhat important” to them that there are enough park rangers available to answer questions, give ranger walks and talks, and lead campfire programs.

Annually, Zion National Park receives approximately 2.4 million visitors. As a result, surrounding communities enjoy an economic boom from the tourists the park draws. In 2003, visitors to Zion spent an estimated $80 million and supported 1,935 jobs in the region, according to Michigan State University's conservative economic model.

But, as NPCA’s latest assessment reveals, Zion’s interpretive staff is comprised of 8 full time employees, 10 seasonal employees, and 1 volunteer—a ratio of roughly 1 interpreter for every 105,263 park visitors. The interpretive staff educates visitors about park resources, its human history, and helps to instill an appreciation and understanding of the park and its importance to American heritage. However, because Zion does not have the funds to hire more staff, the number of daily, guided trail walks and ranger talks has been cut in half, no interpretive rangers are present at trailheads or the Zion lodge, and the park has been forced to deny ranger programs to school groups.

Although partnerships between the park and the Zion Canyon Field Institute and the Zion Natural History Association help to augment the park’s educational offerings and interpretive programs, these partnerships are not a substitute for park staff positions. The park has requested $500,000 to support eight more interpretive staff positions, but finding the funding will be a challenge. As Zion’s 2001 business plan notes, the park faces a multi-million dollar operational budget shortfall.

Visitors to Zion National Park have an opportunity to learn about the area’s rich history of American Indians, Mormon settlers, and the Civilian Conservation Corps at the Zion Human History Museum in the park. And a new park facility to house cultural artifacts coming in 2008 will offer visitors more opportunities to explore the park’s treasures.

“Zion's budget comes up short by $3.5 million every year, and only 14% of what the park gets is specifically directed to managing the resources,” said Bill Hedden, executive director, Grand Canyon Trust. “This kind of starvation funding by Congress imposes great risks on the extraordinary biological and cultural treasures in one of our most popular parks.”

NPCA launched the landmark State of the Parks® program in 2000 to assess the health of national parks across the country. NPCA has assessed the health of both
Bryce Canyon National Park and Canyonlands National Park,as well.

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