7 min read

What to do about Overcrowding National Parks?

Two New Books on Trees Worth Exploring // How Redlining in the 1930s Left Some Communities with Fewer Trees // TikTok and Outdoor Influencer Culture // Photographer Adam Friedberg’s NYC Trees

I don’t have any big travel plans this summer. I am happy to stay local and keep exploring the parks around Saint Cloud, and perhaps take a trip down to Minneapolis for a day or two in those wonderful parks. With all of the media coverage about overcrowding at National Parks, it’s got me thinking about what my bucket list of parks would be right now.

I like the idea of exploring the lesser known parks to see what I can learn and discover for myself, but there are certainly a few bigger parks like Yellowstone and Yosemite that I’d like to see in my lifetime. And of course, there’s even more outside of the United States to see as well.

But alas, none of us will ever be able to see them all, so we need to make choices and prioritize, and then enjoy what we can see as much as possible.


Overcrowding at National Parks and What to Do About It

One option involves more government spending. The funds could be used to continue improving the infrastructure necessary to accommodate more people, such as ticket machines to reduce queues, bigger parking lots to alleviate traffic and more amenities, such as bathrooms, water fountains, trash cans and picnic areas. But an even more important step would be to hire more people to look after the parks.

"The national parks have been chronically understaffed for decades," Childers said. "We must invest in more rangers, scientists and administrative staff if we are going to properly steward these places."

Another option is to require people to book their trips to the biggest national parks. This would limit the number of people who could visit the parks and provide opportunities to allow access to a wider diversity of people, such as first-time visitors, Childers said. However, this would likely be an unpopular solution for frequent visitors and local businesses.

The final option is for visitors to take on the responsibility themselves. "We, the visitors, have to change our expectations that we can visit and experience the more popular parks whenever and however we want," Childers said. "This shift in expectations is likely the most difficult, but the most impactful" thing we can do.

It seems we can’t go a week without a story about the overcrowding at the National Parks. As this article in LiveScience highlights, it’s not exactly a new problem, and stems for chronic underfunding, and perhaps some lack of education.

But what can be done about it? The above recommendations are solid, and I think there also needs to be more awareness and marketing around the joys of staying local and visiting the parks in your own region and state. Here are a couple article that do a good job on that note.


Two New Books on Trees Worth Exploring

Simard’s and lowman’s explorations have ushered in a new kind of tree, or a new vision of tree life, different from the tree life that poets have romanticized: the solitary, singular tree, a heavy anchor flung into the past, emblematic of fortitude or witness.

This newfound tree is networked, sensitive, companionate, and communicative; it matters as part of a conjoined whole, the canopy or a mycorrhizal woodlot. It displays caretaking toward offspring and, far from being siloed in its own world, it engages in a dynamic exchange. Such findings make trees seem capable of so much more than we once imagined.

The notion that plants “do” anything, outside of surging toward the light and siphoning water, would imply threshold competencies that have long been regarded as mental, or at the very least sensory. Biologists have traditionally held that the faculties required for communication belong to life-forms with brains, eyes, ears, nostrils, and tongues (at a minimum, skin), not to plant life.

Can something made mostly of wood demonstrate an awareness of other organisms nearby? Can it be strategically responsive, and exhibit kinship, or a sense of self? Is a tree intelligent? In stories, trees that interact are declared anthropomorphic, because fellow feeling is considered a human trait. To speak of trees as social beings remains, in some quarters, heretical.

There are a lot of books about trees that I need to read, and that list will probably keep growing. As I am a slow reader, it might take me awhile to get there. In The Atlantic, Megan Griggs reviews two new books on trees that look interesting and worth the attention. In “The Arbornaut: A Life Discovering the Eighth Continent in the Trees Above Us,” botanist Meg Lowman share her insights and stories about working in the treetops and canopies.

In ‘Finding the Mother Tree,’ ecologist Suzanne Simard shows us “that trees are not simply the source of timber or pulp, but are a complicated, interdependent circle of life.”


How Redlining in the 1930s Left Some Communities with Fewer Trees

Under a New Deal program, maps of over 200 American cities were created to determine which residential areas were creditworthy to receive federal loans.

The grading system heavily disadvantaged people of color, immigrants, and low-income families, making it hard to obtain funds for mortgages and to build and maintain parks or other tree-covered urban spaces.

More than 50 years after the practice was banned by the Fair Housing Act of 1968, the sweltering effects continue to be felt in formerly redlined areas that still have fewer trees to keep neighborhoods cool.

The last few years have created more awareness and justified anger about how government policies from the past have contributed to, and in many cases created systemic racism.

Redlining is one of those insidious policies that has been incredibly difficult overcome. In this 6 minutes video, NatGeo shows how redlining contributed to fewer trees in lower income neighborhoods, and how this impacts residents today in many ways from staying cool to housing prices. Definitely worth the time.

Poorer communities of color have fewer trees to offer shade and combat climate change
Studies show trees can cool air temperature by as much as 10% and surface temperatures by up to 45 degrees.

TikTok and Outdoor Influencer Culture

Instagram accounts like Public Lands Hate You and You Did Not Sleep Therehave successfully fostered a general awareness about posting etiquette among members of the public and influencers. And while TikTok’s geotagging is less sophisticated than Instagram’s, Wood is concerned about the uptick in “nature porn”on the platform, which features aspirational travel shots that are usually sponsored by outdoor companies or brands.

“I’m a little worried about TikTok becoming more like Instagram as more traditional influencers move over, and so the content might feel less relatable,” she says. “Right now, it feels like there’s room for smaller creators, who are eager to show people the realities of their lifestyle.”

I love TikTok but it does come with some dangers. The ‘For You Page’ encourages endless scrolling, and can be highly addictive. The viral nature of the app also means that creators can rise and fall faster than ever.

Outdoor has an interesting article highlighting some of the outdoors creators making an impact, while highlighting some of the potential downsides for the outdoors community.


Art: Photographer Adam Friedberg’s NYC Trees

New York photographer Adam Friedberg has been documenting New York trees, offering views of them through different seasons. I can’t find one single spot to see the entire project but browsing through his Instagram gives you a nice view of the trees.


Twitter Thread of the Week


Video: Man Honors Wife by Filling Deserted Island With Trees


Video: Transformation of a Bonsai Tree Over 12 Months


Further Reading


I’m a photographer and digital strategist from Saint Cloud, Minnesota. You can email me at info@bryanformhals.com or follow me on Instagram & Twitter