In this case, the solution is to try to develop other areas and spread the tourists out to other towns, many of which are desperate for economic development and tourist dollars.
I get the point that's trying to be made here, but pigs are just about one of the most destructive animals there are. I'm pretty certain that people in cars are less destructive than people riding wild pigs.
Although a large proportion of people attempting to ride wild pigs are likely to end up dead, so maybe the author did have a good point afterall.
National parks in the US have incredible brand recognition and cachet and I imagine that this campaign is only part of the story. The big name parks across most of the country are swamped - Yellowstone, Yosemite, Rocky Mountain, etc.
I don't know that there's a brilliant solution short of virtual tourism. Raising prices deters anyone but the rich. Adding carparks just reduces the magic of the wild. Increasing awareness of the second-tier features or developing more is an option. Naturally, the crowded experience will push people to visit outside primetime or peak season.
Absolutely do not be deterred though. As the article suggests, avoid peak times for the best experience. Get up early. Stay late. You can sleep in at home. In Moab specifically, loads of people start later than they'd hoped or concentrate in particular places for sunset or return to the town for dinner. If you want a meal in town, make it lunch when the light is most stark and the park is packed. See Delicate Arch at sunrise instead of sunset, as one example. On this year's trip, we started Devils Garden at 6-7pm and came back in the dark with headlamps - had an amazing sunset and only saw a handful of people out there (I wouldn't recommend this to first-time visitors as the primitive trail can be adventurous to follow).
Outside of the big five, there are outstanding places nearby that are popular but not completely overrun. Byway 12 is superb, Buckskin Gulch is fantastic, the slot canyons near Escalante, Coyote Gulch, Goblin Valley, Horseshoe Canyon, Cedar Breaks, Snow Canyon State Park, Kodachrome Basin, etc. Even in the big parks, there are top-shelf experiences that most people don't see - hiking into Canyonlands' The Maze is one of the best things I've ever done, hiking Trans-Zion is full of premium scenery without huge crowds, Fiery Furnace in Arches sans-guide is good fun, at Bryce you can get some great early/late viewing without hordes just by skipping the two main viewpoints.
If you need help with an itinerary, ask away or my email is in my profile.
But that is also why your comment of virtual tourism really strikes home. One of the reasons I enjoy getting out so much is that I've had health problems that means it isn't always possible to get out. Sharing the landscapes out here with other people who can't get out has always been an interest of mine. With VR technology moving steadily forward, maybe a Streetview-style experience of all these parks would be a timely project.
Given decent VR tech and maybe a climate-controlled room that could heat up, gust wind, etc, I can imagine spending time akin to meditation in a virtual camp setting. Come home and want to relax for an hour. Pick the setting, put on the goggles, sit back and take in the view, sounds, etc. Golden hour forever.
[NB I'm not from the US but have been to a few US national parks].
One thing worth doing is a shuttle system. Zion has one for peak months and as well as removing cars from the main canyon, you then have a captive audience which you can reach with messages about best practice in the wilderness though people ignore everything and feed animals anyway. Bryce has a shuttle too. Wouldn't surprise me if Arches was already planning one. That at least helps with the need for more and more parking.
At the time, you were required to book ahead, could only stay for 15 minutes, and the number os visitors was limited (so even in November you had to book weeks ahead).
In some places, this could be done with paid parking at certain times of the day, perhaps besides those with disability permits.
Where I live you can't take your own canoe/kayak on the state reservoirs because "invasive species" but you can take your motorboat (way more likely to transmit invasive species than a canoe) if you jump through all the regulatory hoops and then buy some special permits. The state will rent you a canoe for $20 though.
Motorized boats tend to be cleaner than personal craft because most docks and marinas have dedicated facilities or equipment set aside for cleaning larger vessels.
It's actually more likely for personal watercraft to carry invasive species because they're less likely to be cleaned (even though they're easier to clean).
Inspections for invasive species have been a major issue for at least a decade, because nobody wants to repeat what happened in the Great Lakes, where invasive species nearly destroyed the lake ecology and its many fisheries.
I don't buy that argument, mainly because the poor aren't visiting these places in any numbers. They are too busy trying to put the next meal on their table.
Even if visiting that place destroys what you supposedly cherish?
Obviously we can impact the park from a distance too, but I'd say "destroys" is overly strong language for the respectful traveller I'm discussing. I suspect we damage it almost as much whether we step into the park or not with everything else we do collectively. Certainly a lot of the iconic geological scenery will survive our personal influence.
I sometimes wonder if this is why America has such trouble with environmental issues. When your landscape is so vast it is hard to imagine human activity having an impact on it.
The trouble with the "respectful traveller" is that they are a minority, as we can see from the article linked at the top of this discussion.
I actually think that there is a subset of Americans, more than many other countries, that across all age brackets have a great appreciation for the outdoors. In Australia, we have families going camping and grey nomads, but we don't have anything like quantities of college friends camping together that the US has. Makes me quite jealous. Most of our parks have nowhere near the prestige or modern cultural history (s'mores, log cabins, the romantic stone inns in Yellowstone, Yosemite, Zion, Grand Canyon, etc). We have damper and I don't know what else.
I've seen comments in other discussions about uncouth Chinese tourists en masse, and Chinese explaining that these are newly middle-class Chinese now with money to head abroad, but perhaps not the awareness to always do it politely. But I don't think it's unique to China. Almost anyone worldwide would've seen domestic groups playing music on their phones or portable speakers while hiking, etc. Others feeding chewing gum to squirrels. I don't know how you get through to these people, because they obviously don't care about signs and park brochures.
Of course, I'm also a big supporter of efforts to increase the size of national parks and monuments in the state as well (despite this administration's recent efforts). Preserving and regulating more wilderness would go a long way to hopefully mitigating this overcrowding issue.
I view National Parks as a sacrificial public land. Let them be overly crowded in order to keep all the amazing BLM, state parks, national forests/prairies, etc... special.
It's selfish and elitist to say, but I almost feel like it's better if places like Moab aren't publicized at all, and people just find out about it through word-of-mouth like I did. It takes some education to properly "leave no trace" in the back country, and I feel like that sort of works itself out when people discover the parks largely by being invited by someone who's already in the fold.
If the parks are going to be a more popular destination for the general public, then I think it is probably better to have a permit system both to regulate absolute numbers, and to require people to pass some kind of test or course about how to be a good citizen inside the park.
This kinda baffles me because it really should take a bare minimum of consideration. The basic rules are not overly difficult, right? Don't trample stuff. Dig a hole if shitting in the backcountry. Don't feed animals. Minimise your impact. Don't walk around playing music at everyone.
Parks have signs everywhere. Clear brochures with obvious info. What makes it so hard for people to understand and make that tiny amount of effort?
Hey, a use for a national DNA database.
There are actually many, many more amazing places to see in Southern Utah and the rest of the Southwest. Only a small number of these places are in national parks. Like SF housing, an increase in supply would ease overcrowding, but instead of restrictions on new building because of NIMBYs and misguided governmental action restricting the supply, it's actually ideological myopia that's at the root of it.
Utah's largely conservative Republican congressional delegation and state government pushed to roll back two new national monuments, and vehemently oppose the development of federal lands for tourism and recreation uses, while on the other hand are rabid about subsidizing extractive industries that aren't nearly as important to the local economy.
In both cases, the problem is made worse by ideology. San Francisco housing is expensive partially because local lawmakers are blind to free market solutions, and Utah tourism is harmed because local lawmakers are blind to the idea that public lands being preserved in parks may be the best way to bring economic development to the state.
A year ago my friend and I drove from SLC to the Tetons to Yellowstone to Glacier, then over to the PNW and down the coast to the Bay Area. This was honestly two of the best months in my life, I grew so much as a human being and expanded my horizons quite a bit just realizing how little I needed to be happy.
The problem is simply too many people, too little wilderness. Unless we stop growing and put some wild lands off limits (as wilderness), in a few short years there will be nothing left.
National Parks are overcrowded, but they are a tiny, tiny part of all the public lands. Your complaint is that there are too few places with nice paved roads and visitor centers and such for people to go, not that there is too little wilderness.
"in a few short years there will be nothing left" is so comically wrong it's ridiculous. You're looking at literally the top 5-10 most popular outdoor areas to go, of course they're crowded.
Even within national parks, as soon as you go more than 1-2 miles away from a road, you'll see very, very few people.
I've lived someplace embroiled in controversy over pursuing national park status. Most the residents are vehemently against it because it would trash the place and overwhelm it with tourist traffic and all the problems that brings. The supporters consist a small contingent of profiteering area land owners that don't even spend any significant time living there. They couldn't care less about what impact becoming a national park would have on the environment or the area residents' quality of life. They just saw dollars.
National parks are a double-edged sword. They bring often much-needed tourism dollars to typicaly economically distressed remote regions. But they do not improve the environment. They stimulate travel (often by air), pollute the park area, and damage the natural habitats.
If the goal is to preserve and protect, the last thing you do is classify a place as a national park and make it easily accessed and comfortable with infrastructure. You leave the place lacking roads, running water, campgrounds, and toilets, and certainly don't advertise it as a nationally-recognized place of beauty.
National parks are more about stimulating the economy than preserving nature, at least as implemented today.
Let me share a case I am familiar with. One of my favorite short walks in my grandparents' town used to be one where you had to walk ~2km through fields, then a steep ascend of ~4km on a difficult rocky trail, then another ~2km through a nice pine forest to finally reach a beautiful lookout.
Then someone somewhere decided that it was a good idea to build a paved road so people didn't have to walk the first 6km.
To the benefit of who? Certainly not the environment: the construction of the road, polluting cars, garbage, soil erosion at the sides of the road from cars parking there...
It didn't provide any benefit for the people that walked there. Now you can hear cars going up and down while you walk. Some places are littered with waste material from the road's construction, and at some points you actually have to cross the road.
The people that drive up there also admit that while the place is ideal to go with kids, it is so crowded that it makes the experience miserable.
Finally, it didn't create a continuous economic revenue for anyone, since the lands are public and the town doesn't charge any fee. There are only a handful of shops in town and they have not seen an increase in consumption.
So what was the point of all it? Did we wreck a beautiful mountain and forest so that a construction company could pocket a few million euros?
A lot of national parks have this mix already. You can drive a scenic route. you can do a short interpretive walk or an accessible trail, or you can do a half- or full-day hike, or you can get out away from the main trails hiking 100 miles across the park. You can stay in a nearby town, or in the in-park campground, or hike 5 miles to a backcountry spot with no one around.
But I think accessibility would be one 'point of it all.'
-- Joseph Wood Krutch
Edit: spelling/grammer/I'm on mobile now.
If supply has a fixed upper limit and price is also fixed at a reasonable level, then demand will always peg to the right of the curve. The economic solution in this case is to increase supply (or increase cost)
This is only considered a problem when there is a real (or perceived) negative externality on increasing the supply. I fail to see the negative externality of having more national parks which massive numbers of people are very excited to tour.
The problem is purely that people concentrate in very small areas of that broader wilderness. Photo-driven tourism exacerbates this. People are inspired to travel by a photo they've seen, so spectacular things get buried in people.
If you want a wilder experience, it exists in almost every park, either outside of peak season, peak hour, or sometimes just a short distance off the main thoroughfares. The majority of people don't go beyond the easiest viewpoints.
Or just go in winter. It’s not hot, prices plummet, you don’t have to be up at stupid-o’clock for sunrise and there’s nobody around.
I think the ranger in The Maze mentioned that July had seriously low visitorship. Something like 7 people/day hiking in because of the heat and exposure?