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The National Park Service recorded more than 330 million visits in 2017, the second highest in its history, according to a report published Wednesday.
In a year marked by the total solar eclipse visible across North America, visitors traveled to many US national parks in record numbers. Sixty-one of the 385 parks which count attendance saw their highest numbers ever, including Zion, Glacier, and Grand Canyon National Parks.
The National Park Service’s official count is 330,882,751 recreational visits, a figure only 88,938 fewer than 2016’s all-time record.
The Blue Ridge Parkway leads the NPS visit count with more than 16 million recreatioaln visits in 2017. Among National Parks, Great Smoky Mountains National Park leads with 11.4 million visitors.
The NPS report also included information on the deferred maintenance costs for the ten most visited National Parks, including more than $500 million apiece for Yellowstone and Yosemite National Parks. The deferred costs for the entire park system totaled $11.6 billion.
With the publication of the NPS report, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke released a statement supporting a proposed Public Lands Infrastructure Fund to direct $18 billion in government dollars to park repair.
“Our National Parks are being loved to death,” he said. “As visitor rates continue at a high level, we must prioritize much-needed deferred maintenance including aging facilities, roads and other critical infrastructure.”
According to the report, ten NPS holdings have more than 5 million visits apiece, and the top 5 percent of the parks account for half the total visits. More than $3.3 billion of the maintenance backlog is due to deferred costs from the ten most visited parks.