Park Service tackles parking problem with reservations

Visitation at Muir Woods increased 30 percent over the last decade, but the national monument only has 232 spaces for private vehicles.

In an effort to reduce traffic and relieve overcrowding, Muir Woods National Monument has become the first National Park Service site to require year-round parking reservations.

The popular site’s limited parking hasn’t kept up with the increasing demand by users. Visitation at Muir Woods increased 30 percent over the last decade, but the monument only has 232 spaces for private vehicles. In 2016, it hosted 1.1 million visitors, who were often left parking at the edge of the narrow, winding road leading into the monument when they could not find space inside. When visitors parked outside the monument, they often faced a long, steep walk with no sidewalks to reach the entrance. Park Service managers said they implemented the reservation system, which went into effect Jan.16, to reduce safety concerns, relieve overcrowding and traffic and improve visitor experience.

Visitation has been increasing throughout the National Park System. Last year, as it celebrated 100 years of service, it received a record-breaking 331 million visitors. To cope with the increase in visitors, other popular parks are considering similar reservation schedules, but the idea often faces resistance from local communities and congressional leaders who fear reservations could reduce visitation and hurt local economies.

The Park Service currently faces an $11 billion maintenance backlog, a problem that is not helped by increased visitation. This backlog has been considered as part of a larger infrastructure package that President Trump announced in his State of the Union address.

You can learn more about the Park Service maintenance backlog at nps.gov.

Madilyn Jarman is a Policy Communication Intern at The Wildlife Society. Read more of Madilyn's articles.