I love getting out into nature. It refreshes and invigorates me. Many of my favorite memories include visits to national parks – in both Australia and the US. My love of nature also inspires my concern for sustainability.
So – I worry that fewer people are visiting national parks and natural places. It isn’t surprising – most camping experiences are really only appealing to a relatively small group of people. Most camp grounds I’ve been to have basic facilities at best ( and filthy disgusting facilities at worst), require campers to have their own equipment and expect visitors to be “in the know” about camping. Those can be pretty big barriers to entry.
The time has come for new ways of thinking about the facilities and services we provide to allow people to experience the nature. There are large groups of people who want to experience the outdoors but don’t want to be uncomfortable doing it. Let’s find ways to satisfy their needs and get them outdoors.
Some folks will say it is good that visitation is dropping off – it means less people are out “wrecking” natural places. I worry about the sustainability of that position. If people don’t experience these places they won’t value them with the same intensity. It is one thing to know “academically” that National Parks are a good thing, it is another to have lived it.
Perhaps purists will say that I am wrong in suggesting that “one size never fits all” and that if people want to experience outdoors they must get dirty. My response – why ? Sure – I love getting dirty and away from the crowds – but that doesn’t mean everyone has to do it the way my way. Expecting that everyone will be happy with the same product offering is the problem.
Of course – wherever there is a problem, there is opportunity. And already some entrepreneurs are starting to offer new products. Indeed, as is often the case, the pendulum has swung to the other extreme. USA Today recently included an article on “glamping”, the “new” trend of glamour camping complete with butlers and chefs. While this isn’t exactly my cup of tea I do applaud these entrepreneurs who are seeking ways to get new groups of people to experience (and develop a love of) nature. Between glamping and the average campground there must be many new ways of providing visitors more satisfying experiences of nature…. and its important we get it right for nature’s sake.