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Utah’s national parks experiencing upswing in visits in 2015

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Posted at 9:43 PM, Aug 02, 2015
and last updated 2015-08-02 23:43:15-04

UTAH -- With five national parks in the Beehive State, Utahns can enjoy some of the most spectacular scenery on the planet.

And outsiders seem to like what Utah has to offer as well, as visitations at the parks are heading toward record-high numbers.

"All the Utah parks are seeing an increase in visitation this year, and it's been a trend for the last couple of years,” said Jim Ireland of the National Park Service. “Since 2013, we've seen a big increase in national park visitation."

Visitation at the parks was up 4 percent from 2013 to 2014, and in the first five months of 2015, all five parks are seeing double-digit increases in visitors.

The numbers show Utah is truly a year-round destination, with February visitations up more than 36 percent from 2014.

“Probably in large part due to the state's very successful "Mighty Five" campaign marketing the Utah parks, gas prices have been down a little bit, and we're coming up on our centennial year in 2016--so there's some buzz around that,” Ireland said.

The Park Service figures the average park visitor spends $60 or $70 a day.

In 2013, tourism-related spending created well over a billion dollars in state and local tax revenues.

Not all the impacts are positive though.

“On peak days, peak seasons, we're seeing more crowding, and, you know, full parking lots, difficulty getting into the front gates,” Ireland said.

With the 100th anniversary of the creation of the National Parks Service coming up, the goal is to connect with the next generation of park visitors and stewards.

To do so, the park service launched a new campaign called "Find Your Park."

"Really encouraging people to get out, and it doesn't have to be a national park, and that's really important here too--Utah has some amazing state parks,” Ireland said. “We have areas on Forest Service land, BLM land, whatever your natural spot is: We're encouraging people to get out and enjoy something outdoors."