Sunday, October 20, 2019

Joshua Tree National Park Has Upgrades Planned To Ease Congestion


Annual attendance at the park has nearly doubled in the past five years to almost 3 million visitors in 2018, making it the eleventh most-visited park in the country last year. Joshua Tree National Park had 2.9 million people passing through the gates in 2018, about a 3.11 percent gain over 2017. The Park Service has experienced a similar surge at sites across the country. It has welcomed more than 300 million visitors to its parks every year between 2015 and 2018, according to the most recent data available. Meanwhile, the park's aging infrastructure, built for 1 million visitors, is sagging beneath nearly $66 million worth of "deferred maintenance" projects or, backlogged maintenance work as of September 2018, according to the National Park Service.

But the increase in attendance has also led to hour-long waits at the park’s west entrance and choked parking lots inside the park, according to news reports by The Desert Sun.  The Desert Sun reported this week that during peak periods, Park Service staff, from the superintendent on down, along with community partners, direct traffic, waving pass-holders through the entrance gate and managing parking at popular attractions.

To Ease the congestion in parts of Joshua Tree National Park, The Park Service has plans to demolish a fee booth and construct a new one with additional entry and exit lanes and automated fee pay stations. That project is expected to be completed by 2022.

There are also plans for new visitors’ centers to accommodate larger crowds.  A 5,000-square-foot visitor center in Twentynine Palms, California, which will replace an existing 600-square-foot space  will include educational exhibits and an outdoor stage for community events.

On the other side of the park, the Park Service will replace a trailer that serves as a center for visitor information with a new building with space for sales and exhibits. Officials also have plans to redesign a park campground following an increase in tent camping there.

If you are thinking about hiking in Joshua Tree National Park in the near future, or already have a trip planned, we have two hikes that we would gladly recommend, hiking to Mastodon Peak and hiking to Lost Palms Oasis.

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