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John Shultis

UNBC
From Famine to Feast: Park Agency Responses to Low and High Visitation Trends from 2005-2018 -- Beginning around 2005, many Western park agencies began to acknowledge that park visitation had been in decline for several years. Before this time, park agencies had typically associated consistent increases in visitation with increased public support for conservation and parks, which was then perceived to be associated with and used to increase political support for protected areas. These declines were considered to be a serious threat to the future of park agencies and parks: that is, they were linked to a present and future decrease in public and political support for parks. At the same time, discourses relating to the loss of connection with nature, especially among children, and fears that this loss of connection with nature would lead to less conservation-oriented citizens in the future emerged. Park agencies quickly embraced these discourses, and used them to champion the increased social importance of parks in assuaging the concerns embedded in these discourses. Some agencies, such as Parks Canada and the US National Park Service, created new programs, policies and administrative structures to ‘re-engage’ public use and support for parks. However, after about 10-12 years, a rebound in visitor use numbers have created a return to more traditional concerns over ‘over-tourism’ in protected areas, and parks now must respond to this quick turnaround of visitor numbers. This presentation critically examines park agency responses, including BC Parks, to these major shifts in park use trends from 2005-2018.