While attendance to national parks in 2014 reached record numbers, a fewer percentage of young people explored the parks while there were more older visitors.
The National Parks Conservation Association reports some 292.8 million people visited the park in 2014, but their ages are getting older. In Denali, for instance, the average age was 57. In Yellowstone it was 15. And when it came to young people, the number of visitors under the age of 15 fell by half.
The issue was detailed recently in Morgan Spurlock’s CNN series Inside Man.
It’s not just the visitors who are getting older. Half of all park service employees in leadership roles are expected to retire in 2016, according to CNN. In addition, 75 percent of park service employees are over 40 and just 7 percent are under 30.
Retired Yosemite Park Ranger Bob Roney (aka Range Bob) tells CNN the younger generation is just too “plugged-in.”
“I started in the ’60s and ’70s, the hippie generation. People were wanting to get back to the land. I don’t see that as much today,” Roney told CNN. “People want modern conveniences. Young people are more city-oriented and tend not to be wildlands-oriented.”
To combat the problem, the park service conducts a Junior Ranger Program, of which it graduated 800,000 young people last year.
Photo caption: Bus in Denali National Park Photo by Noppawat Tom Charoensinphon; Getty Images