The National Park Service is launching a new safety management plan for outdoor recreation, and it’s aimed at protecting the park’s most vulnerable residents.
The Parks and Recreation Act requires parks and recreation areas to protect against hazards, including wildfires, floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, and earthquakes.
But the parks have had a hard time finding ways to do that, according to Rob Lillis, director of the National Park Services.
Lillis told CBC News that the parks had been struggling to find ways to help people get outdoors safely for decades.
“We’re in a time where we’re going to be in a world where you’re going be able to get outdoors in your own home and you’re not going to have to worry about what other people might think or what they’re going have to do if they’re out on the trail or on the mountain,” he said.
The new park safety plan focuses on protecting recreation areas and trails.
Lills said the goal is to create a system where park visitors can feel safe and secure in their recreation area, while still having the tools they need to get their activities done.
“If you want to get your kids out for a hike, you have the safety and the equipment to get them out safely, and you don’t have to spend a lot of time worrying about what you’re doing,” he explained.
The plan includes measures to prevent injuries, like changing up how parks handle hazards.
For example, the park will start requiring that all outdoor activities be supervised by a licensed park ranger.
“The safety of the park itself is at stake,” said Lill, adding that the park is already working to improve its emergency response and preparedness.
There are also new measures designed to help those who need help getting around, like new signs for park trails and a new emergency communication system.
“It’s a lot easier to find a friend to share a meal with, a water bottle to take to the bathroom, a bike to get you to the park,” said Park Ranger Mark Tappe, adding he’s also hoping to create some new safety measures in the future.
The parks plan is a response to a recent spate of high-profile fatalities at national parks, including two people who died and one who was rescued from a water tank in Yellowstone.
Lilli said the parks are also working to make the parks safer for the people who use them.
“People who live in the parks need to feel safe, and we have a lot more work to do to get that right,” he told CBC.