TUCSON, Ariz.(KGUN) — Saguaro National Park has seen a record number of visitors over the past year and they’re adjusting to make the experience more fun. Chief of Interpretation and Public Information Officer Andy L. Fisher says in 2021 over 1,079,786 people made their way to Saguaro National Park and crews are hoping to see more in the future. It's a big change from more than 762,226 who showed up in 2020.
“Masks are optional, and we have lifted some of the occupancy limitations," Fisher said. "We know that we have people from all over the world come to see Saguaro National Park it's an icon of the American west. People travel from everywhere to see the saguaros. But we’ve also seen a tremendous increase in the number of visitors who use us for their daily fitness routines, or they ride their bikes out here every day to ride the loop."
The park is looking to survey about 800 visitors about their experience to make improvements to the trails and visitor's centers. Another goal is to find out how many locals are actually using the park on a regular basis
“If anyone has been visiting the park recently you’ve seen it’s more crowded, more people going in different directions," Fisher said. "It's interesting because everyone with COVID has been looking for things to do outside and safe and healthy."
An application for federal funding to fix the ongoing parking situation to create more space for visitors is also on the list of priorities.
"We’re optimistic that we will be able to have the parking lot areas at the Rincon visitors center expanded and improved so we don’t have the conflicts between pedestrians and cars we’re hoping that project move’s forward,” Fisher said.
Fisher says visiting the park is one of the best ways to get families and hikers out to enjoy the weather and nature of Southern Arizona and they want to make the experience more seamless. The visitor survey process is on hold for now and will start back up in the fall of this year. In the meantime, visitors will have more access to services with they stop by.
“Starting this weekend, we are going to have the exhibit spaces and visitor's centers open," Fisher said. "We’re very excited to get things back to a normal level. That goes for some visitor programming as well. If you want a guided hike or talk with a ranger you will see more services available on a daily basis."
Shawndrea Thomas is an anchor and investigative reporter for KGUN 9. Shawndrea is living her dream as a journalist who’s passionate about making a difference. Share your story ideas and important issues with Shawndrea by emailing email@example.com or by connecting on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
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