Though Earth Day is only celebrated once a year on April 22, national, state, and regional parks allow people to enjoy nature every day. Visiting places of natural beauty, relatively untouched by civilization, is a wonderful experience that I believe everyone deserves to enjoy. The first-hand experience of visitors may even motivate them to research and support larger issues of environmental protection. Parks are good for the soul and good for development. Therefore, the ecological stability of land within and surrounding popular parks is a complex issue.
As researchers have discovered, in some cases, a park’s existence increases the development of nearby roads, jobs, and housing. In the words of Gimmi et al., “enhanced recreational and aesthetic amenities are particularly attractive for housing.” Local businesses may of course include services for visitors to the area, such as restaurants, lodging, and sporting good rentals. Particularly in the case of popular parks, surrounding housing and roads can cut off the links between habitats in the area. In addition to pollution, roads are linked to higher rates of animal mortality. Researchers are increasingly focused on studying the impact of roads on the ecology. While solutions will vary by the current level of development, type of habitat, and species, they are definitely possible. For example, Ogden describes the successful implementation of overpasses for bears in Banff National Park, the oldest national park in Canada.
Gimmi et al. actually studied a local park, the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, to discover the environmental effects of development surrounding parks. For more information this topic, take a look at their study, available through GreenFILE, an EBSCO database. The authors cite many additional sources in their work that you may enjoy reading.
Gimmi, Urs, Schmidt Shelly L, Hawbaker Todd J., et al. “Increasing Development in the Surroundings of U.S. National Park Service Holdings Jeopardizes Park Effectiveness.” Journal of Environmental Management 92.1 (2011): 229-239. Web. 22 April 2013.
Other relevant articles are available through the BioOne database, such as:
For more resources for environmental research, visit our Environmental Research Guide. And take a look at the maps found on the Indiana Department of Parks and Resources website to find historic sites, reservoirs, forests, nature preserves and much more to enjoy this summer!