Whether you’re snapping a photo of it from over the wing of a plane banking out of Sea-Tac or plotting summer wildflower adventures, Mount Rainier looms large for Washington’s outdoorsy-inclined. It’s also due for change.
In a news release Monday, Mount Rainier National Park Superintendent Chip Jenkins announced the very beginning stages of a future management plan for the park, focused on reshaping transportation and visitor use within the Nisqually to Paradise travel corridor.
To help formulate the plan, the National Park Service is seeking feedback from park visitors, whose increased numbers have necessitated the plan. The park has also released an online multimedia resource explaining the goals and scope of the project.
“We are in the early stages of what we anticipate is going to be a multiyear planning effort,” said Teri Tucker, planning and compliance branch chief for Mount Rainier National Park. “And so this really is asking folks to help us set the stage, understand what are those future outcomes that we would like to have in this area … what ideas do they have for how we can maintain or improve that going forward?”
According to NPS figures, visitation to Mount Rainier National Park grew by 30% between 2008 and 2018, with 70% of visitors arriving between July and September, typically on weekends with good weather. Visitor impacts are intensified, too, by the fact that most park use occurs in popular spots like Paradise and heavily trafficked overlooks and trails.
It’s an increase in foot traffic that seems unlikely to slow, even during a pandemic: In the news release, Jenkins noted that Washington’s public lands had seen an increased number of visitors this summer. “We cannot afford to delay our efforts to address sustainable recreation,” he said.
NPS’ aim with the plan is twofold: “exploring proactive strategies that improve access to public lands while ensuring the protection of significant natural and cultural resources.”
NPS is soliciting comments on what experiences parkgoers value most about Mount Rainier, as well as “what issues most interfere with their preferred experiences and what strategies the planning team should consider.”
As an example, Tucker named a frustration that should be familiar to anyone who’s tried to go skiing or hiking in a beloved spot on a sunny weekend in the Pacific Northwest: “Certainly some of our preliminary issues that have been identified from some earlier conversations have to do with long lines to get into the park or folks struggling to find parking or parking in areas outside of established parking lots,” she said.
Tucker said that the next phase of the project planned for this winter will involve coming up with strategies and seeking additional public review.
The public comment period began Monday, Aug. 10, and will go through Oct. 5. A public meeting on the project will also be held virtually Sept. 1 from 6 to 7 p.m. More information is available at https://parkplanning.nps.gov/nisquallycorridor.