Area national park tourism declining

Area national park tourism declining

Fritch, TX - Area national parks are struggling to keep tourism numbers up.

A recent report from the National Park Service (NPS) shows about 200,000 fewer people visited Lake Meredith National Recreation Area from 2011 to 2012.

To increase tourism, the NPS's goal is to transition Lake Meredith from a water-based recreational park to a land-based one. "Mainly because of the drought and the lake going down, many visitors are not going for water-based recreation," said NPS superintendent Robert Maguire. "But we're actually seeing an increase in land-based recreation like hiking and horseback riding."

The NPS is turning its focus to the park's land, starting with trails. They recently built a six mile trail by Harbor Bay and plan to extend the trail this summer. "We're actually going to build ten more miles this summer," said Maguire. "We have a trail crew coming out of Arizona and they will be here in April to start cutting some new trail for us."

The NPS is also working on a federal ruling to allow mountain biking on the trails. Right now, mountain bikers can only use roadways inside the park. "When we finally get the rule completed for mountain bike riding, we think mountain biking will become popular and that there will be quite a few people coming up here to use the mountain bike trails in the park," said Maguire.

Maguire said he is still hopeful the lake will come back, but that it only rose seven feet in 2013. Increasing tourism at Lake Meredith is especially important for nearby cities like Borger, Fritch and Amarillo.

Because of fewer visitors, spending in those cities decreased by about $40 million from 2011 to 2012, according to the NPS report.

Madison Alewel - NewsChannel 10