Bad news came out last week for Del Norte County: Fewer people visited national parks last year.

But with every bad comes some good: Neighboring Oregon bucked the trend in national park visits.

In Oregon's news lay some good lessons for us.

National park attendance dropped by 20 percent between 1995 and 2005, according to recently released Department of the Interior figures.

Overnight visits to Redwood National Park have dropped to 71 percent of 1995's numbers. Last year, the park saw 394,144 visitors down from 552,464 a decade before.

Oregon, however, saw dramatic increases. One reason is Lewis and Clark National Historic Park, near Astoria, enjoyed a record number of visitors. Of course, earlier this decade marked the bicentennial of Meriwether Lewis' and William Clark's expedition across the West to the Pacific Ocean.

Granted, Redwood National Park can't boast the likes of Lewis and Clark to draw visitors. But other Oregon parks also saw increases in visits. Why?

?Return visits. Crater Lake National Park has become a traditional spot that people return to year after year, according to park spokesmen. About 450,000 people now annually visit the park even though road access to it from major metro areas isn't any better than are the Redwoods.

?Locally popular destination. The majority of visitors to Oregon's Crater Lake and John Day Fossil Beds National Monument where attendance has risen 26 percent since 2001 are from Oregon. As the state's population has grown, so has traffic to and from the park. This fits well with the national trend of shorter vacations and traveling shorter distances by car for those getaways.

Crescent City and Del Norte County would benefit greatly from boosting national park visits by just a quarter of Crater Lake's increases. So what is Crater Lake doing right that gets people to keep coming back? What is being done to ensure state residents know about those parks?

Certainly implementing the answers to these questions does not fall upon national and state parks officials alone. Local communities also play a vital role in ensuring that facilities on and off the parks are of high quality and that this region is marketed to Californians who live as far away from the Redwoods as Portland residents do from Crater Lake.

Indeed, Oregon's state parks also have seen a significant increase in visitors by 17 percent in the past decade. Oregon dedicated lottery funds to add more electrical outlets, running water and dump stations for recreational vehicles at its state parks.

Growing tourism, Oregon has shown, means more than just marketing.


How can Redwood National Park and Del Norte County attract more park visitors? Send a letter to the editor via e-mail: