Upgrades planned for Joshua Tree to ease park crowds

California

(NPS Photo)

TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. (AP) — A revamped entrance and visitor centers are in the works to help ease crowds after a surge in tourism to Southern California’s Joshua Tree National Park.

Annual attendance has nearly doubled in the past five years, leading to hour-long waits to enter the park 140 miles (225 kilometers) east of Los Angeles and crammed parking lots, The Desert Sun reported Saturday.

The Park Service has plans to demolish a fee booth and construct a new one with additional entry and exit lanes and automated fee pay stations. That project is expected to be completed by 2022.

(NPS Photo)

There are also plans for new visitors’ centers to accommodate larger crowds. A 5,000-square-foot visitor center in Twentynine Palms, California — which will replace an existing 600-square-foot space — will include educational exhibits and an outdoor stage for community events.

On the other side of the park, the Park Service will replace a trailer that serves as a center for visitor information with a new building with space for sales and exhibits. Officials also have plans to redesign a park campground following an increase in tent camping there.

“We need to keep these places preserved forever, as they are, but allow for their enjoyment today,” said David Smith, the park’s superintendent. “It’s a constant battle for any manager to figure out where you are on that spectrum.”

The park is known for crazy-limbed trees with clusters of green spikes.

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