No, it's not an illusion.

There really are more people enjoying Montana’s outdoor areas than in previous years; a lot more.

Dillon Tabish, Education and Program Manager for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Region 1, provided the eye-opening numbers to KGVO.

“So far we've seen a 20% increase in visitation at our Montana State Parks over last year and last year was also a big increase, so in the last two years, visitation at our state parks has jumped 78%.,” said Tabish. “That really shows you how many people are out there using these public lands and these public parks, which is a great thing. We just want to remind them to recreate responsibly.”

Tabish said finding an open campsite is becoming as difficult as finding a home for sale in western Montana.

“With camping especially, if you look across the board, it can be a little difficult to find a campsite anymore,” he said. “Because of that, I think it's something we're all going to have to ask ourselves, ‘Do we need more of these public places?’ because obviously, anything we do at Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, we’ll need the support of Montanans before we could make a proposal.”

Tabish said communication and planning ahead are of primary importance.

“It's really important when we have this many this many people out, when using these sites, you really want to plan ahead,” he said. “You want to check out where you want to go and you want to plan your visit and find out what amenities are available. Are they going to have water if you have an RV? Is it just for tent camping? You want to really do your homework and then also you want to have backup plans so you don't go all the way to somewhere and it's booked up, there's no more room and then you’ve got to just turn around and go home. You want to be able to have a plan B or even a Plan C in the area.”

When so many people are crowded into campgrounds, courtesy is paramount for everyone.

“Unfortunately, what can happen with people staying up too late causing a lot of noise, which keeps the whole campground awake or letting their dog run through the campground unleashed and causing conflict and even biting other campers, or people parking where they're not supposed to, or even setting up camp where they're not supposed to,” he said. “We have already had instances of all those situations unfortunately, and it's just really unfortunate. It can ruin everybody's experience at those sites.”

Montana State Parks recorded 393,175 park visitors in the first quarter of 2021.


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