When the United States Congress created Yellowstone National Park, in 1872, the goal was to set aside a place where Americans could enjoy the beauty of nature for years to come. Now, 142 years later, there are hundreds of national parks across the country, and technology is changing the way people experience them. Should park visitors be able to use cell phones, or should their use be restricted?
“Connectivity presents a real challenge to all of us,” Al Nash told TFK. He is a public affairs officer at Yellowstone National Park. He says cell phone service at Yellowstone is available in parts of the park with stores and campgrounds. This makes it easy for visitors to share photos of their trip on social networking sites and to stay in touch with friends and family members. If a park visitor is hurt or in danger, cell phones make it easier to get help, he adds. Some say the ability to download apps that provide information about plants and animals in the park can enrich a visitor’s experience.
Others say cell phones distract from people’s enjoyment of our national parks. In their view, cell-phone towers are an eyesore, and they’d rather hear the sound of birds chirping than the ring of an incoming call or the ping of an email notification. Can you imagine looking out a tranquil lake or field of grass only to be disrupted by a person shouting into their phone, “Can you hear me now?”
Nash says Yellowstone tries to strike a balance. “Ultimately, our job is to provide for visitor understanding and enjoyment while protecting what people find special about Yellowstone, and one of those things that’s special is the ability to get away from the hustle and bustle of one’s daily life.”
What do you think? Should national parks allow the use of cell phones? Or should park visitors focus on nature, not technology?
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