Essential Elements for an Excellent Experience

Leah Walters
August 6, 2018

There are 58 national parks with over 320 million total annual visits. There are more than 11,000 state parks with over 739 million annual visits. These parks draw in people of all types from places all over the world and they are wildly successful in sharing the beauty of nature. What do these parks all have in common?

Native plants/wildlife

Native plants and wildlife enhance any project by adding natural and local beauty. Native plants require little long-term maintenance. Since they adapted to a specific region they are used to the conditions. These native species also provide food and habitat for native insects and animals. The ecosystem is fragile and all pieces of it are integral. Unfortunately, the vulnerability of the ecosystem is often overlooked. Roughly 25% of the 20,000 native plant species are in danger. “It is becoming generally recognized that in order to preserve individual species, their plant communities must be preserved. This includes the preservation of native plants that are not yet in danger of extinction, but still play an important role in native ecosystems,” National Park Service. 

Trails and boardwalks

While all trails are great for experiencing nature, boardwalks and elevated trails are great for the nature. They reduce the environmental impact of visitors and are a great way to help protect and preserve the native plants and their ecosystems. One way they do that is by controlling foot traffic. Boardwalks allow exploration of sensitive areas without damaging them. Boardwalks and elevated trails also allow natural rainwater runoff. Both of these provisions help to prevent ground erosion and compaction. Boardwalks and elevated trails help visitors get to the destination in a safe and controlled manner. 

Destinations/focal points

Destinations or focal points have many benefits for a park. They bring in visitors and set them out on your trails. A destination can be anything from an ancient artifact, to a beautiful tree, or a man made structure. No matter what it is, it is a unique element of your park and it gives visitors a specific reason to visit. Finally, destinations are often the object of photos which helps to increase publicity and bring in more visitors.  

Basalt, Colorado is an excellent example of all of the characteristics listed above. They planted over 38,000 native plants, created beautiful destinations, and designed an interesting network of trails and boardwalks. If you’re interested in seeing photos, click here. As evidenced by the photos, all of these elements make for a beautiful park that can be easily enjoyed by all.