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2010 the busiest year for park visitors

by Jim Mann
| December 16, 2010 8:00 PM

Glacier National Park's Centennial year has turned out to be the busiest ever for park visitation.

Even though November's visitor count was down 14 percent compared to November 2009, the 13,000 people who entered the park last month were enough to push the year's total visitation past the 1983 record year.

A total of 2,216,019 people entered Glacier in the first 11 months of this year, nearly 10 percent more than the number who visited during the same period last year and exceeding the 1983 record of 2,203,847 visitors.

"This is the ninth time that Glacier's visitation will have exceeded 2 million in a calendar year, and by all accounts it will have been the highest even with the '83 record," said Amy Vanderbilt, the park's public affairs officer. "And it had a very, very busy feel. Programs were busy, campgrounds were full, lodging was full."

Gateway communities such as West Glacier also were bustling during the peak summer season, she added.

Kass Hardy, coordinator for Glacier's Centennial programs, said that more than 130 different celebration activities and programs definitely played a role in boosting visitation statistics.

"We ended up having about 500,000 attendees at our different activities inside the park and outside the park," Hardy said.

Most notably, there were six reunions among various groups such as former employees of Many Glacier Hotel, the park's red bus "Jammer" drivers and National Park Service alumni.

"Those had hundreds and hundreds of people and they stayed for several days," Hardy said, adding that the May 11 Centennial dedication ceremony held at West Glacier brought in about 800 people.

Vanderbilt said other dynamics played into boosted visitation, such as relatively affordable gas prices and strong interest in national parks among regional travelers.

Other western parks, such as Yosemite and Yellowstone, also had banner years, Vanderbilt noted.

Another technical factor bolsters this year's visitor count as a record: The National Park Service's Denver-based Statistics Office has been using a per-vehicle multiplier of 2.9 people, while multipliers as high as 3.4 people per vehicle were used to calculate park statistics back in the 1980s.

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