U.S. study shows more choosing to stay in rather than go outside

In the United States, the great outdoors is beginning to look like a jilted lover. A new study suggests Americans increasingly prefer to cosy up to video games, the Internet or movies than to romp with nature.

The trend isn’t quite so clear in Canada, but tastes here are changing enough that many of our national parks are being made more comfy to suit aging baby boomers, and high-tech, to try to attract their children and grandkids.


The U.S. study — by researchers Oliver Pergams, at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and Patricia Zaradic, at Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania — found that per capita park visits, applications for hunting and fishing licences and camping permits have dropped by 18 to 25 per cent in the past two decades.

The number of hikers grew, but since the average American goes for a walk on the wild side just once every 10 years that increase wasn’t significant, Pergamo said in an interview yesterday.

Meanwhile, the average time spent on "videophilia" increased by nearly an hour per day. That and gasoline price hikes appear to account for almost all the decline in outdoor activities, Zaradic said.

The results are troubling since they suggest support for preserving natural areas will decline, said the researchers, whose study, published this week in the Proceedings of the Natural Academy of Sciences, was partly funded by the Nature Conservancy.

In Canada, per capita visits to national parks have been stable for five years, said Marc Gregoire, Parks Canada’s director of visitor experience. The number of people using Ontario’s provincial parks has climbed faster than population growth since 1995, a Natural Resources Ministry spokesperson said.

Despite its steady attendance, Parks Canada has begun changes to cope with "new challenges for us in an evolving society," Gregoire said.

Aging boomers "don’t want to sleep on a damp floor," kids are afraid of mosquitoes and anything resembling a wilderness experience is alien to most urban-dwelling new Canadians, he said.

outdoors go high-tech

  • Canadian national parks are providing more roofed accommodation and high-tech attractions such as GPS treasure hunts.

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