WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Sen. Steve Daines believes it's high time we "go digital" to start entering our National Parks like Glacier and Yellowstone.
We've all been there. You roll up to the gate at Glacier or Yellowstone, anxious to see the sites and then you wait. And you wait. And you wait.
"If you think about the current process for purchasing, receiving an America the Beautiful pass, it's outdated. And it creates unnecessary delays and hassles for visitors," Daines said this week. "And because we live in a digital age the private sector has figured this out. We need digital downloads and digital passes."
Daines - along with Sen. Angus King (I-ME) and the Subcommittee on National Parks - have been looking at ways to deal with explosive growth since an investigative hearing last year. That's led to several ideas, the latest being implementing digital passes for both day visits, and annual passes.
"I know I've had that experience when my wife and I have gone to work national parks here in Montana. You want to get into that park and start experiencing the park. You don't want to show up and see that long line of cars when you're waiting to get in," Daines said. "This will make it easier."
Daines feels it's a solution to not only salve frustration but could help develop the kind of data on visitor trends and park use which would help the U.S. Park Service better manage crowds and services during peak travel times. And he says it's a system people are already familiar with, which has worked well during tests in King's home state of Maine.
"The digital passes are already very accepted way of getting into movie theaters and getting into concerts and getting boarding an airline is an example. By the way, this is already happening at some of our parks, so we've already tested the concept of digital passes. Acadia National Park is one of those. And we found out it's cut down on wait times and made it easier people to get in so they've already tried this in a few parks. Now we want to really launch this nationally."
Daines hopes a digital pass system and shorter lines might also give travelers more time to visit some of the lesser-known park sites as well.
"This is a way to make the purchasing and the entrance hassle-free and to expedite that. We've got to allow technology to be part of the solution," Daines said.