Impact of Toursim on Yellowstone and Mesa Verde

Maggie Tullis

Type of Project: Artistic and Creative Endeavor

1)For my STEP project I traveled to 2 of our National Parks, Mesa Verde and Yellowstone, to assess the environmental impact our tourism has on the sustainability of our land. I randomly surveyed 50 visitors from each park and took pictures of tourists breaking the Leave No Trace guidelines.

 2) This trip was one of my first solo cross-country trip so that alone empowered me travel the world and seek my own truth without relying on another person to coordinate logistics. The opportunity to plan every detail of my 7-day journey has given me transferable skills to running my nonprofit organization, Fresh Start, and my on campus job within the Office of Student Life as the Student Lead for Student Organizations. One skill that grew immensely while organizing my STEP project was my ability to diligently and independently craft and manage a project. This skill will help my future career within the pharmaceutical business as a Project Manager. Another ability I cultivated on this trip was the ability to network with strangers and asking them to take my survey while they were on their vacation. Prior to this trip, I have always been more reserved and always very considerate of others time. This project allowed to me expand my networking capabilities and has given me the confidence to go up to strangers and talk to them. Finally, this project allowed me to view people objectively and assess their actions to analyze their respect for our National Parks. Classic parks like Yellowstone has been a tourist attraction for decades. Upon entering the park, I was stunned how much infrastructure was built in the park and how close the attractions were to the animals. I felt extremely saddened that we have left our greed degrade the originality of these lands.

3)There were three main events that lead me to really realize the personal transformation that occurred while completing this project. The first of which pushed me to expand my network and enhance the relationships I already had. My STEP mentor, Greg Booton, was a vital source to helping me coordinate my project and allowed me to expand my vision. Over this year long interaction with him, I formed a friendship with him that has set me up for success. He became the Faculty Advisor for my student organization and is now my President’s Prize letter of recommendation. This mentorship that developed because of STEP will always be one of the most valuable aspect that came about because of my project. With relation to the expansion of my network, I reached out to Leave No Trace prior to my trip and I was able to communicate with an employee there to learn more about their guidelines to accurately create my survey to assess the effect of tourism on our National Parks. While at the parks, I met multiple park rangers to get an insider’s perspective of the impact that the tourism has on the ecology and environment within the grounds.

 Secondly, on my project I gained immense self-confidence and self-assuredness while traveling alone across the country. I had always dreamed of doing a solo trip where I could explore the world without the expectation to conform to another person’s agenda of the trip. Throughout the academic year, I formed my proposal and began planning all of the logistics of my project. By meticulously going through all of the details that I gained many administrative skills and the ability to generate surveys that would accurately depict what I was seeking to find out. This project has allowed me to embrace my self and the ability I have to be independent. As I was traveling out west, I met many people who were vacationing and one event that really surprised me was that nearly all of the people I had met were foreigners and came from across the world to drive across our country. After multiple conversations, many of them stating how beautiful our country is and how excited they were to be here. I came to two conclusions, one being that as Americans we are taking our country for granted. I don’t mean politically, we take nearly every park we have for granted by underfunding the upkeep and preservation of their environment. Secondly, I decided that I need to do more research to analyze the public’s opinion on how important the parks and other American attractions because I know many people who have never traveled even a few hours to see our country’s capital. Conversely, I met multiple families who had travelled across the world to see our National Parks.

Lastly, while traveling alone, driving 14 hours a day and camping by myself were all challenges that I was excited to tackle. I found myself day by day getting more comfortable being alone and surround by nature. The second night I slept in my tent within Yellowstone, I woke up in the middle of the night because I heard a rustle near my campsite. I immediately turned on my lantern and peaked out from my tent and I saw a buffalo walking around the campgrounds. I was obviously very scared, but I soon realized that he was just wandering throughout the park and I was in his territory. I became very grateful for the land that I was sleeping on and found a new respect in the nature that surrounded me. This realization has changed my perspective on the National Parks and infrastructure in general. I have decided to seek out environmentally conscious companies for nearly everything I purchase to try and ease the impact our industrialization has on the rest of our world.

4) As stated above, I gained many transferable skills by completing this project ranging from building interpersonal relationships to gaining administrative experience. Prior to going on this trip, I hade been on the fence about becoming a physician and attending medical school post-graduation. After completing my project, I realized that I did not want to go into the medical field and wanted to pursue my other passions. One of those being the expansion of my nonprofit organization that focuses providing essential hygiene products to the homeless population. This trip gave me the confidence in my leadership abilities and management skills to start this process. Since then, my organization has donated 2,500 GoBags to the Columbus homeless community.  Another passion of mine is the pharmaceutical impacts on the neurologic systems and nervous system. This project allowed me to expand on my networking abilities that will help when seeking a job after I get my MBA next year. I’m really grateful for STEP for giving me the opportunity to expand my horizons and enable me to gain invaluable skills that I plan to take with me in my future endeavors.