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Using Social Media Data and Park Characteristics to Understand Park Visitation

Diane Kuehn, James Gibbs, Harrison Goldspiel, Brannon Barr, Alden Sampson, Marshall Moutenot, Joshua Badding, Lilly Stradtman


The emergence of social media creates opportunities for assessing how visitors use park resources for recreation. Our study objectives are to determine if the number of images posted online by visitors to the social media platform Flickr can serve as a valid proxy for estimating park visitation at the state and regional levels, and if including park characteristics in visitation models improves model fit. Regressions were used to identify relationships among social media data, park characteristics, and park visitation data. Although “number of images/km2” explained most of the variation in summer visitation data for the Northern Forest Region and the states of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and New York, including park characteristics (i.e., size, road access, and number of facilities) improved model fit in most instances. Model fit was stronger for most states than the region, indicating the need to consider consistency in management across a region in future studies. 

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Social media; park characteristics; visitation

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