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Mobile Device Data Analysis to Determine the Demographics of Park Visitors

Christopher Monz, Noah Creany, Jordan Nesbitt, Milan Mitrovich


The systematic gathering of data on visitors to parks and protected areas (PPAs) is an important aspect of adaptive management, but also presents an ongoing challenge to conduct. Visitor questionnaires, often administered at entrance facilities, trailheads and parking areas, are the most common approach, but require significant staff time for field work and analysis and may not be inclusive of all visitors. In this paper, we present a novel, mobile device-based assessment strategy that can determine basic visitor demographic attributes without the need for field-based assessments. We compared results from this strategy to a common, trailhead questionnaire approach in three urban-proximate park locations and generally found similar results, except in a situation where a significant number of visitors may not have entered via the main location, and thus were missed by the survey. Overall, the mobile device strategy is likely more accurate in situations where visitors enter parks from multiple, sometimes informal entry locations, but is also somewhat limited in the types of data available.

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Visitor demographics; park and protected area management; big data; mobile device data

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