A General Framework for Gathering Data to Quantify Annual Visitation


  • Anthony Glenn Snider University of North Carolina Wilmington Department of Environmental Studies




visitation, recreation, visitor use, protected areas management, civil rights, national park service


 With the increase in outdoor recreation in the United States following WWII and the focus on multiple use management in the wake of the Multiple Use Sustained Yield Act in 1960, land managers have been under increased pressure to balance multiple objectives and ensure that visitor use impacts at the sites under their purview are kept within acceptable bounds. The Act established that multiple uses had “legitimate interests” on public lands (Adams, 1993, p. 137) and that these uses be managed in a “harmonious and coordinated manner” (Cubbage, 1993, p. 298). However, there is no uniform, universally accepted approach to determining the number of visitors at individual sites, especially in light of the various activities undertaken by the public in protected areas. A unified methodology is needed; one that is applicable across multiple types of properties. We propose a generic multi-phase stratified approach capable of capturing visitation in multiple user activity and access categories. The strata used in this protocol are access location, mode of access, day of the week, and season. Access locations are grouped together in zones for ease of data collection. The approach we propose is readily adaptable to target site-specific assessments and strikes a balance between the need to gather sufficient data and staff person-hour commitment. Data are gathered based on mode of visitor access, definable access points, site-specific trends in visitation, and manager delineated zones at each site under consideration. Initial information is used to develop weekly visitation curves (depictions of the variation in visitation by day of the week) for each manager-defined season at each site and to specific survey locations within each zone mentioned above. Weekly visitation curves are confirmed using a two-week census prior to full data collection, thereby improving statistical accuracy. Additionally, multipliers are created for each mode of visitor access to estimate total visitation during the period under review. Data are summed across all zones within the site and across all seasons to gain a full representation of visitor use for the site being studied. The suggested approach may be easily modified to address variation in spatial and temporal patterns of visitation at multiple sites, as well as variation in modes of visitor access. The use of appropriate sampling techniques allows the employment of statistical estimation, thereby greatly reducing the amount of effort required with a full census for a valid estimate of visitation at a particular site or sites.Subscribe to JPRA

Author Biography

Anthony Glenn Snider, University of North Carolina Wilmington Department of Environmental Studies

Associate Professor of Environmental Studies





Special Issue on Visitor Monitoring