Visitation to National Park units has always fluctuated. The overall trend, however, demonstrates increasing visitation. Over the last five years, there have been substantial changes in visitation at many parks with record visitation increases starting in 2014 and continuing today at many parks. This rapid increase in visitation has heightened visitation-related resource, visitor experience, and operational impacts and challenges.
Visitor Use Management
Visitor use management is the proactive and adaptive process for managing characteristics of visitor use and the natural and managerial setting using a variety of strategies and tools to achieve and maintain desired resource conditions and visitor experiences.
Visitor Use Management (VUM) and related efforts (e.g., transportation and congestion management, and commercial services management) aim to meet these pressing needs and help the National Park Service by:
- maximizing benefits for visitors and
- supporting the park’s purpose, significance, and fundamental resources and values.
Visitor use management is a flexible and scalable set of tools and strategies for managing visitor use that supports appropriate public access to these valued places, while ensuring long-term viability of resources that make quality visitor experiences possible.
In the fall of 2017, staff from the Intermountain Region (IMR) developed a regional visitor use management workgroup to focus on addressing these issues and looking at ways to improve access and visitor experiences. In addition to the workgroup members, several sub-groups assist to carry out work plan tasks.
One of these tasks is the development of integrated monitoring programs. There are “three legs” of the stool for data that are important to visitation management processes:
- Social science
- Managerial considerations (staffing and facilities capacity)
The Intermountain Maintenance Advisory Committee (IMAC) provided these initial ideas for monitoring facilities:
- Building Occupancy Limits – Are they being surpassed, how should we monitor?
- Lines at Entrance Stations – What is a reasonable time to wait? Are situations occurring in your park such as vehicles running out of fuel, backing up highway traffic, overheating cars, medical situations, etc.?
- Parking at Facilities – hard stop numbers that need to be enforced to prevent parking on sensitive resources, dangerous roadways, etc.
- Sewer Treatment Plants — What metered data can be gathered? Are specific load limits being exceeded?
- Water Utilities — Are demand limits being exceeded?
- Electrical Demand — Are limits causing brown-outs, etc.?
What You Can Do
The IMR workgroup is reaching out to you, the facility management community, for practical ideas to monitor visitor use related to facilities that could be used in a decision making process. Please share how your park is or could be monitoring facility usage and impacts from visitors.
Share your thoughts in the Facilities Management Commons Group.
If you’d like to know more, or want to subscribe to their newsletter, please contact IMRO_VUM@nps.gov.