Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Another Year of Record Visitation in Rocky Mountain National Park

The American Alpine Institute just received the following notification from Rocky Mountain National Park:

Rocky Mountain National Park received its highest annual visitation in 2016. The park received a total of 4,526,335 visitors for 2016, which was an 8.68 percent increase over record visitation in 2015. All months in 2016 set visitation records except for December. This visitation represents a 32 percent increase since 2014, and a 40 percent increase since 2012.

Determining visitation is a difficult and imprecise effort. Visitation statistics are reliably accurate estimates and help park managers see overall trends. Fall visitation, particularly on weekends, continues to increase at Rocky Mountain National Park. Winter weekend visitation also continues to increase. The top ten busiest days in 2016 in order from first to tenth were: September 24, July 3, September 4,September 17, July 24, July 10, July 17, September 5, July 23 and July 30.

Many other national parks in the Rocky Mountain West also had increases in visitation last year. The National Park Service celebrated its Centennial in 2016. Additional factors of the rise in visitation at Rocky include an increased population along the Front Range of Colorado.

Park managers will continue to address what effect this level of visitation will have on visitor and staff safety, resource protection, visitor experiences and operational capacity. This past summer and early fall, park staff restricted vehicle access in two specific areas, the Bear Lake Road corridor and the Wild Basin area, when parking areas filled and heavy congestion warranted. This occurred most weekends from late June through September of 2016. We will continue to implement and assess these short term efforts in 2017. Addressing day use for the long term will require a thoughtful and stakeholder-engaged planning process.

For more information about Rocky Mountain National Park please visit www.nps.gov/romo or call the park’s Information Office at (970) 586-1206.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

National Parks have a self-interest in over-estimating the total number of visitors. Just like VA bosses falsified vets' wait times for care, the only thing you know for sure is that the NPS doesn't have accurate or precise data. It may be that year-to-year comparisons are the greatest value of the data sets but even they could be inaccurate. I travel alone in the national parks but every time my car enters a national park, it's usually counted as 2.7 visitors or whatever.

With license plate recognition software, the NPS could get a better feel for the number of unique visitors and better demographic data. The NPS captures license plates at many National Parks. They can tell how many rental cars enter the park and what type of cars enter (large, small, expensive, cheap), where most car-trippers come from, what zip code personal cars are registered in, how many times each car re-enters the park, how long it stays, etc. They can do this in real time.

I won't hold my breath waiting for accurate data from the NPS. I have no doubt that more visitors are in many of our parks. The crowds are horrifying and growing. And the backlog of infrastructure needs has accelerated past the NPS ability to properly fund them in any meaningful way.