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Appalachian Trail Visitation Study Underway

Appalachian National Scenic Trail

National Park News

How many visitors are there to the Appalachian Trail – and how do we count them? A project is now underway to develop an effective system for tallying the number of hikers on the trail.

This project started in 2007 with the Appalachian Trail (AT) entering into an interagency agreement with the Forest Service’s Southern Research Station and expert mathematical statisticians and social scientists to identify a process for determining a defendable annual visitation number.  This was no small task.  With literally thousands of access points from Georgia to Maine, where does one begin?

Researchers spent a year identifying a pilot process and implementing a survey on a “testable” section of the AT.  The process selected included a stratified random survey design which utilized two survey instruments, exit site tallies, and a survey questionnaire to obtain visitation estimates on a portion of the AT.

The design identifies three components (non-proxy, proxy, and special days) which can be used to subdivide the sampling frame into estimator types that lead to more efficient sampling and estimation processes.

After two years of analysis, extrapolation, and peer review, can we now identify the visitation of the AT?  We have a long way to go, but we now have a solid process in place to move forward, and this process can be applicable to other linear parks.

For copies of the Appalachian Trail Visitor Count Report, click on the link below.


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