Research to Guide Management of Backcountry Camping at Isle Royale National Park: Part I - Descriptive Research
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Journal of Park and Recreation Administration 22 Volume 21, Number 3 Fall 2003 pp. 22-42 Research to Guide Management of Backcountry Camping at Isle Royale National Park: Part I – Descriptive Research Steven R. Lawson Robert E. Manning ABSTRACT: This paper is the first in a sequence of two papers that report on descriptive and prescriptive research undertaken at Isle Royale National Park to support development of a new wilderness management plan at the Park. The present paper reports on the first phase of study aimed at developing descriptive information on backcountry camping at Isle Royale. This information includes the relationship between number and spatio- temporal distribution of camping groups and amount of campsite sharing, as well as the potential effectiveness of alternative management practices designed to reduce campsite sharing. A computer simulation model of backcountry camping was developed for this purpose. The second paper reports on the prescriptive phase of the research that focused on visitor preferences among alternative management scenarios designed to reduce campsite sharing. Findings from the first, descriptive phase of research were used to identify a set of feasible, realistic management scenarios that could be incorporated into the second, prescriptive phase of research. The study results suggest that under the Park’s current management approach, an average of about 9% of groups are required to share campsites per night during July and August, with 24% sharing during the busiest two weeks of this period. Further, the results suggest that the Park would need to reduce visitor use during July and August by nearly 25% to ensure that an average of no more than 5% of groups share campsites per night. The model estimates that by instituting a fixed itinerary system, the Park could issue approximately 30% more permits than they did during the 2001 visitor use season, while at the same time virtually eliminating campsite sharing. The results of several other management simulations are presented and discussed in the paper, including campsite construction and spatial and temporal redistribution of visitor use. The computer simulation model developed in this study provides park managers with a tool to assess the effectiveness and consequences of management alternatives in a manner that may be more cost-effective, less labor-intensive, more comprehensive, and less politically risky than on-the- ground, trial-and-error approaches. Further, the research presented in this sequence of papers provides a model for integrating descriptive and prescriptive research findings into the planning and management of parks and wilderness. KEYWORDS: Isle Royale National Park, simulation modeling, wilder- ness, wilderness management, backcountry camping, indicators and stan- dards of quality, carrying capacity
23 AUTHORS: Steven R. Lawson is with the Division of Forestry, Recre- ation, Parks and Tourism Program, West Virginia University, Morgantown, WV, 26505, (304)293-2941, E-mail: email@example.com. Robert E. Manning is with the School of Natural Resources, University of Vermont Burlington, VT 05405, (802)656-2684, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. The authors would like to acknowledge the following people for their assistance with various aspects of this study: Marilyn Hof, Denver Service Center, National Park Service; Jack Oeflke, Ann Mayo Kiely, and Mark Romanski, Isle Royale National Park; and David Cole, Aldo Leopold Wilderness Research Institute. Introduction Since the establishment of the National Wilderness Preservation Sys- tem in 1964, recreation use of wilderness has grown steadily and continues to be on the rise, particularly in national parks (Cole, 1996). The wilderness portion of Isle Royale National Park is a good example: approximately 99% of the Park’s land base is designated wilderness, and visitation to the Park during the 1990s grew at a rate of 4-5% annually. On a per-acre basis, the Park has the highest number of wilderness overnight stays in the National Park System (Farrell & Marion, 1998). Growing demand for backcountry camping at Isle Royale National Park has led to potential problems, and the National Park Service is currently engaged in developing a new wilderness management plan to address these problems. In particular, during peak periods of the season, campground capacities are commonly exceeded and some camping groups must share campsites. During the peak use period in 1997, a survey of backcountry campers found that respondents reported having to share campsites nearly 20% of camping nights (Pierskalla, Anderson, & Lime, 1996, 1997). Moreover, most campers surveyed indicated that having to double-up with other camping groups detracted from the quality of their experience. To support development of a new wilderness management plan at Isle Royale, a two-phase program of research was developed and administered. This research program was designed to address both the “descriptive” and “prescriptive” components of outdoor recreation research (Manning, 1999, 2001; Stankey & Manning, 1986). As originally proposed by Shelby and Heberlein (1984, 1986), descriptive research in outdoor recreation focuses on factual, objective data, such as the amount of recreation-related impact caused by varying levels of recreation use. In the case of Isle Royale, one of the important issues to be addressed is the relationship between the number and spatio-temporal distribution of backcountry camping groups and the percentage of groups that must share campsites. The prescriptive component (Shelby and Heberlein originally used the term “evaluative”) concerns the seemingly more subjective issue of how much impact should be allowed. In the case of Isle Royale, for example, how much campsite sharing should be allowed before use limits or other management actions are taken?
24 This paper is the first in a sequence of two papers that report on descriptive and prescriptive research undertaken at Isle Royale National Park. The present paper reports on the first phase of study aimed at developing descriptive information on backcountry camping at Isle Royale. This information includes the relationship between number and spatio- temporal distribution of camping groups and amount of campsite sharing, as well as the potential effectiveness of alternative management practices designed to reduce campsite sharing. A computer simulation model of backcountry camping was developed for this purpose. The second paper reports on the prescriptive phase of research which focused on visitor preferences among alternative management scenarios designed to reduce campsite sharing. Stated choice modeling is incorporated into a survey of backcountry campers to develop this information. Findings from the first, descriptive phase of research were used to identify a set of feasible, realistic management scenarios that could be incorporated into the second, pre- scriptive phase of research. Isle Royale National Park Isle Royale National Park is located in the northwest corner of Lake Superior, approximately 75 miles from Houghton, Michigan and 20 miles from Grand Portage, Minnesota. The park has a system of 36 campgrounds, with a total of 244 designated tent and shelter sites dispersed along a network of 165 miles of trails. Primary recreation activities at the park, which is open to visitors from mid-April until the end of October, include hiking and camping (Farrell & Marion, 1998). Visitors interested in backcountry camping at Isle Royale National Park are required to obtain a permit. As part of the permitting process, visitors are asked to report their anticipated itinerary, identifying the number of nights they plan to be in the park and the campground they intend to stay at each night of their camping trip. However, visitors are not required to follow their proposed itinerary and there are no restrictions on the number of permits issued for camping in the park. While visitors do have the option to obtain special permits for off-trail hiking and camping, the vast majority choose to camp at the designated campground sites (Farrell & Marion, 1998). Isle Royale National Park’s approach to backcountry camping manage- ment is designed to maximize public access to the park and to maintain visitors’ sense of spontaneity and freedom. However, recent research suggests that this management approach, coupled with increased backcountry visitation at the park, has resulted in campground capacities commonly being exceeded during peak periods of the visitor use season. Campers who arrive at full campgrounds are asked to share campsites with other groups, and most campers surveyed indicated that having to double-up with other camping groups detracted from the quality of their experience (Pierskalla, Anderson, & Lime, 1996, 1997).
25 Park managers have decided to address this backcountry camping issue by formulating a standard for campsite sharing (Manning, 1999). As park staff attempt to identify an appropriate and feasible standard for campsite sharing, they are faced with a number of difficult questions. For example, to what extent would use limits or fixed itineraries need to be imposed in order to achieve alternative standards for campsite sharing? Could provi- sion of public access, visitor freedoms, and reduced campground crowding be optimized by redistributing use temporally and/or spatially? Could alternative standards for campsite sharing be achieved by adding new campsites to the park, rather than by limiting use? If so, how many additional campsites would be needed, and where would they need to be located? Embedded in all of these questions are tradeoffs among visitor freedoms, spontaneity of visitor experiences, public access, natural resource protection, and opportunities for camping solitude. This study uses simu- lation modeling to assist managers in answering these and related ques- tions. Simulation Modeling of Outdoor Recreation Computer simulation models have been successfully applied to a variety of park and outdoor recreation areas. The first generation of simulation modeling in outdoor recreation, referred to as the Wilderness Travel Simulation Model (WTSM), was introduced in the 1970s, and continued through the mid-1980s (Borkan & Underhill, 1989; Manning & Potter, 1984; McCool, Lime, & Anderson, 1977; Potter & Manning, 1984; Schechter & Lucas, 1978; Smith & Headly, 1975; Smith & Krutilla, 1976; Underhill, Xaba, & Borkan, 1986). The WTSM was designed to provide estimates of the number, type (e.g., meeting, overtaking, encoun- ters among different types of user groups), and location of encounters between recreation groups in a park or wilderness area (Wang & Manning, 1999). Despite the early success of the WTSM, it fell into disuse largely due to the cost and difficulty of running the computer simulations (Cole, 2002). Recent advances in computing technology have made computer simu- lation modeling more accessible and affordable (Pidd, 1992). With im- proved computer simulation capabilities, a second generation of applica- tions of simulation modeling to outdoor recreation management has emerged in recent years. This new generation of simulation modeling, which is used in this study, has been applied in several national parks and related areas to track visitor travel patterns and to assist managers in monitoring and managing social carrying capacity (Borrie et al., 1999; Daniel & Gimblett, 2000; Gimblett, Richards, & Itami, 2000; Lawson, Manning, Valliere, Wang, & Budruk, 2002; Manning, Lawson, Wang, & Valliere, 1998; Manning, Valliere, Lawson, Wang, & Newman, 1999; Manning, Wang, Valliere, & Lawson, 1998; Wang & Manning, 1999; Wang, Manning, Lawson, & Valliere, 2000).
26 Methods Computer Travel Simulation Model The computer travel simulation model developed in this study to address questions associated with managing backcountry campground crowding at Isle Royale National Park can be characterized as dynamic, discrete-event, and stochastic (refer to Banks & Carson (1984) and Wang & Manning (1999) for more information about the modeling approach applied in this study). The travel simulation model was built using Extend (1996), an object-oriented dynamic simulation package. The structure of the model consists of hierarchical blocks that represent specific components of the park’s camping system. In particular, the simulation model is comprised of three main types of hierarchical blocks—entrance blocks, routing blocks, and campground blocks. Entrance blocks were designed to generate simulated visitor groups. Separate entrance blocks were developed for trips starting at the two most commonly used entry points to the park, Windigo and Rock Harbor, and for all trips starting at any other location. Within each entrance block, newly generated visitor groups are assigned values for a set of attributes (e.g., group size, travel route) designed to direct their travel through the simulated backcountry camping trip. Routing blocks are located at each campground and at the entrance to the camping system. Within the routing blocks, simulated visitor groups are directed to the next (or first) campground on their itineraries, at the beginning of each simulated day. In addition, routing blocks direct groups that have completed their itineraries to exit the park. Campground blocks were designed to report the number of groups camping at each campground on each night throughout the simulation period, and the number of groups sharing campsites. The model, which was designed to simulate a three-week period, generates this information only for the second and third weeks of the simulation, once the model has been “initialized” (i.e., filled to a typical operating capacity). Data Collection Backcountry camping permits issued by park staff during the 2001 season provided the primary source of data needed to construct the travel simulation model. In particular, detailed information concerning the starting and ending date of each group’s trip, camping itinerary, and group size were used as inputs to the simulation model. As mentioned earlier, visitors are asked to report their expected camping itinerary as part of the park’s permitting process, but they are not actually required to follow their proposed itinerary. This policy raises concern that use of the permit data as an input into the travel simulation model may not be valid. That is, the travel routes reported on the permits may not accurately reflect the actual itineraries followed by backcountry camping groups. In order to address this concern, all backcountry camping groups were asked to correct the
27 camping itinerary reported on their permit and to return the corrected permit to the visitor center at the end of their camping trip. Visitors’ compliance with this request and the validity of the permit data will be discussed in more detail later in the paper. Data needed to validate the outputs of the travel simulation model were gathered through a series of campground occupancy observations con- ducted throughout the park’s 2001 visitor use season. Campground hosts at Belle Isle Campground and Daisy Farm Campground counted the number of groups in each campground at the end of the day on randomly selected dates throughout the season. In addition to the counts conducted by campground hosts, wilderness rangers conducted campground occu- pancy observations throughout the park during backcountry patrols. Data collected by the wilderness rangers included the date, campground name, and number of groups in the observed campground. Model runs An initial set of simulation runs was conducted to characterize the extent of campsite sharing during July and August, 2001 and the remainder of the 2001 season (referred to throughout the remainder of this paper as the July/August peak and the low-use period of the season, respectively). This was followed by a series of simulation runs conducted to estimate the effectiveness of alternative strategies for managing campsite sharing, in- cluding use limits, spatial and temporal redistribution of use, fixed itiner- aries, and campsite construction. Lastly, a set of simulations was run at current July/August peak backcountry camping levels to validate the computer travel simulation model output. Based on the outputs from these simulations, averages were computed for the number of groups in selected campgrounds on weekend nights and on weekday nights. The travel simulation model output were compared to average campground occupancy data collected by park staff during the 2001 season. Results Backcountry Camping Permit Data All 3,810 backcountry camping permits issued by the park during the 2001 season were used as inputs to the computer travel simulation model. These data include permits issued to backpackers, kayakers, canoeists, powerboaters, and sailboaters. In order to account for variation in groups’ travel routes, the permit data used for the travel simulation model were stratified by group size, starting location, and date. A total of 2,422 permits issued during July and August were used as inputs to the travel simulation model to represent the park’s July/August peak, and the 1,388 permits issued during the remainder of the season were used to represent the low- use period of the season. Approximately 60% of the backcountry permits issued during the 2001 season were returned to park staff with revised itineraries. Data concerning the travel routes of visitors for the remaining
28 40% of backcountry permits are based on visitor groups’ proposed itineraries reported at the beginning of their trips. The results of a test designed to validate the use of these travel routes as inputs to the travel simulation model are reported later in this paper. Information concerning the average number of permits issued per day during the July/August peak and low-use periods of the 2001 season are reported in Table 1. On average, 27 fewer permits were issued per day during the low-use period of the 2001 season than during July and August. The data also suggest that substantially more visitor groups started their backcountry camping trips on a weekend than on a weekday. Specifically, an average of 34 visitor groups started backcountry camping trips per weekday during July and August, compared with an average of 52 groups per weekend day. This trend held true during the low-use period of the 2001 season as well. In particular, the average number of groups starting a backcountry camping trip per weekend day was double the average for weekdays. Further, the permit data indicate that, during the July/August peak and the low-use period of the 2001 season, the vast majority of backcountry camping trips started at Windigo or Rock Harbor. However, on average, nearly twice as many trips started from Rock Harbor than Windigo each day. Model Output Extent of Campsite Sharing Results of travel simulation model runs designed to estimate the extent of backcountry campsite sharing occurring at Isle Royale National Park during the 2001 visitor use season are reported in Tables 2a and 2b. Table 2a reports the simulated mean number of permits issued per day, by day of the week, starting location, and period of the season. The data in Table 2b suggest that during the July/August peak, an average of nearly 9% of groups Table 1 Mean Number of Permits Issued per Day, by Trip Starting Location— 2001 Visitor Use Season All Other All Locations Windigo Rock Harbor Locations Combined July/August weekdays 12.8 19.0 2.3 34.2 July/August weekend days 17.9 29.8 4.3 52.1 July/August all days 14.2 22.0 2.8 39.1 Low-use period weekdays 2.4 5.0 1.4 8.7 Low-use period weekend days 6.4 9.5 2.6 18.5 Low-use period all days 3.6 6.3 1.7 11.6
29 were required to share campsites per night. During the low-use period of the 2001 visitor use season, the model estimates that, on average, less than 1% of groups were required to share campsites per night. Evaluation of Management Scenarios Tables 3a through 6b report the results of travel simulation model runs conducted to estimate the effectiveness of alternative backcountry manage- ment strategies in reducing campsite sharing. Outputs reported for each management scenario are averages based on the results of 20 simulation runs. The model runs were repeated 20 times to capture stochastic variation and to minimize the width of the confidence intervals around model estimates to a substantively insignificant size. Reducing Use Levels Travel simulation model estimates reported in Tables 3a and 3b provide insight into the extent to which visitor use during July and August would need to be reduced from 2001 levels to ensure that no more than 5% of groups are required to share campsites per night (one of several standards for campsite sharing that park staff are considering adopting). The results suggest that in order to achieve this standard for campsite sharing, the average number of permits issued per weekend day would have to be Table 2a Simulated Mean Number of Permits Issued per Day—Status Quo July/August—Status Quo Low Use—Status Quo Windigo Weekdays 12.8 2.6 weekend days 18.4 6.0 all days 14.4 3.6 Rock Harbor Weekdays 19.0 4.9 weekend days 30.9 9.6 all days 22.4 6.2 All other locations Weekdays 2.4 1.4 weekend days 4.4 2.4 all days 3.0 1.7 All locations combined Weekdays 34.2 8.9 weekend days 53.8 18.0 all days 39.8 11.5 Table 2b Estimated Percent of Groups Sharing Campsites per Night—Status Quo July/August—Status Quo Low Use—Status Quo Percent of groups sharing campsites per night 8.7 0.4
30 reduced by about one-quarter, and the number of permits issued per weekday would have to be reduced from about 34 to 28. Overall, the model estimates that the average number of permits issued per day would have to be reduced from about 39 to about 31. This would result in approximately 22% fewer backcountry camping permits available to visitors during the July/August peak than were issued during July and August of the 2001 visitor use season. Spatial Redistribution of Use The data reported in Tables 4a and 4b summarize the results of simulation runs conducted to estimate whether redistributing visitor use evenly across the two primary starting locations for backcountry camping trips (i.e., Windigo and Rock Harbor) is an effective alternative to visitor use limits. The percent of groups sharing campsites under current July/ August peak-use levels would actually rise slightly if this approach were taken. In fact, even with backcountry camping trips redistributed spatially, the park would need to reduce the number of permits issued per day from an average of about 39 permits to an average of about 31 permits in order to ensure that, on average, no more than 5% of groups share campsites per night. Table 3a Simulated Mean Number of Permits Issued per Day—Visitor Use Limits July/August—Status Quo Use Limit Windigo Weekdays 12.8 10.5 weekend days 18.4 14.0 all days 14.4 11.5 Rock Harbor Weekdays 19.0 15.3 weekend days 30.9 23.7 all days 22.4 17.7 All other locations Weekdays 2.4 1.9 weekend days 4.4 3.4 all days 3.0 2.3 All locations combined Weekdays 34.2 27.6 weekend days 53.8 41.0 all days 39.8 31.4 Table 3b Estimated Percent of Groups Sharing Campsites per Night— Visitor Use Limits July/August—Status Quo Use Limit Percent of groups sharing campsites per night 8.7 5.0
31 Table 4a Simulated Mean Number of Permits Issued per Day—Equal Number of Trips Starting at Windigo and Rock Harbor July/August—Current Use Use Limit Spatial Redistribution Spatial Redistribution Windigo Weekdays 16.3 12.2 weekend days 23.1 17.4 all days 18.2 13.7 Rock Harbor Weekdays 15.9 12.1 weekend days 24.5 19.6 all days 18.3 14.2 All other locations Weekdays 2.4 2.4 weekend days 3.9 4.2 all days 2.8 2.9 All locations combined Weekdays 34.5 26.6 weekend days 51.4 41.2 all days 39.4 30.8 Table 4b Estimated Percent of Groups Sharing Campsites per Night— Equal Number of Trips Starting at Windigo and Rock Harbor July/August—Current Use Use Limit Spatial Redistribution Spatial Redistribution Percent of groups sharing campsites per night 9.1 5.0 Temporal Redistribution of Use Redistributing the current July/August peak-use levels evenly across the days of the week represents a second alternative to visitor use limits tested with the simulation model. The travel simulation model estimates that even with weekend spikes of visitor use eliminated, approximately 9% of groups would be required to share campsites per night if total July/ August peak backcountry camping use were held constant at 2001 levels (Tables 5a and 5b). Further, the model output suggests that the park would need to reduce backcountry camping use by about 22% during July and August to ensure that no more than 5% of groups share campsites per night. If the park were to implement any of the three management scenarios examined to this point, approximately 496 fewer permits would be available to the public during July and August. However, the total number of permits issued over the entire season could be maintained, while ensuring that no more than 5% of groups share campsites per night, by issuing 496 additional backcountry camping permits during the low use period of the season. The travel simulation model output suggests that if 496 permits eliminated from July and August were redistributed evenly across the remainder of the
32 Table 5a Simulated Mean Number of Permits Issued per Day—Equal Number of Weekend and Weekday Permits Issued July/August—Current Use Use Limit Temporal Redistribution Temporal Redistribution Windigo Weekdays 14.6 11.8 weekend days 14.5 11.6 all days 14.6 11.8 Rock Harbor Weekdays 21.6 17.5 weekend days 22.8 18.3 all days 22.0 17.8 All other locations Weekdays 2.8 2.3 weekend days 2.8 2.4 all days 2.8 2.4 All locations combined Weekdays 39.1 31.7 weekend days 40.1 32.3 all days 39.4 31.9 Table 5b Estimated Percent of Groups Sharing Campsites per Night— Equal Number of Weekend and Weekday Permits Issued July/August—Current Use Use Limit Temporal Redistribution Temporal Redistribution Percent of groups sharing campsites per night 8.6 5.0 visitor use season, campsite sharing would increase from an average of approximately 0.4% of groups per night during the low-use period of the season, to just over 1% of groups per night (Tables 6a and 6b). These estimates are based on the assumption that the additional permits shifted from the peak period of the season would be redistributed evenly across all of the days of the low use period of the season. However, it may be more realistic to assume that most of this additional use would be concentrated in June. Results from a series of simulation runs suggest that an additional nine permits per day can be accommodated during June, while ensuring that, on average, no more than 5% of groups are required to share campsites per night. Such an approach would shift approximately 270 peak-season permits to June, leaving an additional 226 permits to be accommodated during the remainder of the low-use season. Fixed Camping Itineraries Output from the travel simulation model provides insight into the effect that requiring visitors to follow prescribed, fixed camping itineraries during the July/August peak would have on campsite sharing. The results
33 Table 6a Simulated Mean Number of Permits Issued per Day—Peak Use Redistributed to Low-Use Period of Season Low Use Period Low Use Period Current Use 496 Additional Permits Windigo Weekdays 2.6 3.3 weekend days 6.0 8.4 all days 3.6 4.8 Rock Harbor Weekdays 4.9 6.7 weekend days 9.6 12.9 all days 6.2 8.5 All other locations Weekdays 1.4 1.9 weekend days 2.4 3.6 all days 1.7 2.4 All locations combined Weekdays 8.9 12.0 weekend days 18.0 24.9 all days 11.5 15.7 Table 6b Estimated Percent of Groups Sharing Campsites per Night— Peak Use Redistributed to Low Use Period of Season Low Use Period Low Use Period Current Use 496 Additional Permits Percent of groups sharing campsites per night 0.4 1.2 of a series of simulation runs suggest that, at 2001 visitor use levels, there are an average of 148 camping groups in the park per night during July and August. As mentioned earlier in this paper, there are a total of 244 backcountry campsites in the park. Theoretically, if the park instituted a fixed itinerary permit system, they could increase backcountry camping use by approximately 60% while virtually eliminating campsite sharing. This assumes, however, that backcountry camping groups would not deviate from their prescribed itineraries, and that it would be possible to design a set of fixed itineraries that would result in every campsite being occupied. The issue of non-compliance with fixed itineraries is further addressed later in the paper. Development of Additional Campsites A final management strategy tested in this study involved development of additional campsites. The park’s recently adopted General Management Plan allows for construction of up to 13 additional campsites within specified existing campgrounds. Output from the travel simulation model
34 suggests that, without instituting any limits on use, an average of just under 7% of groups would share campsites per night if the 13 additional campsites were constructed. Model Validation No statistically significant differences were found between observed campground occupancies collected by park staff during the 2001 season and travel simulation model output (Table 7). While there may be a possibility of Type II error associated with these tests due to the relatively small sample sizes, there are no substantive differences between the ob- served campground occupancies and the corresponding model output. This suggests that the travel simulation model accurately represents backcountry camping conditions at the park during the 2001 season and that the permit data are valid inputs to the model. Discussion and Management Implications The findings from this study have implications for management of backcountry camping use at Isle Royale National Park in particular, and for management of visitor use in parks and wilderness in general. Recent research conducted at Isle Royale National Park identified campsite sharing as a prevalent problem for park visitors, detracting from the quality of their experiences (Pierskalla et al., 1996, 1997). In response to this information, park managers have made a commitment to adopt campsite sharing-related indicators and standards of quality and to develop and implement strategies to reduce or eliminate campsite sharing. To do this in an informed manner, park managers not only need to identify their management options, they must also understand the effects of alternative management strategies on a diverse array of public wilderness values (Cole, 2002). This study assists park managers in defining and assessing management alternatives not only Table 7 Travel Simulation Model Validation Results Campground Observed Model t-statistic Daisy Farm—weekend 15.0 15.8 -0.441 (15)2 (16) Daisy Farm—weekday 15.1 13.3 0.961 (14) (40) Belle Isle—weekend 3.1 3.8 -0.801 (12) (16) Belle Isle—weekday 3.1 3.1 -0.031 Note: An alpha level of 0.10 was chosen, rather than 0.05, to reduce the possibility of Type II error. 1 Not significant at x=0.10. 2 Values in parentheses are number of observations used to calculate means.
35 in terms of how effective they are at reducing or eliminating campsite sharing, but also in terms of their consequences with respect to visitor freedoms, public access, and resource protection. Results from this study are consistent with findings from previous research at Isle Royale National Park, suggesting that campsite sharing is prevalent during certain periods of the visitor use season, and further quantifying the extent of this problem. In particular, findings from this study suggest that an average of just under 9% of groups were required to share campsites during July and August, 2001. Although it would be possible to reduce campsite sharing through backcountry camping use limits, results from the travel simulation model suggest that the park would have to issue approximately 22% fewer permits during July and August to ensure that an average of no more than 5% of groups share campsites. The outdoor recreation literature generally suggests that use limits should be considered a last resort for managing crowding, and that less intrusive alternatives should be considered first (Behan, 1974, 1976; Dustin & McAvoy, 1980; Hall, 2001; Hendee & Lucas, 1973, 1974). For example, managers may be able to avoid limiting use to achieve desired social conditions by redistributing visitor use spatially or temporally (Cole, Peterson, & Lucas, 1987; Hendee, Stankey, & Lucas, 1990; Manning, 1999). Computer simulation modeling provides managers with a tool to assess the effectiveness of these management alternatives in a manner that may be more cost-effective, less labor-intensive, more comprehensive, and less politically risky than on-the-ground, trial-and-error approaches. The findings from this study suggest that evenly redistributing the number of backcountry camping trips starting from each of Isle Royale National Park’s two primary entry points, Windigo and Rock Harbor, is not an effective strategy for reducing campsite sharing. Further, the model estimates that redistributing backcountry camping use evenly across the days of the week is equally ineffective at reducing campsite sharing. There are several possible explanations why these strategies may not be effective at Isle Royale National Park. For example, there are limited options for spatially redistributing visitor use, because there are only two primary entry points to the park. Even if the park developed additional entry points, it might be difficult for groups to reach underutilized campgrounds during a typical backcountry camping trip. Spatial redistribution of use may also be ineffective if the campgrounds that are underutilized do not appeal to backcountry campers because of their location or lack of desirable features. In addition, there may be a limited number of campgrounds for visitors to choose from along certain routes within the park. For example, there are few campgrounds, separated by relatively long distances, along the two primary hiking routes in the western half of the park (the Minong Ridge and Greenstone Ridge Trails). If visitors choose to follow one of these routes, they may have no other option than to camp in fully occupied campgrounds.
36 Observed campground occupancy data collected by park staff provide a potential explanation for the ineffectiveness of redistributing use evenly across the days of the week to reduce campsite sharing. In particular, the average number of groups camping per night at campsites where counting was conducted was the same for weekend and weekday nights. This suggests that there may not be additional camping capacity available during weeknights even though more backcountry camping groups start their trips on weekend days. The amount of backcountry camping use on weekend and weekday nights at the park may have more to do with the length of groups’ trips than with when they start their trip. Despite the ineffectiveness of these approaches at Isle Royale National Park, in some cases temporal and spatial redistribution of visitor use have been found to be effective alternatives to visitor use limits (Manning & Potter, 1984; McCool, et al., 1977; Potter & Manning, 1984; Smith & Krutilla, 1976; Underhill et al., 1986; Van Wagtendonk & Coho, 1986; Wang & Manning, 1999). For example, findings from an application of the WTSM suggest that the number of encounters along the Appalachian Trail can be reduced by altering the number and timing of arrivals at various trailheads (Manning & Potter, 1984; Potter & Manning, 1984). In fact, spatial and temporal redistributions of use along a section of the trail were found to be more effective at reducing the number of hiking and camping encounters than across-the-board use limits. In such cases, simulation modeling is a useful tool for optimizing the design of trailhead quota systems and/or information and education programs that redistribute use across starting locations and starting times. In contrast to the July/August peak, campsite sharing was estimated to be infrequent during the low-use period of the 2001 visitor use season. It is possible to reduce campsite sharing during July and August by temporally redistributing a percentage of the visitor use during those months to the low-use period of the season. The advantage of this approach is that it may be effective at reducing campsite sharing during the July/August peak without having to limit the number of backcountry camping trips allowed during the visitor use season. However, quality in outdoor recreation management is thought to be equated with provision of diverse recreation opportunities (Hendee et al., 1990; Manning, 1999). Diversity may be achieved through zoning an area, either temporally or spatially, to provide a range of recreation opportunities (Brown, Driver, & McConnell, 1978; Brown, Driver, Burns, & McConnell, 1979; Clark & Stankey, 1979; Driver & Brown, 1978; Manning, 1999). At Isle Royale National Park, the low use and peak periods of the visitor use season may serve as de facto “temporal zones”, each providing opportunities that appeal to different segments of the public. A decision to shift some use from July and August to the low- use period of the season may reduce the diversity of experience opportuni- ties the park provides during different periods of the season. Consequently, the park may lose its appeal for groups that prefer experiences associated with the historically low-use period of the season.
37 According to simulation results in this study, by instituting a fixed itinerary system, the park could theoretically eliminate campsite sharing while nearly doubling the average number of permits issued per day during July and August. However, previous research suggests that a number of factors (e.g., weather, injuries, unrealistic trip planning) may keep visitors from remaining on their prescribed itineraries, and that visitor compliance rates with this regulation are relatively low (Farrell & Marion, 1998; Parsons, Stohlgren, & Fodor, 1981; Stewart, 1989, 1991; Van Wagtendonk & Benedict, 1980). For example, in studies at Grand Canyon National Park and Saguaro National Monument, 23% to 60% of backcountry campers were found to have deviated from their assigned itinerary (Stewart, 1989). It follows that the actual number of additional permits that could be issued to backcountry camping groups at Isle Royale National Park under a fixed itinerary system would have to be adjusted downward to account for visitor non-compliance. Even with such an adjustment, the park could theoreti- cally accommodate more backcountry camping groups during July and August than currently visit the park, and diminish campsite sharing. However, if the park were to institute a fixed itinerary system, it would substantially reduce visitor freedoms and eliminate much of the spontaneity associated with visitors’ backcountry camping experiences (Cole, Peterson, & Lucas, 1987; Hendee et al., 1990). Results of several studies, including research conducted at Isle Royale National Park, suggest that prescribed camping itineraries are generally not supported by visitors (Anderson & Manfredo, 1986; Lucas, 1985; Pierskalla et al., 1996, 1997). The capability of the travel simulation model to quantify tradeoffs associated with alternative backcountry camping strategies is not limited to those examined in this study. For example, findings from this study suggest that construction of additional campsites called for in the park’s General Management Plan might contribute to a reduction in campsite sharing, while avoiding use limits. A related, and perhaps more efficient way to use the travel simulation model would be to identify “problem” campgrounds. That is, the spatially explicit nature of the information concerning campsite sharing derived from the simulation model could be used to isolate campgrounds where capacity is regularly exceeded. This information could be used to guide the construction of additional campsites in a manner that optimizes the tradeoff between increasing the “ecological footprint” of the park’s campgrounds and minimizing campsite sharing. Such an approach would have to be guided by consideration of geographic, ecological, and other constraints to adding campsites at particular campgrounds. Simula- tions could also be conducted to test the effectiveness of combining multiple strategies, such as implementing use limits during the peak season and constructing additional campsites. Following a series of training sessions conducted by the authors, Isle Royale National Park staff are now using the travel simulation model developed in this study to assess the effectiveness of these and other management strategies as they emerge throughout the park’s current wilderness and backcountry planning pro- cess.
38 Although this study provides managers with descriptive data related to backcountry camping at Isle Royale National Park, managers are still faced with difficult judgments concerning the most appropriate strategies for managing backcountry camping. These judgments require managers to reconcile tradeoffs among potentially competing wilderness values. For example, do the costs in visitor freedoms and spontaneity associated with a fixed itinerary system outweigh the benefits of increasing use and eliminating or substantially reducing campsite sharing? Is it in the public’s interest to limit backcountry camping use during the peak period of the season in order to minimize campsite sharing? If so, to what extent should use be limited to achieve a greater degree of camping solitude? Is it acceptable to shift a percentage of peak-season use to the low-use period of the season, or does the historically low use period of the season offer a type of wilderness experience that should be preserved? While these judgments must ultimately be made by managers, a growing body of prescriptive recreation research has been conducted to provide managers with a more informed basis for making such judgments (Lawson & Manning, 2000a, 2000b, 2001a, 2001b, 2002a, 2002b; Manning & Lawson, 2002). Find- ings from this study form an empirically grounded basis for prescriptive research at Isle Royale National Park. In particular, the descriptive phase of research reported in this paper has helped managers identify a set of feasible, realistic management alternatives designed to reduce campsite sharing. A subset of these alternatives, which are outlined in Table 8, were incorpo- rated into a visitor survey designed to help managers evaluate the public’s acceptance of consequences and benefits associated with alternative man- agement scenarios. The second paper in this sequence reports on this prescriptive phase of research conducted at Isle Royale National Park. Table 8 Management Alternatives Quantified Based on Simulation Model Output1 Alternative 1 Alternative 2 Alternative 3 Status Quo Permit Quota Fixed Itinerary Public Access1 Current use 22% reduction 30% increase (39 permits/day) (31 permits/day) (52 permits/day) Freedom of Travel No fixed itineraries No fixed itineraries Fixed itineraries Campsite Solitude2 9% of groups 5% of groups
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