Visitor Use Management Training at Acadia Visitor Use Management Training at Acadia
02 October 2023

Visitor Use Management Training at Acadia

Hello blog readers! Earlier this month, I was able to attend the Society of Outdoor Recreation Professionals Visitor Use Management Training at Schoodic Institute at Acadia National Park! The training focused on the Visitor Use Management Framework (VUMF) which is a toolkit developed by the Interagency Visitor Use Management Council (IVUMC). IVUMC is comprised of six federal agencies – the Bureau of Land Management, Forest Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Park Service, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Together, these six agencies collaborate on increasing awareness of and committing to proactive, professional, and science-based visitor use management on federally managed lands and waters. As I am a fellow for the National Park Service Partnership Wild and Scenic Rivers program, this is of particular interest to me! The VUMF is a step-by-step process aiding federal agencies (or any lands manager) in developing a visitor or user capacity project.

Visitor use management is incredibly interesting to me from both an equity and natural resource perspective. As a leader with Latino Outdoors, I am very passionate about outdoor equity and ensuring that our “non-traditional” outdoor users feel safe and welcome in outdoor spaces and experiences. There is a balance that needs to be met with equitable outdoor access and natural resource protection. For example, too many people using one single access site along a river for multiple days on end in a season can be detrimental to bank stabilization and the general ecosystem of that river. However, if there are multiple access sites to fulfill a variety of needs (e.g., picnic, fishing, paddling access, etc.), then there will be less overuse overall.

The training highlighted a variety of case studies from all around North America – even Canada! The case studies that described being in the visitor use management process were the State of New York Forest Preserve, Kingdom Trail in Vermont, and Cummins Falls State Park in Tennessee. In order to grasp their visitor/user carrying capacity for this swimming hole, the folks with the Cummins Falls State Park developed a study where they used “camera traps” and took photos of the visitors every 15 minutes to see how many folks came through in one hot day. The total was over 300 at one time. It was something like I’ve never seen! An interesting solution not too far away from where we were was at Acadia National Park. To solve some of their carrying capacity issues, they instituted a vehicle reservation system to alleviate vehicle traffic on a mountain road. While some visitors express frustration with the system, it has worked to manage visitor access to the top of the mountain and thus increased visitor safety and natural resource protection.

Overall, it was an incredibly enlightening experience to learn about different visitor use management and carrying capacity issues across North America. It was equally as wonderful to be able to drive around Acadia National Park on a tour on our last day. The coast of Maine is beautiful and overrun with visitors this time of the year. Attendees of the conference joked about how we’d be contributing to visitor use management struggles participating in a field visit to Acadia during their busy season. It was important, though, to see their solutions working in real time and to see how overuse can be managed.

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is an initiative of Hispanic 
Access Foundation.

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