2018 Carrying Capacity

2018 Jurisdictional Scan: Carrying Capacity
Does your jurisdiction have strategies to manage visitor attendance/carrying capacity?
B.C PARKSInquiring Jurisdiction Sarah Fennell
Original Email: I would like to know what strategies other park agencies are using to manage visitor attendance. If you could disseminate this question to directors, I would appreciate it.
COMMENTS: Ontario Parks does have several policies in place to prevent overuse in our parks.   One of our policies allows park staff to prevent new campers or day users into park areas that are deemed full. Campsites are considered full when all of the sites are in use, interior camping areas are regulated based on quota, and day-use areas are considered full when all of the parking spaces have been occupied. It is our Park Superintendents that are responsible for determining the maximum quota for interior campers and the maximum parking spaces for each day-use area. Of course, there’s some room for exceptions within that policy and some campsites have overflow areas (for long weekends or late campers). In respect to visitors parking on the roads outside of the park, Park Superintendents are expected to work with local municipalities, the police, and the Ministry of Transportation to try to limit this activity.   In addition, we also have a policy to limit the number and types of vehicles and shelter equipment on a campsite. With a campsite permit, visitors are allowed one vehicle and up to three shelters on a site. For additional vehicles, campers have to buy an additional parking permit and may have to park in a designated parking lot. There is also a policy that limits the number of people staying on a campsite. For car-camping, we limit sites to 6 people. Our backcountry campsites vary by park, but most allow up to 9 people to stay on a campsite.   With the exception of our natural areas and reserves, all of our operating parks in Ontario charge for day use and camping access (often with a gate attendant and permits in place). This makes it easier to regulate the traffic coming into parks. Our non-operating parks (natural areas and reserves) have minimal or nonexistent facilities and visitors can access them without fees. Many of these parks have hiking trails and are used for backcountry camping. Heavy visitor traffic has not been an issue so far. This is likely because such parks are located in unpopulated areas and there are no designated parking lots for use. Instead, our issues with non-operating parks revolve around long-term, unlawful occupation of the land.   Hopefully this context on the park situation here in Ontario is helpful. If you would like a copy of any of the policies I described, please let me know and I can send them to you.
COMMENTS: NS’s strategy for managing carrying capacity is built around infrastructure, specifically parking lot size for day use and campsites for campgrounds. Basically, once the parking lot is full or campsites are full, the park is at capacity.
PARKS CANADAYESKathie Adare/ Michael St-Denis
COMMENTS: I’m sharing your question with the very capable Michael St-Denis who is one of the managers in our Visitor Experience team. Michael has loads of experience dealing with traffic management strategies in our busiest places, including the mountain parks and Bruce peninsula and in providing quality visitor experiences.   Your question of ‘over -use’ is an interesting one. During the Canada 150 celebration in 2017, as you are probably aware, admission to PC places was free as a gift to all Canadians from the Government of Canada. Parks strategically managed the expected increase in visitation throughout the year through an integrated promotional, marketing and communications strategy – basically ensuring visitors were made aware through all our comms channels (web, twitter, fb, instagram, app, traditional media) of the potential for crowds and encouraging visitors to plan their visit, reserve camping / experiences as early as possible and consider some of the network of less visited PC places, or ‘hidden gems’. We are continuing to apply the 2017 lessons learned as we move forward, as visitation trends and sales of passes are on the uprise.

Response Rate: 3/13 for 23%

Key Findings:

  • Findings based on limited responses
  • Capacity determination based on infrastructure is common – i.e. if the parking lot or campsite is full, then the park is at capacity. Park superintendents are meant to work with local authorities to help mitigate issues like parking along the sides of roads.

Future Questions to Ask:

  • Are there any metrics on the efficacy of these strategies?
  • What are some of the benefits/challenges to an infrastructure based approach to determining capacity?
  • How common/effective is the strategy of redirecting visitors to “hidden gems” via social media and other communications?
  • Revisit the same question at a later date to capture more responses.

Links to Resources:

  • None