National Park Service

Northeast Temperate Network (NETN)

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Background

For much of its history, the National Park Service encouraged public use of National Parks with little to no regard towards the ecological impacts of visitors or plans to mitigate those impacts. As visitation increased along with an appreciation and understanding of the intracacy of ecosystems, an growing number of park managers utilized use-restricting policies to limit the effects of visitors upon parks.

Importance & Issues

Visitor impacts ranked a high priority designation due to the clear management implications of this fundamental park issue. Many of the NETN parks are heavily visited, and thus allow substantial opportunity for adaptive management of visitor impacts. The intertidal zone, especially the rocky intertidal, is a frequently visited habitat and often the focus of park-led interpretive tours at both Acadia and Boston Harbor Islands. Trampling and removal of resources can be significant. It is important to monitor visitor use, and more specifically, intensity of visitors, location of visitor use, and activities of visitors (e.g., walking, resource removal). Trampling and other visitor use impacts are likely localized to areas with available parking (e.g., at Acadia) or ferry access (at Boston Harbor Islands). We plan to monitor visitor usage as part of the rocky intertidal protocol, which we will begin developing in 2007 with cooperators at Northeastern University. We will pursue visitor usage protocols for other resources once the core NETN protocols are in place; one possibility is partnering with the existing Visitor Experience and Resource Protection (VERP) program at Acadia.

Monitoring Objectives

The specific objectives of this protocol are to assess the impacts of visitor use on ecological resources within NETN parks and to inform management decisions affecting visitor use of NETN parks, such as regulations governing visitor access and activities, and the development and maintenance of park trails.

Measures

Potential measures that will be addressed are: