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Master of Environmental Data Science

Visualizing Visitor Use Trends at California Campsites to Explore Equitable Access

Tent perched on cliff overlooking national park

Group Members: Clarissa Boyajian, Halina Do-Linh

Faculty Advisors: Frank Davis

Client: National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS), University of Montana




Outdoor recreation provides critical health and wellbeing benefits to communities, and in the United States, federal public lands play an important role in providing access to nature. However, access is not equal for all, and may disproportionately privilege or exclude groups of people due to historical and current inequities (e.g. related to access to technology, ability to plan vacations in advance, and knowledge of reservation systems). At present, park visitation and camping are seeing a surge in popularity, heightened even more by the COVID-19 pandemic, and this rapid increase in demand for recreation opportunities may only heighten these inequities. 

The challenge now facing public land management agencies is how to provide quality visitor experiences to a more diverse user base. Increasing recreation opportunities in existing sites is not always a viable solution to this rising demand since many land management agencies are tasked with the dual mandate of providing recreational opportunities while also preserving and conserving natural resources and places. To help public land managers address this challenge, we will create an interactive web platform that allows them to easily explore and visualize park-specific patterns such as visitation volume, demand, visitors’ location of origin, and more. This platform will use data from the Recreation Information Database, which includes detailed information on all recreation reservations from 106 federal public lands from 2006-2020, including zip code or country of origin. This product will support agency leaders and land managers in their efforts to ensure equitable access to public campgrounds.

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