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Mapping Visitor Perspectives

OBJECTIVES

By surveying visitors at a variety of different locations around the Olympic Peninsula, we were able to map and analyze a different perceived cultural landscape than that of locals.  The mapping method that we employed is a more time-intensive data collection method than simple surveys or online data collection, but the data collected is far more detailed and nuanced and lends itself to more complex spatial analysis. The values and activities datasets that are produced are also more easily integrated with other geospatial data for analysis and environmental planning purposes. The research has the following objectives:

• Identify a simple typology of visitors who might range from frequent users of public lands to one-time tourists driving around the peninsula. This categorization of visitors will be created based on patterns in demographic information, values, and activities.

• Understand the nature and intensity of activities of visitors and the values they attach to the landscape. What are the most popular places? What are the places infrequently visited? Do visitors value places that they cannot access?

• Analyze the values and activities of visitors in comparison with those mapped by local residents.  Are there places with conflicting interests (values/activities) such as timber harvesting and biodiversity?  Will visitors identify common resident values such as economic, home, and heritage?  Alternatively, will visitors identify values rarely indicated by residents such as future, intrinsic, and education? 

METHODOLOGY

The surveys that we administered to visitors consisted of a map and accompanying questions regarding values, activities, and demographics.  The map includes geographic and administrative features to orient the visitor being surveyed such as major roads, lakes, and rivers, the National Park, the National Forest, wilderness areas, major cities, major peaks, and notable geographic features.  Visitors were instructed to mark on the map up to five places of significance using their choice of points, lines, or areas. 

In an accompanying questionnaire that complements the mapping portion of the survey, respondents were asked to assign values to places they mark on the map. These values are derived from standard values mapping research, and each value is provided with a description: aesthetic, biodiversity, economic, entertainment, future, heritage, home, learning, recreation, social, spiritual, subsistence, therapeutic, and wilderness. The respondent was also asked to assign activities to these places if appropriate; however, the respondent could identify significant places regardless of whether they have been there or not.

The questionnaire was also used to collect additional attributes that can be used in spatial analysis. Respondents were asked to provide their zip code or country, age, gender, and level of education. They were also asked three questions about visiting the Olympic Peninsula:

• How often do you visit the Olympic Peninsula?

• What is the average length of your visit to the Olympic Peninsula?

• How often do you visit national parks and national forests?

We processed the collected data using a GIS for analysis. The maps were be scanned and the points, lines, and polygons digitized. The written portion of the survey was entered into a spreadsheet and coded so that each piece of data has a unique ID.  This spreadsheet was joined to the digitized shapes in GIS so that the spreadsheet data became attributes. An overlay of a fishnet grid provided a platform to determine the density distribution of the data and identify areas of high value and intense use.

DATA COLLECTION LOCATIONS

By implementing the mapping survey at four types of locations (ranger stations/visitor information centers, campgrounds, trail access points, and ferries), with a focus on both National Park and National Forest land use, we attempted to capture a representative sample of people who visit the Olympic Peninsula.  

RESULTS

Over the course of four separate trips to the Olympic Peninsula in July, August, and September, fourteen different locations were surveyed. We have collected data from four visitor centers (Port Angeles, Forks, Quinault, and Quilcene), four campgrounds (Kalaloch, Klahowya, Lake Wynoochee, and Seal Rock), and four trail access points (Sol Duc, Rialto Beach, Staircase, and Dosewallips). One location, the Hoh Rain Forest, is both a visitor center and a trail access point. We also collected data on the ferry between Seattle and Bainbridge Island. 

Location

Date

No. Surveys

Rate/hr

Weather

Visitor Centers

     Forks

     Quilcene

     Port Angeles

     Lake Quinault

     Hoh Rain Forest

 

July 14

July 15

Aug 3

Aug 7

Sept 10

122

22

23

31

20

26

5.2

 

Partly Sunny

Rain

Sunny

Cloudy

Rain

Campgrounds

     Coho

     Klahowya

     Kalaloch

     Seal Rock

 

July 13

July 17

Aug 6

Sept 8

36

8

2

17

9

2.2

 

Sunny

Sunny

Cloudy

Sunny

Trail Access Points

     Staircase

     Dosewallips

     Sol Duc

     Rialto Beach

 

Aug 4

Aug 5

Aug 8

Sept 9

89

26

17

24

22

4.6

 

Sunny

Sunny

Cloudy

Rain

Ferry

     Seattle Bainbridge  

     Island

 

Aug 31 Sept 1

98

47

51

10

 

Sunny

Total

 

345

 

 

Visitors from 31 different states and 8 countries contributed to the survey. 60% of the visitors were from the Pacific Northwest region (west of the Casdade Range) and an additional 10% were local to the Olympic Peninsula. The majority of participants were male (57%), between the ages 46 and 65 (45%), and have at least a 4-year degree (75%).  However, it is important to note that these demographics do not describe who visits the Olympic Peninsula, but rather who self-selects to participate in this research. While conducting the surveys, we observed a few types of visitors that were generally reluctant to participate: youth (between 18 and 25), families with young children, and first-time visitors.

Our initial assessment of this data collection technique highlights several key findings: 1) participants are supportive of the values mapping concept and are surprised to find out that it is not commonly used by land management agencies, 2) people have very strong place attachments, but they conceptualize them very differently, 3) access is the most commonly mentioned land management issue, and 4) solitude was the value most often identified as missing from our list.

The results of the study are available for download here.

This project is funded by a Mazamas Research Grant and the PSU Department of Geography.