Sun setting against an orange sky over the ocean

Coastal Visitation Patterns at Cabrillo National Monument

Cabrillo National Monument (San Diego, CA, USA) is a pint-sized unit of the National Park System (0.65 terrestrial km2) that attracts an average of 850,720 visitors annually (IRMA, SRSS Reports, mean visitation 2011–2020). The coastal area of the park contains well-preserved and sensitive natural resources, including sea cliffs, maritime sage scrub, and rocky intertidal habitat. Understanding small-scale visitor use patterns to this area can guide management decisions such as congestion planning and allocation of recreation fee project money toward staffing the area. Infrared trail counters (TrailMasterTM 1550, USA) were deployed adjacent to two entrances to the Coastal Trail at the Tidepool Parking and Coast View Parking areas to capture visitation patterns 2011–2020. While total visitation to the park has fluctuated over time, visitation to the coastal area has increased steadily during the study period (2011–2020). Visitation on weekend days was 110% higher (i.e., more than double) the number of midweek visitors. Additionally, holidays and some fee-free days attract additional visitors to the area. Despite the tidepools being a popular and desired visitor experience, tide level was not correlated with coastal area visitation. These findings indicate that peak staffing of Volunteers-in-Parks (VIPs) and park staff should occur on weekends and holidays, regardless of tide level. Results of this study can be incorporated into park congestion management planning and staff scheduling funded by recreation fee project money.

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