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A GPS tracking study of recreationists in an Alaskan protected area

Stamberger, Lorraine, van Riper, Carena J., Keller, Rose, Brownlee, Matthew, Rose, Jeff
Applied geography 2018 v.93 pp. 92-102
campgrounds, conservation areas, environmental impact, geography, global positioning systems, humans, infrastructure, land management, national parks, public lands, temporal variation, travel, Alaska
Understanding human movement and behavior in parks and protected areas is an integral part of managing social-ecological systems. In particular, spatial travel patterns of recreationists and their impacts on ecosystems have been studied in many protected area contexts. However, there is limited knowledge of recreation behavior in areas with little to no infrastructure or without formal trail systems. Drawing from Global Positioning System (GPS) tracking data, we identified travel patterns of recreationists in a nearly trail-less backcountry setting in Alaska. Specifically, we investigated the spatial and temporal dynamics of recreation use in relation to resource conditions experienced in Denali National Park and Preserve during the high-use season of 2016. We observed that recreationists' travel routes were heavily concentrated along the Denali Park Road and exhibited different spatial patterns for day and overnight backcountry use. Also, informal campsite locations, delineated using multi-day GPS tracking data, showed uneven distributions within the park. This study provides recommendations for public land management agencies in the US and highlights the need for more systematic evaluations of concentrated use in parks and protected areas.