On April 22, we had another great forum with guest speakers and great conversation, this time on the topic of how to gather accurate visitor counts. Unable to join us? That’s OK, we’ve got you covered. You can watch a video recording of the forum and also read a PowerPoint presentation from one of our panel experts for additional information.
Bringing some expertise to the discussion, we had the following people join us and give background information and advice on visitor count opportunities that may be available to you:
- Brigid Tuck and Xinyi Qian from U of M Tourism
- Ardy Nurmi-Wilberg from Mesabi Trail Friends
- Andrew Oftedal from Parks and Trails Council
We are becoming more aware of the importance of data-driven information when talking about needs at your parks and trails. Whether you are asking your county board for infrastructure needs or applying for a grant, everyone wants to “know the numbers.” But getting visitor counts can be tricky; variables like multiple access points, seasonal changes, and staffing that can make it difficult to get accurate counts. There is also a lack of statewide standards, so data can look very different across agencies.
What we learned is that it is better to do something rather than nothing. Even if you are doing basic traffic counters, you can begin to extract trends over time and begin to develop general visitor averages. There are resources out there and people to help find the best resources for your particular setting. The guest speakers listed above are great resources to start with. Reaching out to colleagues from other parks and trails across the state through connections with GMPT or Greater Minnesota Regional Parks and Trails Commission (GMRPTC) is also a great option.