The Ecological Implications of Visitor Transportation in Parks and Protected Areas: Examples from Research in US National Parks

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Journal of Transport Geography


Elsevier Ltd

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The demand for recreation and nature-based tourism experiences in parks and protected areas continues to grow in many locations worldwide and in response, many parks are employing transit services designed to improve visitor access. Transit services (e.g., public bus service) are a component of the overall park transportation system and are very desirable in park settings as they yield many advantages over personal auto access including reduced congestion in parking areas, a reduced carbon footprint, and an enhanced visitor experience. However, a growing body of research also suggests that the delivery of visitors via transit to destinations within a park or protected area may have unique ecological disturbance implications resulting from increased visitor use, density, and altered spatial and temporal use patterns. In this paper, we examine the relevant literature and present examples from recent research that illustrates the potential range of ecologic impacts from visitor deliveries via park transportation systems. We conclude while transit systems remain very desirable in park settings, depending on a range of situational factors, conventional, demand-driven planning and management approaches may result in unintended impacts to ecological conditions. Overall, this discussion provides a framework for improved management of the potential ecological impacts of protected area transportation systems.

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