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Mapping Recreational use with Social Media Data

Public land managers face a thorny problem: how to provide sufficient and equitable recreation opportunities based on tangible data about local visitors. In response, a team of scientists, practitioners and partners from the US Forest Service, US Park Service and Washington Trails Association has begun using social media as a source of data on park visitor quantity, distribution, behavior, and preference—information that has been notoriously difficult to collect with traditional methods. Postings to online platforms such as Twitter, Flickr and Instagram are used to map the amount and quality of recreational use, as well as visitors’ preferences for characteristics of public lands—such as vistas, lakes, trail access, or parking. The results are then factored into predictions of how alternative management decisions will influence recreation on public lands. Contact Spencer Wood for more information on big data for recreation planning and ongoing projects in Washington and New Mexico.