Effectiveness of a confinement strategy for reducing campsite impacts in Shenandoah National Park
Reid, S. E.
Marion, Jeffrey L.
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The expansion and proliferation of backcountry campsites is a persistent problem in many parks and protected areas. Shenandoah National Park (SNP) has one of the highest backcountry overnight use densities in the USA national parks system. SNP managers implemented a multi-option backcountry camping policy in 2000 that included camping containment with established campsites. These actions were intended to reduce the number of campsites and the area of camping disturbance at each site. This paper describes a longitudinal adaptive management assessment of the new campsite policies, applying quantitative measures of campsite conditions to evaluate the efficacy of management interventions. Physical campsite measurements combined with qualitative visitor interviews indicated SNP had successfully reduced the number of campsites and aggregate measures of camping-related disturbance in the Park, while minimizing the use of regulations, site facilities and staff resources. Implications for managers of other protected areas are that an established site camping policy can minimize camping disturbance, including the number and size of campsites, provided managers can sustain rehabilitation efforts to close and restore unneeded campsites. Experiential attributes, such as the potential for solitude, can also be manipulated through control over the selection of established campsites. Integrating resource and social science methods also provided a more holistic perspective on management policy assessments. Adaptive management research provided a timely evaluation of management success while facilitating effective modifications in response to unforeseen challenges. Conclusions regarding the effectiveness of a visitor impact containment strategy involving an established site camping option are offered.