Managing Visitor Use in Coastal and Marine Protected Areas

Managing Visitor Use in Coastal and Marine Protected Areas program image

What are effective measures to understand the extent of a visitor use issue? How can you be sure you're addressing the ‘real’ issue? How can you justify management actions where visitor impacts are a problem? This course helped with these and other questions about managing visitor use in natural areas.


Day 1

Wednesday, January 11, 2017
8:30 AM - 5:00 PM
Elkhorn Slough Reserve
Lunch will be provided

Day 2

Thursday, January 12, 2017
8:30 AM - 5:00 PM
Elkhorn Slough Reserve
Lunch will be provided

COST: $50.00
Payable by check to Elkhorn Slough Foundation
Payable by credit card (online)


Instructor Information

Dr. Chris Ellis
Social scientist
NOAA Office for Coastal Management

Ms. Pam Kylstra
Trainer, facilitator, evaluator
NOAA Office for Coastal Management


Grey Hayes
(831) 274-8700


NOAA Office for Coastal ManagementNOAA Office for Coastal Management


See also: Managing Visitor Use in Natural Areas, Sustainable Human Systems



This two-day course helped coastal resource managers, protected area managers, local decision-makers, and planners learn how to better understand, monitor, and manage visitor use to maintain quality resource conditions and visitor experiences. During this program, participants obtained the knowledge, skills, and tools to identify and define unacceptable visitor use impacts, and to apply strategies and tactics that can be used to address them. 



When it comes to managing visitor use, have you ever wondered: How can I be sure I’m addressing the “real” visitor use issue? How can I justify management action? What are effective measures that can help me understand the extent of the issue? This workshop helped to answer these and other questions about managing visitor use in protected areas.


Providing a meaningful visitor experience can be at odds with protection of fragile coastal resources. This course helped participants understand, monitor, and manage visitor use to maintain healthy resource conditions and high-quality visitor experiences. This training introduced participants to a step-by-step decision-making process used to identify unacceptable visitor use impacts and explore a range of helpful strategies and tactics to address them.


By attending this workshop, participants learned how to:

  • Recognize the human dimensions of coastal and marine management
  • Apply recreation and visitor use management planning frameworks
  • Identify visitor use issues, including visitor-resource and visitor-visitor impacts
  • Craft a clear problem statement
  • Develop measurable indicators for monitoring impacts and set standards for impact acceptability
  • Implement visitor use monitoring methods and management strategies and tactics


The course combined lecture, interactive group discussion, and small group exercises. Additionally, each day we had a regional case study presentation. Amy Palkovic, an ecologist with California State Parks in Monterey, informed a discussion about her agency’s efforts to exclude visitor use of sensitive natural areas. The second case study was presented by BLM staff person Jodie Robb Nelson: “Reconciling high demand use of public lands with protection of fragile coastal resources at Piedras Blancas Outstanding Natural Area.”  Along with these two case studies, the workshop and its exercises also provided participants a chance to explore other region-specific visitor use issues.


Instructors Pam Kylstra and Dr. Chris Ellis are trainers associated with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Office for Coastal Management. Biographies are on this website.


**if you would like for us to host this workshop again, please let us know- when we get enough requests, we'll ask for NOAA's trainers to help out, again!

Documents and Publications

Contact List
We encourage participants to download the contact list to assist with arranging a rideshare or to get in contact with someone you met at the workshop. Those interested in sharing a ride to the event are marked on the contact list.

Agenda: Managing Visitor Use in Coastal and Marine Protected Areas
PDF, 405KB
Elkhorn Slough Coastal Training
NOAA Coastal Management Office
October 2016
A test of concepts inherent in experience based setting management for outdoor recreation areas
PDF, 1.8MB
Manfredo, Michael J Driver, Bev L Brown, Perry J
Journal of Leisure Research vol. 15: 263
Effects of direct human disturbance on the endemic Iberian frog Rana iberica at individual and population levels
PDF, 308KB
Iñaki Rodríguez-Prieto and Esteban Fernández-Juricic
Biological Conservation 123: 1-9
Effects of management of domestic dogs and recreation on carnivores in protected areas in northern California
PDF, 338KB
Sarah E. Reed and Adina Merenlender
Conservation Biology, Volume 25, No. 3, 504–513
Managing for wildlife viewing recreation experiences: An application in Colorado
PDF, 1.3MB
Manfredo, Michael J. Larson, Richard A.
Wildlife Society Bulletin, Vol. 21, No. 3; pp. 226-236
Autumn, 1993
Protecting resources and visitor opportunities: a decision process to help managers maintain the quality of park resources and visitor experiences
PDF, 662KB
Wang, TL Anderson, DH Lime, DW
Park Science
Quiet, nonconsumptive recreation reduces protected area effectiveness
PDF, 424KB
Sarah E. Reed and Adina M. Merenlender
Conservation Letters 1; 146–154
Recreation and large mammal activity in an urban nature reserve
PDF, 190KB
Shalene L. George and Kevin R. Crooks
Biological Conservation 133: 107-117
Social carrying capacity: An integration and synthesis of twenty years of research
PDF, 1.6MB
Graefe, Alan R Vaske, Jerry J Kuss, Fred R
Leisure Sciences vol 6: 4 pp. 395-431
Testing a key assumption of wildlife buffer zones: is flight initiation distance a species-specific trait?
PDF, 108KB
Daniel T. Blumstein, Laura L. Anthony, Robert Harcourt, and Geoff Ross
Biological Conservation 110: 97-100
Why social values cannot be changed for the sake of conservation
PDF, 1006KB
Manfredo, Michael J Bruskotter, Jeremy T Teel, Tara L Fulton, David Schwartz, Shalom H Arlinghaus, Robert Oishi, Shigehiro Uskul, Ayse K Redford, Kent Kitayama, Shinobu
Conservation Biology
Wildlife responses to recreation and associated visitor perceptions
PDF, 647KB
Audrey R. Taylor and Richard L. Knight
Ecological Applications, Vol. 13, No. 4: 951-963
2011 national survey of fishing, hunting, and wildlife-associated recreation
U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and U.S. Department of Commerce, U.S. Census Bureau.

A review of the effects of recreational interactions within UK European marine sites
PDF, 952KB
Saunders, Catherine Selwyn, Jonathan Richardson, Sam May, Vince Heeps, Carolyn
Scottish Natural Heritage
A social indicators monitoring system for tourist and recreational use of the Great Barrier Reef
PDF, 521KB
Moscardo, Gianna Ormsby, Jayne
Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority
A Social Science Plan for South Florida National Park Service Units
PDF, 409KB
Gary E. Machlis Jean E. McKendry Michele E. Correia
National Park Service
Current participation patterns in marine recreation
PDF, 378KB
Leeworthy, VR Wiley, Peter C
NOAA National Ocean Service, Special Projects Office
Defining and Managing the Quality of Wilderness Recreation Experiences
PDF, 340KB
Robert E. Manning David W. Lime
US Forest Service
Guidelines for Low-Impact Tourism, Along the Coast of Quintana Roo, Mexico
PDF, 5.6MB
Molina, Concepción Rubinoff, Pamela Carranza, Jorge
Integrated Costal Resources Management Program in Quintana Roo, Mexico
Human dimensions of natural resource management: emerging issues and practical applications
PDF, 1023KB
Fulton, David C Nelson, Kären C Anderson, Dorothy H Lime, DW
University of Minnesota; US Geological Survey Biological Resources Division, Minnesota Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit and Cooperative Park Studies Program
Identifying and monitoring indicators of visitor experience and resource quality: a handbook for recreation resource managers
PDF, 5.3MB
Lime, David W Anderson, Dorothy H Thompson, Jerrilyn LaVarre
University of Minnesota, Department of Forest Resources
Limits of acceptable change and natural resources planning: When is LAC useful, when is it not?
Cole, David N McCool, Stephen F
Conference proceedings: Limits of Acceptable Change and related planning processes: progress and future directions
Looking to the future of Virgin Islands National Park
PDF, 1.1MB
Gary E. Machlis J. Taylor Pittman Jean E. McKendry
US National Park Service
Maintaining the quality of park resources and visitor experiences: A handbook for managers
PDF, 2.2MB
Dorothy Anderson, David Lime, and Theresa Wang
Cooperative Park Studies Unit, Department of Forest Resources, University of Minnesota
September 1998
Managing wilderness recreation use: Common problems and potential solutions
PDF, 388KB
DN Cole, M Petersen, and RC Lucas
Monitoring and management of recreation in protected areas: the contributions and limitations of science
PDF, 197KB
Cole, DN
Finnish Forest Research Institute
Off-highway vehicle recreation in the United States, regions, and states: a national report from the national survey on recreation and the environment
PDF, 909KB
Cordell, H Ken Betz, Carter J Green, Gary Owens, Matt
National Survey of Recreation and the Environment
Outdoor recreation in America 2003: Recreation’s benefits to society challenged by trends
PDF, 116KB
The Recreation Roundtable
Outdoor recreation participation report 2012
PDF, 2.5MB

Outdoor Foundation
Outdoor recreation participation report 2013
PDF, 2.5MB

Outdoor Foundation
Outdoor recreation trends and futures: a technical document supporting the Forest Service 2010 RPA Assessment
PDF, 17.3MB
Cordell, H Ken
US Forest Service
Paddlesports participation report
PDF, 1.5MB
American Canoe Association
National Survey of Recreation and the Environment
Personal watercraft management guide
PDF, 851KB
Shari Currey
Massachusetts Coastal Zone Management Office
Preliminary estimates from versions 1-6: Coastal recreation participation
PDF, 174KB
Leeworthy, Vernon R Wiley, PC
NOAA National Ocean Service, Special Projects Office
Public access and wildlife compatibility
PDF, 142KB
San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission
San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission
March 2001
San Mateo County Parks–Visitor Use/Non-Use Study: Literature Review
PDF, 2.6MB
Marsh, Lindsey Tachibana, Ryan Roberts, Nina S Turalba, Ruby
San Mateo County Parks
Socioeconomic manual for coral reef management
PDF, 14.5MB
L. Bunce, P. Townsley, R. Pomeroy, R. Pollnac
Australian Institute of Marine Science
The limits of acceptable change (LAC) system for wilderness planning
PDF, 1.3MB
George H. Stankey David N. Cole, Robert C. Lucas, Margaret E. Petersen, and Sidney S. Frissell
United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service Intermountain Forest and Range Experiment Station Ogden, UT 84401 General Technical Report INT-176
January 1985
The limits of acceptable change process: Modifications and clarifications
David N. Cole Stephen F. McCool
Proceedings—Limits of Acceptable Change and related planning processes: progress and future directions; 1997 May 20–22; Missoula, MT. Gen. Tech. Rep. INT-GTR-371. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Stat
Tourism and biodiversity: mapping tourism's global footprint
PDF, 8.2MB
Costas Christ, Oliver Hillel, Seleni Matus, Jamie Sweeting
UNEP and Conservation International
VERP Handbook
PDF, 821KB
US Department of Interior, National Park Service
US Department of Interior
September 1997
Visitor experience and resource protection implementation plan, Arches NP
PDF, 1.3MB
Hof, Marilyn
National Park Service
Visitor Use/Non-Use Parks Study
Roberts, Nina S Turalba, Ruby Tierney, Patrick Tachibana, Ryan Marsh, Lindsey
San Mateo County Parks
Wilderness campsite monitoring methods: A sourcebook
PDF, 613KB
DN Cole


NOAA Needs Assessment Online Tool

Understanding Public Values toward Wildlife in the United States

Questions and Answers

Submit a question on this subject and we'll provide an answer. info@elkhornsloughctp.org