Appalachian National Scenic Trail pilot survey
Visitation statistics on the Appalachian National Scenic Trail (AT) are important for management and Federal Government reporting purposes. However, no survey methodology has been developed to obtain accurate trailwide estimates over linear trails that traverse many hundreds of back-country miles. This research develops a stratified random survey design which utilizes two survey instruments, exit-site tallies and a survey questionnaire, to obtain visitation estimates on a portion of the AT. The design identifies three components (standard site days, augmented site days, and special events) which can be used to subdivide the sampling frame into estimator types that lead to more efficient sampling and estimation processes. In addition, design-based and model-based approaches are used to obtain estimates for comparison purposes. The survey was performed from June 1 through August 14, 2007, on a 109-mile stretch of the AT from Harpers Ferry, WV, to 10 trail miles north of Boiling Springs, PA, at the Scott Farm. Visitation estimates were 66,967 for the design-based approach and 70,912 for the model-based approach, with coefficients of variation of 23 and 16 percent, respectively. Individual strata-level visitation estimates were quite variable and differed substantially between the two approaches. An extrapolation to the entire trail for the whole year was performed by developing an appropriate sampling frame from which the strata weights could be obtained. Using the model-based approach and assuming the survey data were representative, the 2007 annual visitation extrapolation for the entire trail was 1,948,701 with a coefficient of variation of 20 percent.