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T&D > Programs Areas > Inventory & Monitoring > Recreation Traffic Counters Program Areas
Evaluation of Recreation Traffic Counters
George Broyles, Forestry Technician

There is an increasing need for reliable estimates of visitors involved in recreational activities on National Forests. Programs, such as National Visitor Use Monitoring (NVUM), were created to survey forests in order to gather information about visitor activities in national forests. However, NVUM's survey will only cover about 25% of all of the national forests each year. Therefore, accurate trail traffic counters that can withstand year-round conditions are needed so that visitors can be counted in forests that NVUM will not be covering.
This proposal was created to evaluate the use and accuracy of various types of trail traffic counters that can be used in the forests. These counters will be assessed for accuracy in various conditions such as snow, and ease of use for personnel. Counters will also be evaluated on the ability to count both vehicles and individuals. Information will be developed which will list available technology and instruct users on how to install and operate equipment.
The Traffic Counter test results can be viewed here: Test Results.

Additional Information and Related Links:

National Vistor Use Monitoring (NVUM)
To help with federal land management planning decisions, the NVUM was created. Their purpose is to provide reliable estimates of visitors in national forests throughout the United States. This site is helpful for statistical information of visitors in the national forests. This site also contains information on installing and using the counters that were evaluated in this project.

Trail Counter Update
Produced in 1999 this link is an updated version of the 1994 report, Trail Traffic Counters for Forest Service Trail Monitoring , written by the Missoula Technology and Development Center (MTDC). The original report was written after problems started developing with the trail traffic counters that were currently being used in the field. MTDC researched counters that were available in an attempt to find a unit that would solve the problems of inaccurate counts and high maintenance costs. Eight models were selected for testing, and the results were compared to identify the most suitable counter for the field.

While there is no additional testing information added since the 1994 report, updates include new information from manufacturers about the recreational counters. This report also contains information discussing the differences between the three main types of counters: active infrared, passive infrared and seismic. If the above link does not work, do a search at http://www.fs.fed.us/t-d/ (username: t-d, password t-d).

Recreation Counter Product List (MS Excel)
This latest recreation counters product list is an updated list of trail traffic counters that are presently in the market. This list includes both new counters, along with units that were tested in the report Trail Traffic Counters for Forest Service Trail Monitoring written in 1994. Since the last list was updated, manufacturers have released new products and several old units were modified. Also included in this list are the most recent prices, options, temperature ranges of units that are currently available, and additional information.

Wilderness Recreation Use Estimation: a handbook of methods and systems
Produced in 2000. A comprehensive manual on estimation techniques and procedures that are essential to appropriately and accurately measure visitor use. It is published by the Rocky Mountain Research Station. To use this handbook, it is necessary to have a background in algebra, statistics and it is helpful to have an understanding of calculus.