Visitors Count! is a community science program that asks visitors to contribute information about their recreation experiences on public lands. These data help partners learn about the amount and character of recreational use. This information, in turn, allows them to improve or advocate for opportunities for visitors, while minimizing ecological and social impacts.
Visitors Count! is unique, in that it doesn’t require volunteers to download a particular app or scan a QR code. Instead, visitors simply exchange text messages with “Vic”, our friendly chatbot. Vic uses artificial intelligence to guide participants through a series of questions about the volunteer’s experience while on public lands.
Currently, Visitors Count! is primarily focused on collecting information about the popularity of destinations by counting the number of vehicles in parking lots; but it can be engineered to gather additional information like visitor destinations, activities, satisfaction and much more. Outdoor R&D uses vehicle counts from Vic in combination with posts made publicly to social media platforms (Flickr, Twitter, and Instagram), trip reports posted to the Washington Trails Association website, and on-site data collected by researchers and managers, to gain a fuller understanding of recreation patterns on public lands.