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NCCOS Project

Outdoor Recreation in Coastal Virginia

This project is ongoing.

Taskinas Creek, a small tributary of the York River (Virginia).

Taskinas Creek, a small tributary of the York River (Virginia). Credit: NOAA.

Understanding who visits coastal and marine areas and why is crucial for natural resource managers. However, this information is expensive to collect and, therefore, often unavailable. This project will combine three data sources to better understand outdoor recreation in coastal Virginia. Information can be used by local managers and municipalities to understand visitor experiences, pressures on recreational sites, and potential barriers to access for underserved communities.

Why We Care

This research is important to local policy makers because it provides information on the use and values of their managed spaces, which helps justify future investments. It also explores issues related to inclusivity and accessibility for a broader range of communities, particularly those historically excluded or absent from management planning processes. This research is significant and beneficial to society as a whole as it demonstrates the value of coastal environments and sheds light on complex factors influencing visitation patterns and recreation values.

What We Are Doing

We will use both primary (surveys of human populations and pedestrian/vehicle counters) and secondary (human mobility data) data to estimate outdoor recreation trends and counts within the Coastal Zone of Virginia, as well as estimate recreation values and understand visitor experiences and potential barriers to access for the York River and surrounding parks and natural spaces.

What We Found

We have recently completed the first round of this project using human mobility data from 2022. We found that the vast majority of visitors to the York River and surrounding parks and natural spaces live within a 15-minute drive of the area. We also found that weekends, holidays, and the summer and fall months are peak visitation times, but that those with young children and who are Hispanic or over 64 years old are less likely to visit the area.

Next Steps

We plan to install pedestrian/vehicle counters in select parks around the York River in early 2024 and conduct a survey of residents who live within a one-hour drive of the study area early 2025.

Additional Resources

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