Managing Editor Over a quarter million visits to National Park Service amenities on the Upper Delaware occurred in Fiscal Year 2012, mostly with the goal to get into or onto the river. Carla Hahn, Assistant Superintendent of the Upper Delaware Scenic & Recreational River, offered a summary of the experience of the visitors the Park Service has counted, and why they come. The report of the 2012 statistics was given to the Upper Delaware Council (UDC) in Narrowsburg, Nov. 1st. (The report covers the Fiscal Year, which runs from October 2011 to September 2012.) The actual count for 2012 was 263,254. The main attraction for the 73.4 mile federal-designated corridor is the river. Approximately 73% of the Park Service visits are in or on the river. More specifically, 62% go boating; 7% are fishing and 4% are swimming. Since the count involves “visits” or each use of a Park Service amenity rather than unique visitors, many of the counted visits may be by the same individuals. The Park Service also counted 24% of their visits as driving over the Roebling Bridge, connecting Lackawaxen, Pa. and Minisink Ford, NY. That doesn’t mean the driver stops here or even looks at the river. Only 2% of the visitor activity was counted at the Zane Grey Museum in Lackawaxen, and 1% using the Narrowsburg Visitor Center. Both are operated by the National Park Service. The visitor count for 2012 is down from the 2011 count, which totaled 270,390. The 2010 total was 306,468. That year was the first year that the count met or exceeded the 300,000 mark since 2001. The counts have exceeded 200,000 since 1988. Upper Delaware Scenic & Recreational River was established in 1980 following federal legislation two years earlier. The first year, the Park Service counted 77,764 visitors. In 1981 there were 156,437 visitors.
Rather than the uses with large percentages, the “4% swimming” generated the most discussion around the tables of the UDC. “Where do they swim?,” asked Nadia Rajsz, chairperson and Town of Lumberland representative. Hahn said there are no designated swimming areas on the Upper Delaware for a variety of reasons, including the fact the Park Service doesn’t have lifeguards. Still, Park Service studies reflect that 4% of usage is swimming. Al Henry, who was with the local Park Service many years and is now the Berlin Township UDC representative, noted that the Park Service doesn’t tell people not to swim, but urges the use of a personal flotation device (PFD). The report also shows the use of the nine public access areas on the Upper Delaware. By far the access with the most use was the one at Lackawaxen, PA, with 31,573 visits in 2012. Next was Skinners Falls, NY with 21,768. Where visitors stop for information or gather for Park Service programs is shown.  The majority of visitor contacts are at the kiosks located at four river access sites (Skinners Falls, Ten Mile River, Lackawaxen and Mongaup) with 38,518 visits and while performing canoe and vehicle patrols- 12,860 contacts. Program contacts numbered 9007 and include school programs such as the Water Snapshot done with 5th graders ad D&H Canal Days, with 4th grade. A Water Safety program was also given to all 5th graders in the river corridor. Environmental education is offered at numerous locations as well.
How they count
Contacted later, Loren Goering, Chief of Interpretation for the Park Service on the Upper Delaware, explained how they put the report together and why. Boating counts are based on annual rental information provided by the commercial liveries Fishing and swimming counts are estimates based on a detailed visitor use study done in 1989. Most river users enter the river at private or commercial access areas. The Park Service counts visitors at public access areas as vehicles pass over inductive loop counters. Mathematical formulas are used to estimate the expected number of people in a vehicle and what way they will more likely use the Park amenities. The total number of visitors is not the number of individual people, but the number of uses of each Park Service amenity, whether it be boating, fishing, swimming or visits to the museum, information center and driving over the Roebling Bridge. The number also doesn’t reflect the full scope of tourism along the Upper Delaware, but only usage of Park Service property, Goering noted. On the Upper Delaware, that primarily means the river itself, as well as the small amount of land in their jurisdiction. They can’t tell, for instance, how many people drive along NY Route 97 looking for eagles or the scenery.
How they use it
Goering said that the annual statistics are used by their staff to more efficiently allocate staff and resources. They can tell by the figures what access areas are busier and what days of the week they should concentrate programs. Visitor statistics are NOT used, however, to base their annual budget, said Goering. Visitation has normally fluctuation year to year based largely on the weather, although the economy is also a factor. The Park Service unit’s budget is allocated by the Department of the Interior and is set by Congress. Their budget is generally similar year to year, and the Park Service unit must operate within that figure. They could use the statistics, however, should they need to show numbers justifying a certain project they would like to have special funding. Park Service statistics can also used by agencies promoting tourism and local business.
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