U.S. Forest Service officials say they are in the process of learning more about the number of people who visit the Cherokee National Forest and the wide variety of outdoor recreation activities and experiences they seek during their visit. This effort is part of the National Visitor Use Monitoring (NVUM) Program that has occurred every five years on the national forest since 2001.
For the fourth time, the Forest Service is partnering with the University of Tennessee, Department of Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries in Knoxville to conduct the surveys. Interviewers will be working in developed and dispersed recreation sites and trails across the 650,000-acre national forest to conduct surveys on approximately 250 sample days between October 1, 2016 and September 30, 2017. They will be wearing safety vests and located near a sign that says “Traffic Survey Ahead.” The basic interview lasts about 8 minutes. Every other visitor is asked a few additional questions which may take an additional 5 minutes.
Forest Service officials say that stopping and participating in the survey is of course optional, but they encourage visitors to help them by providing some information about their visit when exiting. All responses are totally confidential, in fact a person’s name is never written anywhere on the survey.
The NVUM program has two concurrent goals. First, to produce estimates of the volume of recreation visitation to national forests and grasslands. Second, to produce descriptive information about that visitation, including activity participation, demographics, visit duration, measures of satisfaction, and trip spending connected to the visit. This type of information is used by the Forest Service and often requested by anyone interested in the economic contributions from national forests to local tourism and outdoor recreation related industries.
Reports on visitation and visitor characteristics are available online through the NVUM results application at http://apps.fs.fed.us/nfs/nrm/nvum/results/. Results from this year’s monitoring is expected to be analyzed and available within a year following the conclusion of the survey.