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Upgraded counters help state parks track visitation trends

Milltown State Park Photo: Milltown State Park
Milltown State Park Photo: Milltown State Park
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Montana state parks are in the process of installing new counters at the entrances to help park staff learn more about park visitation.

Workers are digging up old magnetic counters that were buried at park entrances and replacing them with new infrared beam counters that allow staff to analyze visitation numbers in real time.

Parks Division region 1 manager Dave Landstrom said they began replacing counters last yea,r but they anticipate all of the parks will have the upgraded counters by this summer.

He said the counters are able to track vehicles and now foot traffic. He added they learned a significant number of visitors enter the parks by foot or bike, and they will now be able to accurately add up those numbers.

Landstrom said the counters are a good thing for identifying trends in visitation.

He said last year was a banner year -- they saw a 30% increase in visitation and the state parks system saw 3.4 million visitors. Landstrom said that was a big jump from 2019.

Landstrom said the new counters will help them locate high areas of traffic, put in resources where they are needed, and eventually staff will be able combine the new research with park satisfaction and visitor preferences.

The University of Montana through the Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research is calibrating the counters and getting them set up for use, Landstrom said.

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