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Volume 26
Number 3
Winter 2009-2010
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Research Report
Modeling and mapping hikers’ exposure to transportation noise in Rocky Mountain National Park
By Logan Park, Steve Lawson, Ken Kaliski, Peter Newman, and Adam Gibson
Published: 4 Sep 2015 (online)  •  14 Sep 2015 (in print)
Discussion and conclusions
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NATRUAL AND CULTURAL SOUNDS ARE INTEGRAL MEMBERS of the suite of resources and values that the National Park Service (NPS) is charged with preserving, restoring, and interpreting (NPS 2000). Results of research conducted in a variety of national park settings suggest that the quality of visitors’ experiences is tied to the naturalness of the area’s soundscape (Manning et al. 2006; Tranel 2006; Miller 2002). For example, findings from a recent study in Haleakala National Park in Hawaii suggest that the primary reason for visitors to take an overnight backcountry trip in the park is to experience the sounds of nature (Lawson et al. 2008). Human-caused sounds from aircraft, roads, maintenance activities, and other visitors, however, commonly permeate park soundscapes, making natural sounds and quiet an increasingly scarce resource (Krause 1999).

Recently, the National Park Service has applied indicator-based, adaptive management to address soundscape management and planning (Pilcher et al. 2008). This process involves formulation and long-term monitoring of soundscape indicators and standards of quality. Indicators of quality are measurable, manageable proxies for desired park conditions, and standards of quality are numerical expressions of desired conditions for indicators. As an example, the National Park Service might specify “human-caused noise-free interval duration” as an indicator of quality related to providing visitors opportunities to experience natural sounds and quiet. A standard of quality for this indicator might specify that at least 90% of visitors will experience at least one interval of 15 minutes or more that is free of human-caused noise while visiting the park.

Soundscape-related indicators and standards of quality are now being developed at a number of national parks, but measurement of some indicators, such as highly variable soundscape metrics, is nontrivial (Lawson and Plotkin 2006; Ambrose and Burson 2004). For example, natural sound levels fluctuate because of wind, air characteristics (e.g., density, temperature), and wildlife. Furthermore, visitors’ exposure to natural and human-caused sounds is difficult to observe directly or measure through visitors’ self-reports in surveys. However, visitor use and noise modeling technologies are potentially useful in this situation (e.g., Lawson and Plotkin 2006; Lawson 2006; Miller 2004; Roof et al. 2002).

The purpose of this article is to demonstrate the use of visitor use and noise modeling tools to provide spatially precise, integrated information about soundscape conditions within a national park setting. In particular, it presents research conducted at Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado, to model and map visitors’ exposure to transportation-related noise while visiting attractions and hiking on trails in the Bear Lake Road corridor. The results of this work are expected to provide the National Park Service with a monitoring tool to track soundscape-related indicators of quality in Rocky Mountain National Park that is adaptable to other national park units.

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This page updated:  28 December 2009

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From the Guest Editor(s)
Comments and Corrections
At Your Service
Information Crossfile
Science Notes
Field Moment
Meetings of Interest
Masthead Information
From landscapes to soundscapes: Introduction to the special issue
Measuring and monitoring soundscapes in the national parks
Integrating soundscapes into National Park Service planning
Excerpt from Governors Island General Management Plan
Conserving the wild life therein--Protecting park fauna from anthropogenic noise
Soundscapes monitoring and an overflight advisory group: Informing real-time management decisions at Denali
Soundscape management at Grand Canyon National Park
Tools of the trade: An example of using spectrograms to count fixed-wing aircraft
Visually impaired students help collect acoustic data in Grand Canyon National Park
Protecting the acoustic conditions at Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve
Generator noise along the U.S.-Mexico border
Airport expansion adjacent to San Antonio Missions
A program of research to support management of visitor-caused noise at Muir Woods National Monument
  Modeling and mapping hikers’ exposure to transportation noise in Rocky Mountain National Park
Aircraft overflights at national parks: Conflict and its potential resolution
Managing the natural soundscape: The National Park Service as a learning organization
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