UNC study asks the question: ‘How much tourism is too much?’

By on November 14, 2016

By Lori Wynn
Coastal Review Online

Imagine data could be plugged into a computer to show exactly how much human presence and interaction the delicate ecology of a popular coastal area could handle before being severely affected.

Would it help with managing national seashores or state parks along the coast? According to Pat Kenney, superintendent of Cape Lookout National Seashore, yes.

“One of the things — and I’ve been in this business for a long time — that we’re always trying to figure out is: Where is that line, or that sweet spot so to say, that the resources can be preserved for future generations while allowing this level of public use?” Kenney said.

“That is very difficult to determine, but any sort of tools that help us with that would be useful.”

New research out of the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill seeks to do just that — help find the “sweet spot” in sustaining ecotourism.

The research is taking place at the school’s Center for Galapagos Studies in the Galapagos Islands, where tourism is booming and the residential population is growing as people flock to the island for higher wages in the ecotourism economy.

The islands are a province of Ecuador more than 600 miles from the mainland. Officials in Ecuador were looking for scenarios of change reflecting the number of tourists and residents the islands could accommodate before they start to lose their luster, according to a press release about the study.


“The Ecuadorian government and the Galapagos National Park are asking the exact right questions,” said Dr. Stephen Walsh, geography professor at UNC-CH and director of the Center for Galapagos Studies. “No one wants a boom-and-bust situation. We want wise, managed growth within the concept of sustainability.”

And while the research is focused on the Galapagos, it can be applied to other locations, Walsh said.

“(Models) could be developed to examine the conflicts between resource conservation and economic development and the impact of tourism, nearby residents, transportation and visitation on the ecological sustainability of special places in North Carolina,” he said.

Such research could be helpful in managing places like the national seashores along the state’s coast.

“Yes, this is the type of information we would find useful,” Kenney with Cape Lookout National Seashore said. “The National Park Service has a preservation mandate first and foremost, and obviously our mission also calls for the use of public enjoyment.

“However, that being said, our main mandate is the preservation of these places for future generations. So any sort of information that would look at managing human use relative to preservation would be useful.”


Kenney noted there are challenges in managing land for public use.

“There’s the political challenges of putting limitations on public use – it’s always a challenge because parks become economic engines for local communities,” he said. “People want to be able to access their parks. So, having good information that can show correlations between too much use resulting in degradation of resources would be important. Having good science to support decisions is really important.”

Dave Hallac, Outer Banks Group superintendent, agreed.

“I would anticipate that that type of science is, yes, something that the park service is very interested in,” he said. “But it’s also something we have been studying and working on I think for many, many years.”

Hallac, who oversees Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Wright Brothers National Memorial and Fort Raleigh National Historic Site, explained that the park service does a lot of research on parks’ carrying capacity, which takes into account things like the visitor experience, the effects on natural and cultural resources and what it takes to manage the park and the flow of visitors.

He used the beach driving regulations for Cape Hatteras National Seashore as an example.

“We actually built a carrying capacity element into our Off Road Vehicle Managament Plan … it’s called vehicle carrying capacity and it’s the maximum number of vehicles allowed on a route at one time (equal to) the length of the route divided by 20 feet,” Hallac said.

“Now whether or not that’s the right statistic – maybe it should be 30 feet or 50 feet or 10 feet – those are the types of things we seek more information on, where we have an incredible opportunity to collect more scientific data.”

Hallac said the park service has traditionally done a good job of collecting data on natural and cultural resources but could use more information about visitors.

“We have a lot of information about the productivity of shorebirds and sea turtles, but we don’t have a lot of information – we don’t collect as much data – on the visitors that come to the park and what their preferences are and what their attitudes and perceptions of the types of experiences that they desire,” Hallac said. “So I think we seek to gain a lot more of that information.”

The research from Walsh’s study could also be a tool for how natural areas are promoted, said Carol Lohr, executive director of the Carteret County Tourism Development Authority.


“The Cape Lookout National Seashore and the horses on Shackleford Banks are … probably the top areas of interest that people – once they’re here – come to see,” Lohr said, noting that protecting the area’s natural resources is important so that visitors have such areas to enjoy.

“I think we are so blessed to have not only the Cape Lookout National Seashore that includes Shackleford Banks and Portsmouth Island, but also the Croatan National Forest, along with Fort Macon State Park, the Rachel Carson Reserve – all that have been basically set aside for recreational use,” Lohr said. “And I think all the administrative branches of all of these areas are looking closely at visitation and the use.”

Walsh’s research could be another tool for local government and land management agencies, she said.

“It appears to be a great resource that we could take a look at and plug our local data in, but the key would be making sure we have accurate local data” on visitation, Lohr said.


Barnhill Building Group has been selected as the Construction Manager @ Risk by the College of the Albemarle and is seeking to pre-qualify construction trade contractors to submit bids for the furnishing labor, materials, equipment, and tools for the new College of The Albemarle – Allied Health Sciences Simulation Lab (COA Health Sciences) located in Elizabeth City, NC. Please note: Only subcontractors who have been prequalified by Barnhill will be able to submit a Bid.

The project consists of the new construction of a 38,000-sf, 2-story expansion to the existing Owens Health Sciences Center and will house classrooms, labs, and a simulation lab. The site is just over just over 4.5 acres and is located on an active campus. This new construction will be a steel structure with a brick and metal panel veneer, curtainwall, and storefront glazing with a PVC roof membrane.

Principal trade and specialty contractors are solicited for the following Bid Packages:

BP0100: General Trades

BP0105: Final Cleaning

BP0390: Turnkey Concrete

BP0400: Turnkey Masonry

BP0500: Structural Steel & Misc. Steel

BP0740: Roofing

BP0750: Metal Panels

BP0790: Caulking / Caulking

BP0800: Turnkey Doors/Frames/Hardware

BP0840: Glass & Glazing

BP0925: Drywall

BP0960: Resilient Flooring

BP0980: Acoustical Ceilings

BP0990: Painting & Wallcovering

BP1005: Toilet Specialties / Accessories / Division 10

BP1010: Signage

BP1098: Demountable Partitions

BP1230: Finish Carpentry and Casework

BP1250: Window Treatment

BP1400: Elevators

BP2100: Fire Protection

BP2200: Plumbing

BP2300: HVAC

BP2600: Turnkey Electrical

BP3100: Turnkey Sitework

BP3290: Landscaping

Packages may be added and/or deleted at the discretion of the Construction Manager. Historically underutilized business firms are encouraged to complete participation submittals.

HUB/MWBE OUTREACH MEETING: Barnhill Building Group will be conducting a HUB/MWBE Informational Session. You are encouraged to attend the following session to learn more about project participation opportunities available to you. These seminars will help to: Learn about project and scope; Inform and train Minority/HUB contractors in preparation for bidding this project; Assist in registration on the State of North Carolina Vendor link; Stimulate opportunities for Networking with other firms. Location and time TBD. Please visit our planroom at https://app.buildingconnected.com/public/54da832ce3edb5050017438b for more information.

Interested contractors should submit their completed prequalification submittals, by July 22, 2024, to Meredith Terrell at mterrell@barnhillcontracting.com or hardcopies can be mailed to Barnhill Contracting Company PO Box 31765 Raleigh, NC 27622 (4325 Pleasant Valley Road, NC 27612).


Comments are closed.