Science Inventory

Quantifying Recreational Use of an Estuary: A Case Study of Three Bays, Cape Cod, USA.


Mulvaney, K., S. Lyon, N. Merrill, J. Twichell, AND M. Mazzotta. Quantifying Recreational Use of an Estuary: A Case Study of Three Bays, Cape Cod, USA. Estuaries and Coasts. Estuarine Research Federation, Port Republic, MD, 43(1):7-22, (2020).


Estuaries provide a number of recreation opportunities for the surrounding coastal communities. Many of these activities, such as swimming and recreational fishing, are impacted by water quality degradation. In order to calculate how many people are impacted by degradation or improvement, we need to know how many recreational users there are, but that information rarely exists. We designed a simple method for measuring how many people use an estuary to meet this need.


Estimates of the types and number of recreational users visiting an estuary are critical data for quantifying the value of recreation and how that value might change with variations in water quality or with other impacts from management decisions. However, estimates of recreational use rarely exist for estuaries. To fill this gap, we developed a practical observational sampling plan to quantify the recreational use of an estuary. Our methods, designed to be simple and fast to allow for replication, do not require survey data and can be used to estimate recreational participation at the diverse types of access points commonly found in estuary systems. The methods consist of using periodic counts combined with extrapolation factors derived from all-day counts. These can be used to estimate visitation to multiple access points on an estuary in a single day as well as across multiple days. Our results showed that when counts were taken within a preferred time window of a day (from 2-2:59pm), the simple estimates were within 31 percent of actual daily visitation. We applied our methods to sites on the Three Bays estuary system on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, USA. The results of this study provide baseline information on the type and magnitude of recreational uses at different points throughout the estuary system. While we applied this approach to a specific study location, it can be transferred to the many small coastal access points used for recreation across New England and beyond.

Record Details:

Product Published Date: 01/01/2020
Record Last Revised: 02/03/2020
OMB Category: Other
Record ID: 348150