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Survey says, reserve needs to count heads

Langley residents Stacie and Chris Johnson walk the trails at Fort Ebey State Park. The National Park Service recently conducted a survey to gauge visitors’ opinions of Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve.  - Nathan Whalen/Whidbey News-Times
Langley residents Stacie and Chris Johnson walk the trails at Fort Ebey State Park. The National Park Service recently conducted a survey to gauge visitors’ opinions of Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve.
— image credit: Nathan Whalen/Whidbey News-Times

Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve is a popular hot spot for locals and tourists alike. The problem is nobody really knows how many people visit reserve attractions each year.

Finding a way to count the number of visitors to Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve is one of the top recommendations from a survey National Park Service staff conducted two years ago.

Approximately 360 people participated in the survey distributed throughout the Central Whidbey reserve in July 2007.

Officials from the National Park Service gave highlights of the survey results during a recent meeting at the Coupeville Recreation Hall to a crowd of approximately 25 business and community leaders.

Margaret Littlejohn, a surveyor working for the National Park Service, came up with a list of recommendations that arose from the survey.

She said it’s difficult to number the visitors because there are two state parks and a town within the reserve boundaries. But if a number can be determined, it may show that the reserve needs more staff resources.

Also, she said signs should be added to identify historical areas, most notably the town of Coupeville. Littlejohn said many of the visitors who filled out surveys didn’t realize Coupeville was located inside the reserve boundaries.

Park officials also should make reserve signs more identifiable and brochures need to be placed in more locations.

She said the survey indicated many people don’t understand the nature of the reserve or that it is part of the National Park Service.

Littlejohn added that a “friends” group should also form to aid in raising money and promoting the reserve.

Sue Cunningham, Blue Goose Inn owner, noted the survey reinforces the need for community collaboration and that a better job needs to be done tracking visitors.

Mark Preiss, reserve manager, said the Trust Board is already addressing issues raised in the survey. Work continues on a long-range interpretation plan. The draft outlines a number of issues including the need for a worldwide marketing plan, a sign plan, improved trail connectivity and agri-tourism promotions.

Ebey’s Landing officials are also negotiating with Coupeville for a possible visitors center located at the corner of Main and Front streets. Preiss added that, during the Ebey’s Forever conference scheduled this fall, he hopes to announce the creation of an endowment fund.

The survey can be accessed online at www.psu.uidaho.edu/usp.reports.htm.

Community Events, April 2014

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