Kohlhardt and team studied the optimal design of trails through parks. They share that “Large crowds in parks can be a problem for park managers and visitors. . . . We used . . . visual images . . . to estimate park users’ utilities [the benefits or values they perceive] associated with their visitor experience in Garibaldi Provincial Park in British Columbia, Canada. Our visual method allowed us to control for background view and compare user preferences on hiking trails with preferences at final destinations. We find that utilities are more sensitive to crowding at viewpoints than to other aspects of the outdoor experience. Thus, visitor satisfaction and crowding perceptions are more likely to be defined by where visitors have these encounters rather than the total number of encounters.” Evidently, not all high-density situations are equally undesirable, in parks or elsewhere.
Regan Kohlhardt, Jordi Honey-Roses, Sergio Lozada, Wolfgang Haider, and Mark Stevens. 2018. “Is This Trail Too Crowded? A Choice Experiment to Evaluate Tradeoffs and Preferences of Park Visitors in Garibaldi Park, British Columbia.” Journal of Environmental Planning and Management, vol. 61, no. 1, pp. 1-24.