2023.10.05 | Fiscalini Ranch: Visited at Least a Quarter Million Times Each Year

graph of average visitors to coastal Ranch trails

Although it may be self-evident that people are drawn to Fiscalini Ranch Preserve, there has been no comprehensive data on just how many people visit the Ranch each year.  Occasionally volunteers have conducted brief surveys, but Friends of the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve wanted a systematic count of Ranch visits, so we purchased and installed trail counters starting in October 2022.  Walt Andrus, Tom Loganbill, and Rusty Burns helped with this project.

     FFRP placed the first four devices on each end of the Ranch’s busiest trails: Bluff and Marine Terrace, plus one on the Ridge Trail.  With 11 months of data in hand, the two coastal trails saw roughly 248,000 visits.  The counters report visits, not individual visitors who may enter the Ranch multiple times per week.  The highest visitation was on Saturdays with the lowest on Tuesdays.

     The number of visits is impressive.  For comparison, using data from Visit SLO CAL, Cambria’s 753 hotel rooms have a 70% occupancy rate.  If each room had an average of 2.1 occupants, that would mean around 400,000 nights of hotel stay per year. When counts from all the trailheads are in, visitation may approach that number, especially considering that initial data was from one of the wettest winters that Cambria has seen in years.  Better weather may encourage more visits.

     These first counters provided useful information, so FFRP purchased more for each of the West Ranch trailheads.  After all, it is impossible to tell where people will enter and exit the Ranch.  With all these devices now in place, an accurate number of visits to the West Ranch will be available in a few months.

     The trail counters use an infrared scope to measure changes in background temperature.  Each spike in temperature is recorded as a visit.  The counters do not include cameras or any imaging devices.  Although humans and deer have similar body temperatures, nearly all the visits occurred between 6 a.m. and 7 p.m., indicating that humans were being counted.

    With visitation numbers in hand, FFRP and the Cambria Community Services District will have more evidence to garner support for the Ranch, a place that is enjoyed by many thousands each year.

Article first published in https://cambriaca.org/