The Sierra de Guadarrama National Park public usage is one of the management priorities. Its complexity and the visitors’ number growth require necessarily a regulation and tracking policy, with the clear objective of granting the compatibility between the users’ enjoyment and the natural environment preservation. The excessive people concentration in certain locations irremediably leads to negative impacts either in the physical environment (compaction, vegetation leakage, erosion, etc.) or in the fauna and flora, and as well in the visit quality.
That is why it is necessary to know, as much as possible, the public usage real features, establishing systems to count and estimate the visitors’ number, where they go within the Park and when and which their entrance frequency is. With those data available and knowing as well the fragility and quality of the different corners of the National Park, we will tend to regulate the public usage granting the natural environment enjoyment but preserving the natural values of that space.
To know the real dimension of the public usage and the developed activities, we have undertaken the space and temporal scope quantification, through different systems according to the zone and the available resources. With different counting and sampling methodologies the total National Park visitor’s number might be estimated, and as well to precisely know how many of them go to the most fragile and sensible areas. Hereinafter is available a description summary of some of the used tracking methods.
Considering the visitor’s number concentrated at certain areas of the National Park, it is necessary the presence of the Guards and other National Park staff ensuring the regulation fulfillment and offering information in situ.
Although there are already available several automatic gaugers for walkers and bicycles, an ambitious project including a considerable number of meters (44) to be distributed within the entire Park, has already started. Those equipments allow knowing how many visitors go through determined paths or areas, the time band they use and their sense of direction. To select the counting spots we have taken into account both the most frequented paths (allowing the large sectors visits estimation), and the most sensible zones with risk of impacts or problems. Those data together with the natural environment alterations tracking prove to be fundamental, both to estimate the visitors’ number and to establish a relation between their influence and the possible impacts detected in specific areas.
Parking lots occupancy
The study of several parking lots existing within the National Park and its surroundings may deliver significant data related to the visitor’s number scattered by their influence zones. Through the exhaustive counting with automatic gaugers in some of the parking lots, the sampling method in other ones and the visitor’s estimation by vehicle, a quite close to the real figure extrapolation of data might be made.
La Pedriza barrier
Due to the large number of visitors coming to La Pedriza, it has been necessary to limit the number of vehicles access to its parking lots. Therefore the surveillance staff closes the vehicles barrier when the capacity limit is reached, allowing only the entrance to walkers and bicyclists. To ensure the access there is a shuttle bus leaving from Manzanares El Real to Canto Cochino.
Organized groups control
In certain areas such as the Peñalara Massif it is being regulated the organized groups transit to avoid an excessive concentration of very large number of groups in especially fragile areas. That control organizes the group visits via calendar, timing, visits zones and number of group members, reducing considerably the impact made on previous years by those collectivities.
Activities and non-compliances sampling
In certain areas such as Peñalara, the surveillance staff makes a tracking of several activities and certain regulations non-compliances aiding in the management knowledge. Among those tracking’s is the sampling of the climbing routes at the Peñalara cirque in order to quantify the usage level of the main sectors, or the registration of the cross-country trails users at Los Cotos.
Another tracking which has been made for several years, relates to the regulations non-compliance level at certain areas of the Park such as Peñalara. The main objective of those usage and management regulations is to minimize and prevent impacts. The guards personnel of the Peñalara area fulfill some formularies with the most frequent non-compliances in order to primary know the management measures worse understood or questioned, analyzing then the sampling data gathered trends, and therefore be able to adopt the required measures such as signal reinforcement, passage alternatives, conflicts among users, etc.
Enquiries and surveys
The Visitors’ Centers offer not only information on itineraries and resources, but as well they have available information on the natural and cultural values of the Park, through brochures, temporary and permanent exhibitions, projections etc. They offer as well some activities organized in several programs. A tracking of the main subjects of interest for the visitors has been made for several years. To obtain the data, several databases are fulfilled on a daily basis registering the main topics the visitors ask for. We contribute as well to their characterization with data related not only to the number of visitors coming to those offices, but as well their origin, their visit time banding, their motivations and preferences etc. In addition we propose them surveys to know their satisfaction towards the offered activities and then continuously improve the service.