There were several meetings between ONP, Port Angeles, Clallam County, Chamber of Commerce leaders and other interested stakeholders during the planning and fundraising period of the trail.
At some point, the Park showed up with the 45% criteria, and that was it with no further discussion.
Presumably, the number was based on the projected costs to keep the road open during the week, which the Park estimated to be $325,000 relative to the total cost, which was estimated to be $750,000. $325,000/$750,000 is 43%.
What this means is that the park insisted and expected that the cost per visitor (vehicle really) would be the same for the weekend and weekday.
There are several inherent problems with this expectation:
- First of all it is totally irrelevant: what matters for increased visitor spending is the total number of visitors to the Ridge. The money spends the same weekend or weekday.
- It is based entirely on their projected cost estimates, which were a) based on an assuming the visitor numbers would be similar to weekend numbers; and b) everything that they factored in as costs were in fact necessary. More on that in a later post. In other words, if weekday access could be done at less cost, the number of visitors could be less.
- It doesn't apply to any other area or service in Olympic National Park or the National Park Service as a whole. Seventy-five parks in the system receive fewer annual visits than Hurricane Ridge in the winter.
- In 2007, the park eliminated the snow play area, which was a major reason for winter visits. A more accurate comparison would be 2009 and 2010, compared to 2011 and 2012. (In 2008, the road washed out and was closed for four weekends. However, the total number of closed days that year is similar to the past four years.)
- It is unrealistic to expect that after a decade of decreased access and visitation, numbers would respond to pre-closure levels in one or two years. And, it has to be said, the Parks open and on time record was not very good during the trail period.