Straddling the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes and South Provence-Alpes-Côte-d’Azur regions, the Baronnies Provençales Regional Park covers an area of 1,818 km². The park’s mid-mountain massif includes numerous trails and recreational sites, as well as 2,000 plant species (22 of which are considered a priority in terms of conservation) and 203 animal species protected at the national or regional level.

Via Ferrata in Buis-les-Baronnies

Installation of the ReCycled post on the Via Ferrata site of Buis-les-Baronnies

Opened in 2013, the large Via Ferrata site in Buis-les-Baronnies was equipped with counters to measure the number of visitors to the site in 2016, thanks to a partnership with the “Baronnies Provençales” park. In the past few years, the region has averaged 15,000 visitors per year!

Visitor data was particularly useful for this project, as it is a free and open access site for all, managed and financed directly by the local town authorities. Data made it possible to assess the attractiveness of the park and the indirect economic benefits for the local community.

Thanks to the mobility of the counters, park managers moved the counters around in order to measure the site’s visitor trend, such as capturing count data at trailheads versus the route back.

One counter, located on a trail leading to a popular rock climbing site, recorded 2 to 3 times more visitors than expected by the site managers. Using the count data from different locations, it was found that in addition to people heading to the Via Ferrata climbing route, there were many other people using the trail.

Climbing sites in Orpierre

Testimony of Pierre-Yves Bochaton, communal coordinator of the Orpierre Climbing sites and counter technician

In the south of the Hautes-Alpes department, the town of Orpierre has been developing its rock climbing cliffs since 1985. Over the years, Orpierre, “the village that climbs”, has become known as a world-class climbing site, as well as a green climbing resort that attracts European tourists from March to November. This activity now generates significant economic benefits throughout the valley, and more than 30 jobs. The need to estimate the number of visitors to the site has been felt for many years, in particular to justify subsidies and public investment.

Manual counts were carried out at first: a difficult, time-consuming and tedious task. This is why automated pedestrian counters were installed in 2017 in Orpierre, as part of a partnership with the Baronnies Provençales Regional Nature Park.

Orpierre, nestled at the foot of its cliffs, has 4 main entrances to the climbing site. A PYRO counter was installed on each of the paths leading to the climbing sites. This made it possible to determine the overall use of the sites by carrying out entry/exit ratios at different points.

Count data is analyzed in Eco-Visio, allowing park managers to easily understand how the different climbing sites are used, by season, and from one year to the next. Other more advanced analyses are also carried out, such as calculating daily attendance times, and summary graphs are exported for reporting and communicating with stakeholders.

Data collection is made easy by reactivating the Bluetooth connection at the foot of each counter with the small key ring magnet provided, and the use of the Eco-Link smartphone application. Data is automatically then uploaded to Eco-Visio once the Bluetooth transfer is complete.

For the commune of Orpierre, automated people counters have become an indispensable tool for the management of the site, both for the technical aspect of the park’s development and for the tourist and economic management of the Orpierre climbing sites.