Paper No. 322-2
Presentation Time: 9:00 AM-6:30 PM
INVESTIGATING WATER QUALITY IMPLICATIONS FROM RECREATIONAL VISITOR IMPACTS IN THE RED RIVER GORGE AREA OF KENTUCKY
The Red River Gorge Climbers Coalition (RRGCC) owns two recreational preserves in Eastern Kentucky very popular with rock climbers; however, a downside to large numbers of humans in woodland settings is waste. This research seeks to quantify the seasonal and storm event water quality impacts brought about by the large number of humans present in the environment and produce a high quality dataset for an area in which no data currently exists to aid in decision making processes for the RRGCC as they further develop these sites for recreational use. Four sites have been selected from digitized GIS maps of the two preserves (two sites at each property, upstream and downstream end members of the major streams on the property) and baseline data has been collected for several weeks to establish the basis for the sampling sites. Four storm events will be sampled every two hours (total ~96 samples) to determine what human impacts are being transmitted through the surface water system. Data will be collected using a YSI 556 multiprobe handheld sonde for temperature, pH, dissolved oxygen, and specific conductivity, all baseline water quality data parameters. Water samples will be collected to measure coliform bacteria (E. coli) counts and nutrients (nitrate, phosphate). Additionally, motion activated cameras will be placed to estimate the total number of humans present in between sampling events based on car traffic. Water samples will be analyzed at the WKU HydroAnalytical Lab. Data will be analyzed to compare between sampling sites and regressions with the number of visitors, and parameters to determine potential water quality impacts. Preliminary results indicate human impacts on the water quality of all four sites coinciding with human activity. The results may also provide impetus for a larger study at multiple sites of a similar nature in the region to better address ecotourism impacts in an understudied land use practice.