More than 60,000 satisfied visitors crossed the thresholds of San Juan National Historical Park’s visitor centers in 2013, the most recorded in the 47-year history of the park, according to Mike Vouri, the park's chief of interpretation and visitor services.
This figure does not include those visitors who don't enter the visitor centers. Traffic counters located on the English Camp entrance drive and Cattle Point Road at the junction of Eagle Cove Drive at American Camp normally record about 250,000 visits per year.
"We knew we were experiencing heavy visitation by the number of automobiles parked along the American Camp entrance road and the volume of business in the centers at peak hours last summer," Vouri said. "But we were most delighted about the comments we received on the quality of service provided by our staff and volunteers."
A survey designed by The Park Studies Unit at the University of Idaho and distributed by park staff each August revealed that visitors were 99 percent satisfied with the service provided, and 98 percent understood the park’s significance. Moreover, narrative comments consistently praised the park staff and volunteers for being helpful and knowledgeable about the park and island at large.
"The survey results are a reflection on the entire staff," Vouri said. “Often the first uniformed employee a visitor will see is one of our maintenance staff working out on the grounds, or a volunteer on a trail doing roving interpretation or clearing or building. Our administrative staff in town always provides good information, as well as a warm welcome. This is what the National Park Service is all about."
The numbers show that 32,378 visitors were tallied at American Camp, up from 28,285 in 2012, English Camp meanwhile vaulted to 27,813 from 22,552 in 2012.
"I think the marketing done by the San Juan Islands Visitor Bureau had a profound effect, and this was especially made manifest by the county’s top five and higher rankings as a tourist destination in publications, web sites and television programs with a national and international reach," Vouri said. "In nearly 19 years here I’ve never seen anything like it."
The media attention surrounding the designation of Bureau of Land Management Lands in the San Juan Archipelago to the San Juan Island National Monument was also a major factor.
"It was huge," Vouri said. "We found ourselves constantly explaining that our park was not really part of monument, and that we are thrilled that those lands will be preserved in perpetuity."
San Juan Island National Historical Park was created by Act of Congress in 1966 to commemorate the peaceful resolution of the San Juan Boundary Dispute and Pig War crisis of 1859 between the United States and Great Britain. The park also preserves and protects more than 2,100 acres of cultural and natural resources for the benefit of future generations.