It’s not easy to manage a national park like North Carolina’s Cape Lookout National Seashore, a 28,000-acre site with an iconic lighthouse, windswept beaches and many historic structures. In addition to day-to-day decisions for 400,000 annual recreational visits, park managers have to make long-term plans to protect historic resources from demanding coastal conditions in a changing climate with limited budgets.

To help with long-term preservation decisions, researchers with North Carolina State University, the U.S. Geological Survey and the National Park Service collaborated on a decision support model for Cape Lookout.

The Optimal Preservation Model (OptiPres) factors in the vulnerability and significance of historic and cultural resources, while allowing managers to adjust their plans based on varying funding levels, says Erin Seekamp, associate professor and tourism extension specialist with NC State’s Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management.

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Originally published May 30, 2019.