By MIKE CORN

mcorn@dailynews.net

The U.S. Forest Service will survey visitors to its Cimarron National Grasslands in southwest Kansas beginning this fall.

Results from the survey of users will help the agency better determine management priorities, improvements to customer satisfaction and future funding levels.

"This voluntary survey will reveal important information, such as visitors' opinions, preferences and visitation patterns," acting forest supervisor John Peterson said in a statement. "We hope to gain the public's participation in this survey and their feedback will be vital to providing the best service to our visitors."

The survey will seek to learn the type of activities, places visited, distance traveled, the length of the stay, overall feelings about the experience and the amount of money spent during the trip.

In a similar survey in 2006, it was determined that 6 million visitors spent time at the Pike and San Isabel National Forests and the Cimarron and Comanche National Grasslands, all supervised out of one office in Pueblo, Colo.

With those numbers, the area would be the fourth most visited forest site in the United States.

The Cimarron and Comanche grasslands were measured together in that survey, and had nearly 375,000 visitors.

Cimarron grasslands ranger Joe Hartman, however, said the Kansas grasslands are more intensively used and attract more than 142,000 people each year. Nearly half of them come from out of state.

Containing more than 108,000 acres, the Cimarron grasslands is the only federal grasslands in Kansas, and was created in the wake of the Dust Bowl, when much of the southwest corner of the state was faced by terrifying dust storms.