Thursday, October 2, 2014

Recreation survey recapped for parks and recreation pros

When the Bureau of Land Management decided to assess user demand for recreation areas, it was natural to partner with the University of Alaska Fairbanks' Peter Fix.

Fix, associate professor of outdoor recreation management, is known for his expertise in conducting surveys in Alaska. In this instance, he and graduate student Bryant Wright tried a different tack.
Bryant Wright talks to recreation professionals at the Alaska Recreation and Park Association annual conference Sept. 25.

Fix and Wright presented their findings Sept. 25 to members of the Alaska Recreation and Park Association at their annual conference in Fairbanks.

While traditionally Fix has conducted on-site and general population studies, for the BLM survey he and Wright asked Fairbanksans what outdoor recreation activities appealed to them and how achieving those desired activities would look. "This provides a metric other than visitor numbers," Fix said.

"And it was coordinated at the regional level, not just at one recreation site," he added. "We left the places to visit open ended which proved really interesting; there were places we wouldn't have thought of."

The researchers contacted outdoor recreation clubs and asked them to share the survey with their members. It was also promoted through the School of Natural Resources' blog and Facebook page and in a Fairbanks Daily News-Miner article. Participants were encouraged to complete more than one survey for different activities. The period for completing the Survey Monkey site was May 2 to June 30.

Wright told the recreation professionals that roughly 200 different people responded, with 349 total survey attempts and 276 completed surveys. Specific locations named in the survey numbered 75 for the 21 activities to choose from.

"We have a lot more analysis to do," Wright said. "We are finding nuances in the activities as we work on this. Then we will relay the results to the groups who participated."

Fix emphasized how collaborative the project was, with involvement from BLM, UAF, state parks, the Fairbanks North Star Borough and Fort Wainwright.

"We are applying a community-based approach to recreation planning," said Chel Ethun, BLM assistant field manager. Funding came from the America's Great Outdoors program.

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