Academic journal article Journal of the Community Development Society

Perceptions of Recreation Greenway Impacts among Rural Community Residents

Academic journal article Journal of the Community Development Society

Perceptions of Recreation Greenway Impacts among Rural Community Residents

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

Data were collected in the fall of 1997 from people living near the Kokosing Gap Trail in Northeast Central Ohio to assess perceived socioeconomic impacts of the recreation facility on local community groups. Survey methodology was used to collect data to examine the merits of a vested interest model used to guide the investigation. Study findings demonstrated that the theoretical model was useful for predicting perceived impacts of the trail. An impact assessment scale was developed and was shown to have high reliability. Regression analysis revealed a strong relationship between impact assessment scale scores and variables that could affect the likelihood that local residents would internalize costs and/or benefits associated with the recreation trail. Predictive variables were shown to explain about 51.5 percent of the variance in the dependent variable. Research findings revealed that local people perceived the recreation facility in a positive manner. Residents identified both positive and negative impacts associated with the trail; however, they believed the recreation facility had produced more positive than negative impacts. Study findings suggest that similar projects designed to enhance benefits and reduce disruptions of local lifestyles will probably be well received by local community groups. Suggestions for increasing local benefits are offered for consideration.

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INTRODUCTION

Implementation of recreational trails within or near rural communities is a development option that could enhance local economies and provide improved recreational opportunities for local residents. Such development projects often attract recreationists who are willing to spend economic resources within local communities while using recreational facilities. The implementation of recreational trails also provides local people with recreation opportunities that would not otherwise be available to them.

While numerous benefits are associated with trails, such development programs frequently generate social and economic costs for local people. Some of the most significant costs are the loss of local autonomy in terms of decision making; litter on properties adjacent to recreational facilities; changes in feelings of personal safety due to extra-local users of the trails; economic costs to monitor behaviors of facility users; disruption of local community functions by visitors; increased demand on community services; and numerous others.

Local residents respond to recreational trail development programs in a variety of ways. They may develop positive attitudes toward trails and become advocates of this type of development. Political support from local people can serve to facilitate implementation of such projects. Conversely, local residents may perceive such development efforts as generating negative consequences for directly affected community groups and come to oppose recreational trail projects. The latter outcome is of significant concern to community development practitioners because political opposition could result in defeat of future recreational development projects that could benefit many groups, including extra-local people.

Opposition to recreational trails can result in negative consequences for local people. Some of the most common are the loss of economic resources in the form of future income streams from facility users; legal fees to pay court costs associated with appealing decisions to develop such facilities; estrangement of local people from elected leadership and other people within the community; loss of time and human resources that could be devoted to resolution of other community problems; and development of negative orientations toward future development programs. Each of these outcomes is undesirable from the perspective of future community development efforts.

One means of reducing undesirable outcomes associated with recreational trails is to conduct research among affected community groups to determine how such projects have influenced local people. …

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