Magazine article Parks & Recreation

A Youth Perspective on Outdoor Recreation

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

A Youth Perspective on Outdoor Recreation

Article excerpt

Discovering what outdoor activities people most enjoy is key in planning and providing outdoor recreation opportunities. Therefore, surveys that assess public demand are vital components of any successful program.

In the past, needs assessments and participation studies used in outdoor recreation plans and, in particular, the Arizona Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan (SCORP) have not incorporated the needs and desires of young people. This generally is because survey methods such as telephone surveys have been more geared toward adults.

However, young people represent a sizable segment of our population that places a heavy demand on our resources. The Arizona Outdoor Recreation Coordinating Commission and the Arizona State Parks Board recognized this oversight in our planning and, as a result, proposed a study to gather the needed recreation data from Arizona youth.

The information gathered in this study helped us target young people with our programs, thereby increasing their participation in and enjoyment of these activities.

In a day and age when young people often feel alienated from and ignored by the adult world, park and recreation programs that address young peoples interests likely will be more effective in keeping kids in sports and recreation programs and away from the dangers of the streets.

Study Background

Our study began in the fall of 1992 and addressed three basic questions:

* Are parks and recreation areas in the state adequate and are they meeting current needs?

* What outdoor recreation activities are children participating in and are any activities that they would enjoy unavailable to them?

* What barriers discourage young people from recreation participation?

The study's primary goal was to investigate the demand for recreation among Arizona youth. We then hoped to incorporate this information into a statewide needs list, a ranked list of recreation activities used partly to determine outdoor recreation grant funding priorities. We also hoped to determine differences in participation and interests between adults and children and adjust our programming accordingly.

Beginning in February 1993, onsite visits by state parks planning staff to public schools in 31 communities throughout Arizona enabled us to talk to. and see firsthand the kinds of activities kids preferred. Additionally, approximately 100 written surveys were distributed and collected in each community to a sample of students in grades 4-12. The result was a response rate of nearly 84 percent, or 2,591 useable surveys.

Hanging Out and Basketball Top List

Survey results showed the 10 favorite and 10 most common pastimes of the young people participating (see Tables 1 and 2). One of the most interesting discoveries was that the youth perceive hanging out to be a recreation activity and actually ranked it highly. By hanging out the kids mean socializing in an unstructured setting, preferably without obvious adult interference. Most survey respondents reported that they hang out and enjoy it immensely.

TABLE 1. YOUTH PARTICIPATION RATES
      Activity                       %
1    Hanging out                   88.0
2    Attending sports events       85.4
3    Basketball                    83.3
4    Walking                       78.1
5    Swimming in a private pool    77.1
6    Using a park playground       76.6
7    Attending a concert           76.6
8    Jogging                       75.1
9    Bicycling                     74.4
10   Baseball/Softball             74.1
TABLE 2. YOUTH FAVORITE ACTIVITIES
      Activity                    Index score
1    Basketball                       1455
2    Public swimming                  1145
3    Hanging out                      1107
4    Baseball                          812
5    Tent camping                      810
6    Horseback riding                  744
7    Football/soccer                   724
8    Motorcycle riding                 559
9    Roller skating                    545
10   Fishing in a natuural setting     489

What this tells us is that in developing facilities such as swimming pools, parks, and rec centers, we need to consider the importance of hanging out to the kids who will be using these facilities. …

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