Research an Essential Foundation: Chapter 14. (Outdoor Recreation in America)

Parks & Recreation, August 2002 | Go to article overview

Research an Essential Foundation: Chapter 14. (Outdoor Recreation in America)


NEED FOR KNOWLEDGE

The need for recreation research has been highlighted by two findings which have been emphasized in this report. First, pressure on the nation's natural resources will increase sharply over the next decades both for outdoor recreation and for other requirements. Second, there is land available for outdoor recreation, but it is not being effectively used in many cases. The nation's outdoor recreation demands will be met only through wise decisions on resource allocation, sound planning and effective development of facilities. These all require the support of thorough knowledge and extensive data--the product of research.

Recommendation 14-1: A systematic and continuing program of research is needed to provide the basis for wise decisions and sound management.

Increased pressure on the nation's resources will require their more efficient use. Recreation will be only one of the claimants for these resources. Policy makers and planners will have to choose among a number of competing uses. Research is needed to provide the factual background for making these choices among alternative uses for the same scarce resources. Unless both the tangible and the intangible values of outdoor recreation are supported by a bulwark of factual knowledge other, possibly less essential, uses may well preempt present and potential recreation resources. This will be particularly true in areas near large centers of population where recreation needs will be the greatest.

Outdoor recreation is a major land use involving a quarter of a billion acres of public land and perhaps as much private land. Over 90 percent of the population participates. It is a $20 billion a year industry with an annual government investment of an additional $1 billion. Yet, there is no systematic coordinated research program in outdoor recreation as there is in other fields which involve fewer people, acres and dollars.

Perhaps no other activity involving so many people and so basic a part of our life has received less attention from qualified investigators and scientists. This is not to belittle the efforts which have been made. The surveys and studies made for this commission, and the writings and publications of interested persons and agencies, indicate a live and growing interest in the field. These efforts represent a good beginning on a large task.

It is a tribute to the recreation leaders of the past that they were able to accomplish so much without the support of systematic research. Most of the recreation research that was done was directed toward solving specific, and often local, problems of management. Though limited in scope, these studies have improved conditions in many recreation areas, and they have yielded valuable information at the practical level of recreation management. Yet, as a major activity in contemporary social life, and as a broad field of public and private enterprise, outdoor recreation has had relatively little systematic study.

CATEGORIES OF RESEARCH

There are three related but distinct categories of recreation research that will require greater and continuing attention.

Data Collection, Inventory and Fact Finding

The need for current basic statistical information is fundamental. The Commission's inventory of nonurban designated public recreation areas, its National Recreation Survey, and its associated studies have provided much essential information. These constitute a framework upon which continuing research can build. Background data are needed to establish and maintain information on past and developing trends. Periodic inventories of the nation's recreation resources and surveys of participation in major outdoor recreation activities must be made to reflect changing conditions and to provide the facts needed for sound planning.

Applied Management Research

There is a need for problem-solving research to establish general principles and techniques essential for efficient management. …

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