RENO, Nev. — When visitors enjoy Nevada’s 27 state parks this summer, administrators want to hear from them – what they enjoyed about the park they visited, and what could be improved. They also want to know the economic impact the parks are having on Nevada’s communities. The money people spend as a result of recreating in the state’s parks often gets overlooked when looking at the state’s economy. To help gather input from visitors and measure the economic impact of the parks, Nevada State Parks has contracted with University of Nevada, Reno Extension’s Community and Economic Development Program.
The Extension program has developed and piloted a survey that will gather information from visitors to prioritize park needs and future parks projects, as well as measure the parks’ economic impact on the state. The full launch of the surveys will begin in all 27 state parks in July, and will continue for 18 months.
Surveying at any one site will take place quarterly and will be conducted consistently throughout each season. At the site, Nevada State Parks staff will ask visitors if they would be willing to participate in the survey, and will get their name and email, and give them a post card telling them how to access the survey. An automated system will also email the individuals to remind them to complete the survey. Visitors who complete the survey will be entered into a quarterly drawing to win an all-access annual parks pass, which is valued at $250.
Extension worked with Nevada State Parks to identify the type of information that would be beneficial to collect to help make informed decisions in the future, created a survey tool using this input, and then trained State Parks staff to administer the surveys. For the duration of the surveying period, Extension’s Community and Economic Development team will provide an ongoing analysis of the data collected. At the conclusion of the survey period, Extension will provide a complete analysis and report.
“Our park staff sees the same facilities day after day, so they don’t always necessarily recognize when something isn’t working as it should,” Bob Mergell, Nevada State Parks administrator, said. “These surveys are about gathering information on how the public uses our sites, and what they both want and don’t want.”
Nevada State Parks engaged Extension after hearing about a similar project Extension recently completed for the Nevada Department of Wildlife, regarding measuring the economic impact of hunters on local communities.
“It got me thinking about our needs for better information,” Mergell said. “When we’re trying to justify our budget or our certain needs, the more accurate data that you can provide showing how many people you impact and what the economic impact is near our parks, the better.”
Nevada State Parks had originally considered hiring a software company to help with data needs, but Mergell said they quickly realized staff would have to manage most of the work, they may not get all the information they needed, and they didn’t have the expertise in developing the types of questions to ask.
“We really have only one person that manages our visitor survey information as it comes in,” Mergell said. “We realized that this might be a great partnership to have, since Extension would also be the ones to collect and analyze the data for us.”
Mergell said the information from the project with Extension will provide guidance on what the public values and will help Nevada State Parks prioritize needs based on the available budget. The data will be used to help guide short- and long-term planning efforts.
“This project supports Extension’s Nevada Economic Assessment Program and the primary goal to collect, manage and analyze data used to support local decision-making processes,” said Extension Community Development Specialist Buddy Borden, whose team is conducting the project. “Under this project, Extension is working statewide in collaboration with Nevada State Parks to collect relevant visitor data and assist with future management decisions.”
Borden says Extension’s Community and Economic Development Program is continually looking for new ways to help serve Nevada’s communities. Those wanting more information can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or Extension Economist Joe Lednicky at email@example.com.