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Eppley Completes Projects for Preservation Alliance of West Virginia, Cuyahoga Valley and American Battle Monuments Commission

The past year has been a period of growth for the Eppley Institute’s research program through new funding and sponsors. Ranging from survey research to program evaluation, the research focus for Eppley is emerging as an area of strength.  

In September of 2021, Eppley finalized a program evaluation for the Preservation Alliance of West Virginia (PAWV). From initial logic model development, background research, and design, to implementation, analysis, and final reporting, the project team (Gina Depper, Sarah Murray, Kristina Anderson), was thrilled to aide PAWV in understanding, documenting, and evaluating their programmatic impact across the state of West Virginia. A unique aspect of this project was data collection, which featured semi-structured interviews with staff representing 20+ nonprofit organizations who shared feedback and data regarding the work of AmeriCorps volunteers hosted by their sites. The results …

Another project of note was our partnership with the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC), a federal agency that manages international battle monuments and cemeteries honoring American servicemembers. Seeking to best understand the experiences of a broad range of visitors to its sites, ABMC contracted with the Eppley Institute to design, implement, and report on visitor use. Unique to this project, the data collection strategy is multi-modal, including email, on-site QR posters and flyers, and in-person surveys. Eppley launched data collection at seven ABMC sites across three countries this past summer—Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and France. Additional travel to Nettuno, Italy and Manila, Philippines is scheduled for fall 2022. The Eppley Institute is excited to see the results of this project come to fruition. Our work with ABMC is anticipated to inform the agency’s current and future visitor and interpretive services.

Eppley also started and neared completion of an ethnographic study of African American experiences in the outdoors at Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Ohio. Studying experiences in the general Cleveland area and those offered by the Phillis Wheatley Association, as part of Camp Mueller, one of the first African American outdoor focused camps in the nation and in Ohio, the study found important connections to the African American natural and built environments, and environmental experiences in Cleveland and Ohio could be enhanced in an improved partnership between the NPS focusing on the past history of Camp Mueller. Read the full report at IU Scholar Works.

Competency research has been a part of Eppley Director Steve Wolter’s interests since his committee contributions to creating the first ever recreational sports certification program for the National Intramural-Recreational Sports Association in 1980. Since then, Wolter has been able to lead competency research in facility management, interpretation, exhibit preservation, administrative support of parks, partnerships, onboarding foundations for parks staff, and overall management of parks, mostly while at Eppley. This past 3 years, Eppley was fortunate to again complete research projects in competencies around the nation and world. More about this emerging research expertise area for Eppley can be found in another article in this report.

Finally, as a part of the Eppley Institute’s park planning program, Eppley’s research team has contributed to the community engagement stage of the planning process, including the analysis of stakeholder interviews and survey data, as part of two system master planning efforts for Monroe County, Indiana, and Marshall Township, Indiana. Community engagement work is customized to the unique needs of each master planning process. In one current project with the City of Huntingburg, Indiana, all community engagement documents are being offered in both English and Spanish. Customization like this facilitates inclusion within each partner’s community engagement strategy.