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Understanding User Experiences

Collecting Meaningful Feedback from Visitors to Parks, Trails and Facilities 

Often, as park agencies, we survey recreation participants and the public in general but understanding the experience of the visitor to a park, cyclists on a trail, or social activities in a recreation center is missed.  Public land management agencies are generally more focused on the ‘visitor experience’ and collect data through intercept surveys.   This input, through a survey or other data collection method, is crucially important to visitor use and program management.  The feedback is used in many contexts, including planning but also in improving operations and experiences.   

Researchers often collaborate with agencies in collecting crucial insights from on-site visitors and users. Our partners have used this input to better manage cultural and historic resources, multiuse trails, park spaces, and several other settings. Two common approaches used are in-person intercept and remote data collection: 

In-person data collection  

  • Uses staff, volunteers, or consultants to interview or administer surveys to visitors who are entering, at, or exiting a site  
  • Can be resource intensive but yield high response rates
  • Often results in a more representative sample 
  • Can be administered orally (i.e., survey questions being posed by a member of the research team) or electronically (such as providing the visitor an iPad to respond to questions) 

Remote data collection (using (QR-codes) 

  • Requires minimal or no on-site staffing
  • Characterized by relatively low cost and easy implementation 
  • Responses rates can vary but can be substantial at high traffic sites 
  • May be influenced by non-response bias and other factors; however, the Eppley team has noticed limited differences between data collected via QR code vs. in-person in some cases 

Thoughtful collection, analysis, and application of user input can illuminate usage patterns, needs, preferences, and concerns, and in turn, better serve communities and shareholders. The Eppley Institute has provided an information sheet to learn more about how the collection of public input can further agency program goals and quality of service. 

Learn more about in-person and remote public feedback approaches. Eppley Institute staff are happy to provide more advice and information that AAPRA members may need. 

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