NRPA's Online Community Forums Address Best Practices in Research

January 1, 2013, Department, by NRPA

Professionals from around the country weigh in on the importance of reseach to their parks and recreation agencies.“How important is research and data in your agency activities? What types of research
do you do and how do you use it?”

In the Tulsa District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, we have had several recreation research projects done by Oklahoma State University to solicit public input on recreation needs, and the types of facilities most important to them. This enables us to better direct our resources to the types of facilities and recreation opportunities most in demand.

John A. Marnell
Deputy Chief of Operations
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Tulsa, Oklahoma 

At Five Rivers MetroParks, research and the data from it are becoming part of the fabric of how we serve the public. We use numerous research tools to gauge needs and support for our services, evaluations at the end of each program to understand how we are meeting expectations, and marketing analytics to improve our marketing effectiveness, our audience reach, and our programs themselves, just to name a few. Also, as we explore sources for alternative revenue in these changing times, research and data are becoming increasingly important in helping us understand where our potential sources of revenue are and how we are performing against our revenue goals.

Amy Forsthoefel
Five Rivers MetroParks
Dayton, Ohio 

Research and data collection are extremely important to the natural resources staff at Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation, North Carolina. We manage our nature preserves based on scientific interpretation of multiple data sources. In other words, we “let the science lead us” when we make management decisions regarding property use, types of access, facility development, ecological restoration projects, and land-use/resource management. We collect many types of data ranging from flora and fauna species (both types and diversity), invasive species presence, and annual monitoring of protected species populations, to volunteer hours and gallons of pesticides used, to name just a few.

Chris Matthews
Mecklenburg County Park & Recreation
Charlotte, North Carolina

Research is critical to establishing benchmarks, understanding the expressed desires of the public within the broader perspectives (i.e., how significant is the squeaky wheel), and numerous other purposes. Our agency has recognized this importance and has had staff working on research projects for several decades and even has a section devoted to nothing other than handling research projects and acting as a resource to the rest of the organization.These kinds of projects guide planners in producing master plans, board members in making policy decisions, programmers in delivering effective programs, engineers in prioritizing funding, and numerous other benefits.
I wouldn’t say research is important; instead, I would say if you’re not doing research, how do you know for sure you’re doing what you ought to be?

Thomas H. Mercier
Research & Evaluation Coordinator
Three Rivers Park District
Plymouth, Minnesota 

Network Buzz appears monthly in Parks & Recreation. Questions are posed to members of NRPA Connect, the interactive, social media section of the association’s website. It’s a convenient and effective way for NRPA members to connect, collaborate, and communicate. For more information and to join one of the site’s many groups, visit:­NRPA-Connect-Online-Community.

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