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A Tale of Two Counties:  San Mateo & Marin 
Visitor Use and Non‐Use Study
Dr. Nina S. Roberts & Dr. Patrick Tierney 
March...
Focus Groups & Surveys
Methodology 
Results & Findings
Panel Discussion 
Audience Q &A
Focus Groups
understand 
preferences 
regarding park 
facilities, resources 
(etc) to best meet 
the needs of 
changing 
d...
Sample Focus Group Questions Explored:
• Frequency of park use/experience
• Level of comfort within parks
• Constraints/ba...
Focus Group Participants  (n=74)
Organization Location #
Alliance for 
Community 
Empowerment (ACE)
Pilipino Bayanihan Res...
1. Park experience is meaningful, significant, 
and diverse/varied
2. Participants report positive experiences and 
percep...
• Parks are an important place to relax, relieve 
stress and improve mental wellbeing
• Parks enhance physical health and ...
Visitor Survey Objectives
 Gather and analyze information on visitor 
characteristics, trip purpose, planning and activit...
• Intercept/exit survey 
(intercepted visitor 
upon leaving) – adults 
only
• SFSU provided 
training to surveyors 
(park ...
• Visitor counts: 
recorded all visitors 
exiting park during 
intercept survey 
periods
Incentive provided for 
completio...
Sample Results/Findings
Survey Period
Marin:  2 months 
SMC:  2.5 months
Intercept Responses
Marin = 965 | SMC = 2,414
San Mateo County Parks
• 25% were visiting the site for 
the first time
• 23% had visited the site over 
50 times in the l...
Marin Parks | Level of “Satisfaction”: Some small
differences between all parks, all preserves and all paths
97.2% reporte...
95% of San Mateo County intercept survey
respondents felt “safe or very safe”
Most important reasons respondent felt “unsafe or 
very unsafe” in Marin County Parks
Reason Percent Count
Dogs I encounte...
Impact of potential daily park pass increase on 
current visitation (SMC)
Marin County issues reported (follow-up survey)
Problem Total Respondents
I did not have any issues of concern 38.2%
Dogs ...
Comparison: Stafford Lake Park & All Marin Parks 
Measure Stafford Lake Park All Marin County   
Parks/Preserves/Paths
Per...
Comparing Visitor Demographics Across Counties
Metric San Mateo County Marin County
Percent female 48.5% 50.8%
Percent His...
County Comparison: “Primary Reason For Visit”
Primary Reason For Visit San Mateo Marin
Improve my physical fitness 76.9% 7...
County Comparison: Select Trail‐Based Activity Participation
Trail Based Activity San Mateo Marin
Walk/Hike 72.3% 63.8%
Wa...
Comparison of San Mateo & Marin Visitor Experience
Indicators (Samples) San Mateo Marin
Quality of experience at park (% “...
Benefits, Applications, and Uses for Other Parks & Protected Areas
• Help agency understand 
who visitors are, what they 
...
Nina S. Roberts, Ph.D.
Patrick Tierney, Ph.D.
415.338.2030
Thanks!
Empower and
Engage!
The time is NOW
 A Tale of Two Counties: San Mateo & Marin Visitor Use and Non‐Use Study
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A Tale of Two Counties: San Mateo & Marin Visitor Use and Non‐Use Study

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On 3/16/17, the Bay Area Open Space Council convened its Almost Spring Gathering around the results and applications of visitor use studies between San Mateo & Marin County Parks. More about it at #OSCvisitors on Twitter, and http://openspacecouncil.org/community-events/gatherings/

Published in: Environment
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A Tale of Two Counties: San Mateo & Marin Visitor Use and Non‐Use Study

  1. 1. A Tale of Two Counties:  San Mateo & Marin  Visitor Use and Non‐Use Study Dr. Nina S. Roberts & Dr. Patrick Tierney  March 16, 2017
  2. 2. Focus Groups & Surveys Methodology  Results & Findings Panel Discussion  Audience Q &A
  3. 3. Focus Groups understand  preferences  regarding park  facilities, resources  (etc) to best meet  the needs of  changing  demographics connect with  under‐represented  communities;  understand  barriers that have  prevented park  visitation
  4. 4. Sample Focus Group Questions Explored: • Frequency of park use/experience • Level of comfort within parks • Constraints/barriers to park access • Modes of obtaining park information • Fiscal and funding concerns • Environmental literacy • Program/facility suggestions • General suggestions for park managers
  5. 5. Focus Group Participants  (n=74) Organization Location # Alliance for  Community  Empowerment (ACE) Pilipino Bayanihan Resource  Center (Daly City) n = 12 One East Palo Alto East Palo Alto n = 11 Puente de la Costa Sur  (“My Puente”) Pescadero n = 14 Siena Youth Center of  the St. Francis Center North Fair Oaks  Redwood City n = 11 Table 1. Focus group details Organization Location # Whistlestop (Senior Center) San Rafael n = 14 Health Hub Al Boro Community Center at  Pickleweed Park, San Rafael n = 12 S M C M A R I N
  6. 6. 1. Park experience is meaningful, significant,  and diverse/varied 2. Participants report positive experiences and  perceptions of park staff 3. Some but minimal barriers & constraints  were identified  4. Gaps in information & communication were  reported San Mateo County Focus Group Results/Emerging Themes
  7. 7. • Parks are an important place to relax, relieve  stress and improve mental wellbeing • Parks enhance physical health and both  groups were motivated to visit parks as often  as possible • Bilingual information very important • Transportation options lacking Marin County  FG Results/Emerging Themes (cont’d)
  8. 8. Visitor Survey Objectives  Gather and analyze information on visitor  characteristics, trip purpose, planning and activities  across parks, preserves and paths/trails  Understand park visitor experience  Understand visitor preferences, facilities/resources,  willingness to pay fees  Count and estimate number of visitors to parks  SMC: surveyed at 20 sites | Marin: 17 sites
  9. 9. • Intercept/exit survey  (intercepted visitor  upon leaving) – adults  only • SFSU provided  training to surveyors  (park staff) • Data collected using  computer tablets loaded w/ survey Methodology – Intercept Survey • Systematic sample based on  popularity of park/trail and time  of day (every grp or every other) • Follow‐up survey (via link) sent  1‐week later
  10. 10. • Visitor counts:  recorded all visitors  exiting park during  intercept survey  periods Incentive provided for  completion of onsite  survey & follow‐up survey Intercept Survey & Counts (cont’d) • Survey periods – morning    (7:30‐10:30am)  afternoon (11:30‐2:30pm)  evening     (3:30‐6:30pm)
  11. 11. Sample Results/Findings Survey Period Marin:  2 months  SMC:  2.5 months Intercept Responses Marin = 965 | SMC = 2,414
  12. 12. San Mateo County Parks • 25% were visiting the site for  the first time • 23% had visited the site over  50 times in the last year
  13. 13. Marin Parks | Level of “Satisfaction”: Some small differences between all parks, all preserves and all paths 97.2% reported good or very good satisfaction! Satisfaction All Sites  (%) Parks  (%) Preserves  (%) Paths  (%) Very Poor 0.0% 0.0 0.0 0.0 Poor 0.2% 0.0 0.2 0.4 Neutral 2.6% 3.0 1.2 4.1 Good 19.9% 20.4 16.5 24.8 Very Good 77.3% 76.7 82.0 70.7
  14. 14. 95% of San Mateo County intercept survey respondents felt “safe or very safe”
  15. 15. Most important reasons respondent felt “unsafe or  very unsafe” in Marin County Parks Reason Percent Count Dogs I encountered 20.0% 3 Wild animals 20.0% 3 Too few people 20.0% 3 I did not feel welcome 13.3% 2 Bikes on trail 13.3% 2 Scary people I encountered 6.7% 1 I felt vulnerable to attack 6.7% 1 Too many people 6.7% 1 Unsafe trail conditions 6.7% 1 Bugs and insects 6.7% 1 Lack of presence of park ranger/staff 6.7% 1 Other  40.0% 6 Total 25
  16. 16. Impact of potential daily park pass increase on  current visitation (SMC)
  17. 17. Marin County issues reported (follow-up survey) Problem Total Respondents I did not have any issues of concern 38.2% Dogs off‐leash 16.6% Dog waste 15.9% Speeding bikes on trails 13.4% Lack of information about site’s  fragile plant and animal habitats 10.2% Trail conflicts between users 8.9% Horses and/or their deposits on trails 7.0% Limited parking near site 5.7% Trash/litter at park site 5.1% Lack of public transit to sites 4.5% Unclean restrooms 4.5% Too many visitors at site 2.6%
  18. 18. Comparison: Stafford Lake Park & All Marin Parks  Measure Stafford Lake Park All Marin County    Parks/Preserves/Paths Percent Marin County resident 63.4%  76.7% Percent live within one mile of park 13.3% 50.4% Average number prior visits  19.4 visits 77.7 visits Percent Hispanic or Latino 9.9% 9.1% Percent speak language other than English  4.2% 6.9% Average age 39.1 years 50.1 years Percent bachelor’s degree or higher  education 52.1% 72.4% Percent male 81.7% 49.2% Top three primary reasons for visit Bicycle, nature, exercise Hiking, nature, bicycle Percent dissatisfied with other visitors  2.9% 4.6% Percent felt unsafe at park/preserve/path 1.5% 2.3% Percent rated experience as very good 81.2% 77.3% Top three suggestions (other than “none”) Bikes, new facilities,  access Trail, enforce, maintain
  19. 19. Comparing Visitor Demographics Across Counties Metric San Mateo County Marin County Percent female 48.5% 50.8% Percent Hispanic or Latino 11.7% 9.1% Percent White 75.4% 90.2% Percent Asian 18.3% 5.6% Percent Black/African American 1.4% 2.1% Percent speak language other than English at home 13.9% 6.9% Median age 50 years 49 years Live within 1 mile of park 37.2% 50.4% Median household income $100k - 124,000 $100k - 124,000 Percent bachelor’s degree or higher education 75.4% 72.4%
  20. 20. County Comparison: “Primary Reason For Visit” Primary Reason For Visit San Mateo Marin Improve my physical fitness 76.9% 75.2% To connect with nature 75.4% 64.3% Experience scenic views 70.8% 58.0% Improve my mental well being 66.3% 61.8% Convenient to where I live 58.7% 59.9% Be with family/friends 47.0% 41.4% Experience natural sounds and quiet 45.1% 31.9% Enjoy a safe environment 39.4% 35.7% Experience solitude 34.1% 32.2% Enjoy an affordable outing 29.6% 28.7% For recreation and play 25.0% 37.6% Learn about nature 18.6% 8.9% Learn about history & culture 5.7% 3.2%
  21. 21. County Comparison: Select Trail‐Based Activity Participation Trail Based Activity San Mateo Marin Walk/Hike 72.3% 63.8% Walk dog or pet 7.8% 20.2% Running or jogging 17.0% 8.6%  Bike on paved trails 10.5% 9.1% Bike on unpaved trails 4.2% 10.7% Ride horses 0.4% 0.4%
  22. 22. Comparison of San Mateo & Marin Visitor Experience Indicators (Samples) San Mateo Marin Quality of experience at park (% “very good”) 79.4% 77.3% Satisfaction with other visitors (% “very  dissatisfied”) 2.2% 1.0% How personally safe respondent felt  (% “very unsafe”) 1.3% 1.3% Average group size 3.2 persons 1.9 persons Average number of visits in last year 52.7 visits 74.5 visits Primary reasons for visit Hike, jog, bike, walk dog Hike, nature, bike, walk dog Would like amenity or facility improvements 45.1% 41.4% Moderate/serious problems Bikes, limited  parking, dogs Dogs off‐leash,  bikes, lack info
  23. 23. Benefits, Applications, and Uses for Other Parks & Protected Areas • Help agency understand  who visitors are, what they  do, what they want, for  different parks and overall • Comparison with other  county/regional parks to  show how an agency is  unique or consistent • Provide perspective of  “average park user” versus  typical public meeting  attendees • Learn about barriers & ways  to break down • Test willingness to pay fees,  and support for changes in  programs, facilities,  amenities for park planning • Use data to seek funding, PR  purposes, work with user  groups, park advocacy and  beyond! • Focus groups and survey ‐ very applicable at other sites • Study methodology and  reporting can be customized
  24. 24. Nina S. Roberts, Ph.D. Patrick Tierney, Ph.D. 415.338.2030 Thanks! Empower and Engage! The time is NOW

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