Five-year Texas state parks study reveals user insights

Typical visitor just wants to relax and enjoy the scenery

AUSTIN—The typical visit to a Texas state park is a middle-aged white non-Hispanic from out of town traveling with a spouse or other family member, but no children, to camp, hike, relax or just enjoy the scenery.

Those are just some of the results from a comprehensive statewide visitor survey conducted between 2002 and 2007 at 70 state parks, and whose results were recently compiled and analyzed by Sam Houston University.

The visitor survey of 27,000 customers showed, too, that the vast majority of state park visitors are satisfied with their park experience and that Texas state parks are a major tourism draw to the local area.

Two-thirds of the park visitors surveyed report coming to the area for the primary purpose of visiting the park and one-third also said they visit other attractions in the local area and stay overnight in local area accommodations other than the park.

Garner State Park Garner State Park These findings are consistent with earlier Texas A&M University research that proved state parks draw tourist dollars from outside their host counties.

The 2005 university report focused on 80 state parks studied in the project. Statewide, these 80 parks generated an estimated total of $793 million in retail sales, had a $456 million impact on residents’ income and created roughly 11,928 jobs.

The visitor survey responses were broken down by overnight and day visitors, as well as by first time and repeat visitors.

Respondents were asked such questions as what was their primary reason for visiting a state park, what activities they participated in and what park improvements they would most like to see.

Predictably, overnight visitors came primarily to camp out (22%), relax/get away/vacation (14%) and sightsee (8%). Fifteen percent of the day visitors came to sightsee and enjoy the scenery and 13 percent to hike the park trails.

The vast majority (94%) were satisfied with their visit to a state park, with 65% saying they were “very satisfied” and 29% “satisfied.”

Satisfaction was shown to have significant implications for future visitation as satisfied visitors were more likely to return to the park than those less satisfied or dissatisfied.

Survey results reveal that 92% of “very satisfied” visitors were likely to return to visit the park compared to 80% of satisfied visitors and only 43% of “somewhat satisfied” or “dissatisfied” visitors.

Visitors were asked about their participation in recreation activities and what amenities they used while visiting the park.

Hiking was the top activity participated in by both day an overnight visitors, and similarly, hiking trails were shown to be the top amenity used by visitors.

Interpretive programs ranked high with both overnight (11%) and day users (12%) as an improvement they would most like to see at state parks.

Garnering a high response among overnight users was the desire to see more campsite improvements, while 11 percent of the day users cited the need for more trails, signage and maps.

Both overnight and day users indicated they wanted to see more at state parks. Both groups also indicated they wanted to see more improvements in restrooms.

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2010-02-25 digital edition

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