The Social Benefits of a City Whitewater Park


  • Karl Schmidt Virginia Commonwealth University
  • Bruce Martin Ohio University
  • Geoffrey Buckley Ohio University
  • Andrew Szolosi Ohio University



Whitewater parks, social benefits, social capital, community impacts


The purpose of this study was to examine the social benefits whitewater paddlers derive from a city whitewater park. Many communities are investing great sums of time and money in the development of whitewater parks, with the expectation that these parks will generate social benefits for park users and their surrounding communities (Moorman et al., 2007; Podolak, 2012). This study sought to determine the nature and scope of these benefits, framing social benefits in terms of Putnam’s (2000) notion of social capital. The researchers used a qualitative case study research design and means-end analysis to conduct the study. The Salida Whitewater Park in Salida, Colorado served as the site for this study, and interviews were conducted with 25 whitewater paddlers at this location. The findings reveal key themes identified in the data related to the notion of social capital, as well as the positive influence that whitewater parks can have in promoting the development and maintenance of social capital among park users and their surrounding communities.

Author Biographies

Bruce Martin, Ohio University

Bruce Martin is a professor in the Department of Recreation & Sport Pedagogy at Ohio University. His teaching and research interests are in the areas of outdoor leadership, adventure programming, experiential education and ecotourism.

Geoffrey Buckley, Ohio University

Through my teaching and research I seek to uncover the threads that knit present-day environmental problems to past decisions, practices, and processes. One can argue that if we are to make wise decisions with regard to the environmental problems we face today, we must understand the complex web of human and physical processes that, over time, have contributed to their existence.

I am particularly interested in urban sustainability; management of public lands, especially state forests and urban green spaces; environmental justice; and the evolution of mining landscapes. My most recent efforts build on my association with the Long-Term Ecological Research - Baltimore Ecosystem Study (LTER-BES). More specifically, my colleagues and I have been using an environmental justice frame to study the distribution of urban parks and street trees across the urban landscape.


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