Advancing the Use of Geographic Information Systems for Park and Recreation Management


  • Zorica Nedovic-Budic
  • Gerrit Knapp
  • Brant Scheidecker


The purpose of this paper is to demonstrate the utility of geographic information systems (GIS) technology for park and recreation management through the development of a spatial component of an existing Illinois Recreation Facilities Inventory (IRFI) and through a sample of relevant applications. The inventory contains 234 fields of data on 6,967 outdoor recreational sites. Most of the information was obtained from a survey of recreation facility managers. For each site, the database also contains latitude and longitude coordinates, county (Federal Information Processing Standard) codes, and identifiers of political district. These geographic references, however, lack precision and information on areal extent. In 1996, a pilot project was initiated to augment the database with site boundaries, to integrate it with other digital maps available for the state, and to analyze the utility of the database for ecological, park, and recreation planning and management. Toward these ends a prototype database was developed for ll counties in the Rock River, Fox River, and Prairie Parklands are as. To develop the prototype database, project staff identified new recreational sites, collected attribute information, and acquired site boundaries. The resulting-pilot database has 2,523 records, with boundary information for 1,854 recreational sites. The database can be used to identifY, map, and inventory recreational areas and facilities, and as a source of information for local and regional park management. The geographic recreational facility database can be used for several purposes: to analyze the supply of recreational facilities; to examine the equity of access to recreational sites; to assess the suitability of sites for new park development; and to explore spatial connectivity relationships among recreational and ecologically significant sites. After testing the prototype database for use in recreation and park management, the project team found that, if proper attention is paid to the database formats and spatial referencing, building from existing databases is an effective way to develop a GIS-based inventory. The geographically enhanced inventory of recreational facilities was fully integrated with other databases developed by (Illinois Department of Natural Resources) and other state agencies. Its utility for ecosystem, park, and recreation planning and management could be further enhanced by adding information on property ownership, habitat, and environmental factors. The database needs continuous and systematic updating and maintenance, as well as better access to potential users and data providers. The prototype described in this paper provides a practical example for many park and recreation management agencies that are yet to adopt GIS technology.





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