Identifying and Managing for Community Benefits in Minnesota State Parks
Keywords:Benefits-based management, community benefits, stakeholders, recreation resource management, nature-based tourism, collaborative planning
AbstractThis study used quantitative and qualitative methods to identify how two state parks in northern Minnesota benefit rural communities. It is based on the emerging recreation resource management framework, benefits-based management (BBM), which requires recreation managers and planners to understand and manage for the multitude of benefits recreation areas can potentially provide to society. BBM research has mainly focused on the benefits to on-site visitors and has not fully investigated the important benefits wildland recreation areas provide to community residents who might or might not directly use the area for recreation. Better identifYing and describing how surrounding communities benefit from state parks can strengthen partnerships between local residents and state park managers, which can result in park management plans that are responsive to the needs oflocal communities as well as park visitors.Mail-back questionnaires were used to identify stalceholders' perceived important community benefits, the degree parks contribute to those benefits, and management techniques that can better provide for important benefits. Results show stakeholders believed the parks contribute important economic and noneconomic benefits to surrounding communities. Stakeholders believed the parks helped protect and conserve natural qualities in the area and gave surrounding communities a unique sense of pride. They also believed the parks helped attract tourism dollars to surrounding communities; however, the parks' stakeholders differed on the degree park staff should focus management on attracting and managing for visitors.Park managers and planners should increase their interaction with community residents. The type of interaction stakeholders desired with park staff depended on the relationship the communities had with the parks. For example, stakeholders of one state park, who mostly lived 15- 30 miles from the park, spoke broadly of park management and focused their attention on park outreach programs. Stakeholders of the other state park, who lived close to (i.e., within two miles of) the park and had a strong relationship with their park, addressed specific issues they believed park staff should work with the public to solve. Three management implications were suggested: (l) target benefits to specific community needs, (2) market parks to balance community and visitor needs, and (3) create opportunities for communities to partner with parks in providing benefits.
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