The Adoption and Diffusion of Recreation Research Programs: A Case Study of the Visitor Services Project


  • Gary E. Machlis
  • M. Jeannie Harvey


Sustained recreation research programs, adoption and diffusion of innovations, visitor studies, social science.


This paper examines under what conditions sustained recreation research programs will succeed. The Visitor Services Project of the National Park Service is treated as a case study. The VSP began in 1982 with a single pilot study conducted by the Cooperative Park Studies Unit (CPSU) at the University ofldaho. By 1992, 52 studies had been conducted for 45 parks. First the VSP is described, including its history, scope, methods, results, and status. The development of the VSP was explicitly guided by Rogers's (1983) theory of adoption and diffusion of innovations. The theory is briefly outlined, and the VSP is evaluated in light of the insights that emerge from understanding the processes of adoption and diffusion. Finally, the implications of the theory and case study for other sustained recreation research programs and recreation practitioners are discussed. Sustaining a coherent research program can (1) encourage managers to use research results, (2) reduce. overall costs, (3) improve research methods, (4) allow for comparison between sites, and (5) provide timely visitor data for decision making. Hence, the case study may have utility for a variety of agencies and professionals who design, conduct, and Use the results of recreation research.





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