County of Marin - News Releases - Parks Visitor Survey

For Immediate Release
May 12, 2016

Parks Receive High Marks in Visitor Survey

Researchers provide details about who uses parks and open spaces

San Rafael, CA – Marin County Parks received high marks in a new survey of visitors at County parks and open space preserves, including a 97 percent approval on overall experiences. But Parks administrators also learned about concerns of some visitors and barriers to more frequent use of the County facilities.

Two moms and two young kids smile as they walk on a trail.The majority of visitors to Marin County Parks and open space preserves live very close to the parks facilities they enjoy, according to researchers.
The study, conducted in November 2015 by San Francisco State University, was undertaken to help the County improve visitor services and broadly understand who uses the facilities and in what ways. Surveyors collected 1,168 interviews and 157 more people filled out an follow-up online survey via email. A summary of the survey is now on www.marincountyparks.org. Officials from San Francisco State University will present the study and findings to the Parks and Open Space Commission on May 19.

Most visitors to the four County parks and 34 preserves – about 75 percent – are Marin locals, the researchers found. More than half of the people interviewed resided within one mile of the park facility where they were surveyed. Consistent with Marin’s demographics, the vast majority of visitors were white, educated and affluent, especially those using open space preserves.

“One of our goals was to identify visitation barriers that exist for underrepresented groups because equal access for everybody is a major goal of ours,” said Kevin Wright, County Parks’ Government and External Affairs Coordinator. “We took the survey results and then followed up with focus groups in January and February to find out more details, and we learned a lot.”

One of the barriers identified by seniors and Latino residents was that public transportation to parks and open spaces can present challenges. A few seniors said they are not visiting parks as much as they used to because of health issues or feel unsafe on trails because of hearing difficulties. Some Latino visitors said they would like more signage in Spanish and County park regulations enforced more tightly by rangers. The results also showed that there is more visitor diversity at County parks than at open space preserves.

The most common suggestions by survey responders were about improvements to trails and pathways, better facility maintenance, and better enforcement of rules, especially pertaining to dogs. But 98 percent of visitors said they felt safe at the County facilities, 90 percent said they were satisfied or very satisfied with their interactions with other visitors, and 95 percent said they would revisit the same location where they were surveyed within the next year.

“We value constructive criticism and will put that feedback to good use,” Wright said. “Everyone at Marin County Parks is dedicated to making sure our visitors have a great time and want to come back. We were very pleased to hear that more than half our visitors come with family or friends.”

Marin County Parks plans to conduct surveys three more times over the next year to create a more robust database, then continue with a visitor survey once every five years thereafter. The information will be used to guide department planning, communications and visitor services.

Parks is partly funded by Measure A, a one-quarter cent retail transactions and use tax passed in November 2012 to care for Marin’s existing parks and open spaces, support regional community parks projects and programs, and further farmland preservation is creating positive change throughout Marin.

Contact:

Kevin Wright
Government and External Affairs Coordinator
Marin County Parks

Marin Civic Center
Suite 260
San Rafael, CA 94903
(415) 473-2129
Email: Kevin Wright
Marin County Parks website