Good news for us!
A coworker of mine subscribes to "Forest History Today, the publication of the Forest History Society." This was in the Spring 2008 issue.
"The latest trends in nature-based outdoor recreation" by H. Ken Cordell.
After browsing the article, I immediately ran it over to the copy machine.
"A recent paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggested that Americans' participation in nature-based outdoor recreation had declined since the 1980s and early 1990s and implied that funding and support for natural resource conservation could suffer. Other data suggest that interest is increasing. The author provides historical context for the issue and suggests how knowing more about these trends might inform public policy."
Cordell references a recent national report from "Outdoor Recreation for 21st Century America." The report indicates that this decade is seeing a rise in nature-based recreation. He asks if it is still increasing? And his final conclusion is yes, that it is.
100,000 people were interviewed by Outdoor Recreation, and asked what type of activities they enjoyed participating in the outdoors. Over the years, activities may have changed, but people are going outside more, and spending more time outdoors as well.
The activities that are seeing an increase of participation were interesting. People are more into photographing and observing elements of nature. Bird watching has had a huge increase in participation.
Visiting public lands like state parks decreased modestly between 2000 and 2006, but increased in 2007. National parks remained stable in visitation, while visits to national wildlife refuges had an increase of 21 percent visitation.
Cordell concludes that there are many reasons for changes in activities, and what was popular in the 1960s is not necessarily popular now. As stated earlier, viewing and studying nature has increased, while some physically demanding activities have decreased, but not all. And activities such as driving off road have increased too. The increased study in nature is seen as a healthy concern for conservation interests in preserving natural resources. Of course this means that the field is ripe to turn interest into public support and activism to preserve natural areas.
And more people out observing nature will reap personal benefits that are better for them physically, emotionally, and mentally, like promoted in Richard Louv's book. ("Last Child in the Woods," just in case anyone needed a reminder.)
And Cordell even speculates that increases in gas prices will mean greater trips to local parks, not fewer.
Back in 2001 we all speculated that the tragedy on September 11th would make people stay at home and not visit the park I worked at. We were pleasantly surprised that over the next year, our visitation was at a record high.
Of course, as interpreters, we all know the impact on interpretation here. This is good news for us, because it means there will not be a decrease in interpretive opportunities, but more, with more people visiting our parks.
What do you think?