Living the Land-Grant Mission: Center for Social Research Teams With Arkansas Parks and Tourism

Patricia Herzog, top left, Casey Harris, Lauren Sabon and Anna Zajicek; below, Zach Foster, Heather Huckeba and Mindy Bradley.
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Patricia Herzog, top left, Casey Harris, Lauren Sabon and Anna Zajicek; below, Zach Foster, Heather Huckeba and Mindy Bradley.

In conjunction with the 2019-2024 State Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan, the University of Arkansas Center for Social Research in the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences and the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism teamed up to collect data from residents, visitors, providers and public commentators on the use and provision of outdoor recreational opportunities in the state.

The center's co-directors, Patricia Snell Herzog and Casey Harris, and three affiliated faculty, Mindy Bradly, Lauren Sabon and Anna Zajicek, have been collaborating with Arkansas Parks and Toursim to design and implement three surveys and a set of online town hall forums to provide a 360-degree view into individual-level use of and organizational-level provision of outdoor recreation in Arkansas.

The goal of this project is to learn what outdoor recreation opportunities state residents and visitors participate in, as well as their motivations for and barriers to participation. The study focuses on the importance of outdoor activities for attracting visitors. The provider survey examines which outdoor activities are available in their communities and the possible gaps in provision of activities.

The project is supported by a grant from the National Park Service. When completed, the project will provide critical information for the development of the 2019-2024 Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan.  Since 1965, the statewide plan has provided a framework to help guide the development of public outdoor recreation.

The National Park Service requires Arkansas to revise the statewide plan every five years in order to receive federal money from the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Zach Foster, project officer for the Outdoor Recreation Grants Program, emphasizes that, "collaboration with CSR has given ADPT the chance to collect information never before obtained in Arkansas. Results from this collaboration will make the state's only comprehensive recreation plan among the most accurate and informative [statewide plans] in the country."

Patricia Herzog, one of the Center for Social Research's co-directors, said, "We are enthusiastic about the fact that the ADPT has selected the Center for Social Research to conduct this important study."  

Hannah Steinman is a sociology major, and was one the undergraduate students participating in the project. She described her experience as very hands-on.

"It is one thing to talk about the research process in a classroom setting but getting hands-on experience really helps better understand the effort and thought associated with a research project," she said. "Reading and coding surveys for ADPT has helped me get a glimpse into the world of survey research."  

Anna Zajicek, chair of the Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice, agreed. 

"Engaging our undergraduate students in experiential learning and serving the needs of the state of Arkansas, especially those supporting the university's land-grant mission, have been essential components of the department's strategic plan," she said.

About the Center for Social Research: The Center for Social Research engages in interdisciplinary and collaborative social science research. The mission of the CSR is to address complex social issues by stimulating and supporting interdisciplinary collaborations; outreaching with national, state, and regional offices, agencies, and organizations; pursuing, supporting, and conducting sponsored research.

About the Department: The Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice offers three degree programs and two honor societies; affiliation with three research units: the Center for Social Research, the Community and Family Institute, and the Terrorism Research Center. 

Contacts

Anna Zajicek, professor and chair
Sociology and Criminal Justice
479-575-5149, azajicek@uark.edu

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