If you build it, will they come?: Measuring the impacts of new recreation infrastructure.

Authors: Stephen O'Connell*, University of Central Arkansas
Topics: Recreational and Sport Geography, Urban and Regional Planning
Keywords: Recreation infrastructure, VGI, tourism development
Session Type: Virtual Poster
Day: 4/8/2021
Start / End Time: 9:35 AM / 10:50 AM
Room: Virtual 52
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Outdoor recreation has long been seen as an economic driver for amenity-rich communities across the country. Even with well-publicized reports about the decline in outdoor recreation participation on numerous fronts, local governments, recreation organizations, and everyday participants remain dedicated to building support for active lifestyle infrastructure. But success is dependent on the continued draw of regular cyclists, runners, and other outdoor enthusiasts. Investment in new or revitalized infrastructure–often specifically designed for those classes of users–is frequently seen as a way to jumpstart a reimagining of a community's recreation economy.
This project focuses on actual and potential investments in new recreation infrastructure in two communities in central Arkansas. In both cases, growth in regional recreation participation, particularly in road cycling and mountain biking, spurred local officials into investigating creative ways to capitalize on new revenue streams. Partnerships between local governments, state and federal agencies, and community organizations have furthered efforts to boost participation, especially from out-of-region visitors. Tourism feasibility studies undertaken in both communities show reasonable market growth in related activities and economic sectors, though there are some concerns about the viability of large-scale infrastructure additions without fundamental changes to baseline participation. The two communities are evaluated using data from participant surveys, volunteered geographic information (VGI) from fitness-tracking apps, and comparisons with other communities that have witnessed similar development.

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