Open Space >> Research Update
Recreation increases self-esteem and can have lasting
effects on positive behavior toward self, the family and the community. The
role of parks and recreation providers is important and at the core is
recreation programming—activities, classes, sports, and events designed to
serve the needs of the community. Because customers weigh cost and travel time,
the long-term benefits become a consideration when enrolling in a program. By
developing social, cultural, and physical activities, customers can enjoy a
greater degree of life satisfaction in their leisure time.
The evaluation process in parks and recreation programming
is both formative and summative. It is about judging the value, efficiency or
effectiveness of the program by recreation professionals as seen through the
eyes of their customers.
In practice, successful municipal recreation agencies
constantly evaluate not only customer needs and satisfaction but also current
trends, cultural and age variables, and educational interests. In large
municipal areas, customers have more than one city parks and recreation program
to choose from. To determine what other considerations customers use to make
their purchasing choices, a study was conducted.
During the summer of 2011, the Recreation Choice (RC) study
was developed to measure customer preference of education and recreation
programs. Rational choice theory was used to identify individual and group
behaviors related to a series of choices (Hechter and Kanazawa 1997; Dunleavy
1991). The fundamental belief is that all actions taken are “rational” and that
individuals will achieve their desires related to their greatest satisfaction.
The RC study was conducted in the San Ramon Parks and
Community Services Department in the East Bay of California, a middle-class
community of 60,000 with a year-round, full-service program. The survey included questions about
leisure choices and education. Education is the development of learning
as a means to reach a higher level.
females than males responded to the survey (69 percent), and findings suggest
that education gained is a contributing factor for the amount of money
participants are willing to spend on a recreation program regardless of age,
sex, and education level (69 percent).
with higher degrees (82 percent) placed more importance on education than those
with less education. Among the higher education, 37 percent with two kids under
18 favored education gained. Participants were also willing to drive farther to
ensure the education needs of their children were met, which spoke to the value
of education as a component of leisure.
did not indicate the amount they were willing to spend on a class (28 percent)
and summer day camp (43 percent). But if they were willing to pay for a class,
the first choice is less than $50 for both men (21 percent) and women (26
percent). For camp, women’s first choice is $101-150 (13 percent) whereas for
men it is a tie between less than $50 (11 percent) and $76-100 (11 percent).
Those in the 35-46-age brackets were more willing to spend $75-100 (54 percent)
and 65-69 (40 percent) would spend less than $50.
The findings from the RC study show that educational gains
are linked to participation in recreation programs. Because customers have
choices of where to purchase recreation programs, departments could specialize
and cooperate to provide a greater variety and increase their potential client
base. In this time when most recreation programs need to be revenue positive or
neutral, collaborating with neighboring communities could result in better
programs and stronger cash flow for each department. Survey findings also
provide valuable information to be used by recreation agencies when formulating
their leisure programs. Ultimately, the RC study identified several choices
that enhance participation in a municipal parks and recreation program.