Comprehensive Planning to Meet Future Development Needs
One of the key management decisions made by both Division Directors Courtland Nelson and Mary Tullius was to initiate the development of comprehensive resource management planning (RMP) efforts for each state park. The Division’s RMP process rapidly expanded during the Leavitt/Walker years. Each RMP was stakeholder driven, and incorporated the expertise and recommendations of park users, local business leaders, local governments, natural and cultural resource experts, and Division staff. In addition, through public meetings and through extensive visitor survey methods, these planning efforts incorporated the public’s input and recommendation. This provided the Division with a more representative picture of true visitor needs.
These efforts led to more efficient planning and programming for future capital facilities. Through the stakeholder-based planning teams and through the public outreach efforts which were integral to each planning process, the Division was able to better capture the needs of park visitors, and translate these needs into facilities that provided the public with a safer and more satisfying visitor experience.
Resource Management Plan (RMP) Process Developed and Utilized in Utah State Park System
The Division RMP process evolved over several years, beginning in the early 1990s. It was an effort to develop a more rational and pragmatic method to describe and comprehensively plan for state parks on a park-by-park basis. It described the park in more scientific terms to justify alternatives for improvement, expansion and management.
To expedite this process, DNR divisions agreed to provide timely professional and scientific data about selected state park properties; e.g., hydrology, geology, land ownership, geomorphology, biology, cultural resources, water rights, public safety, flood control, land use analysis (site and contiguous properties), endangered species, demographics, economic profiles (impacts/trends), GIS maps and data bases, and environmental concerns, among others. In addition, each park had a current park user survey imbedded in the data base; e.g., park use, recreation activities, preferences, etc. resulting from random, consistent park surveys managed by the Parks and SLC headquarters planning/development section.
Broad-based public participation was crucial to legitimize the process and findings. Teams and committees were formed to formulate ideas, prioritize strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats for the park (SWOT Analysis). Key “stakeholders” (those affected by the park and plan recommendations) included park management, law enforcement, water users, park users, concessionaires, local governmental officials/representatives, Legislators, tourism providers, special activity groups (boaters, hikers, trail users, etc.), cultural resource specialists, federal land managers among others.
Findings and recommendation were presented to the Board of the Utah Division of Parks and Recreation and DNR after 8 to 16 months of preparation. Continual dynamic site and user changes required RMP updates every three to five years to ensure protection of the resources, and relevancy to Board, department, and state policy. Plans were published and promulgated; i.e., hard copies, Internet and CDs
Development and Application of the State Park Evaluation System
Description: In the late 1980s and early 1990s the division responded to legislative requests for some type of system to evaluate that, which should or should not be a state park. The Division recognized the dynamics of ongoing major demographic changes in terms of leisure activities, park use, user preferences, increases in certain ethnic groups, major technological advances in recreation equipment and attire, major interest in health and fitness, and a keen interest in trail-related opportunity in state parks and urban areas. The public was demanding renovation and physical improvements in state parks, as well as additional high-quality state park areas; i.e., sanitation, campgrounds, public safety, trail heads, trails, water and wild land access.
January 1995 saw the completion of the Final Report: Utah Division of Parks and Recreation Telephone Survey, by the Institute of Outdoor Recreation and Tourism, USU, Anderson and Blahna. The report indicated strong support for the notion of preserving natural conditions in parks. Designations of new state parks were deemed to require strong local and political support, including designating parks with historical or cultural values, and parks in or near urban areas. These major findings were included in the proposed state park evaluation system.
The State Park evaluation system (MAUT—Multi-Attribute Utility Technology) was field tested and reviewed by the Division of Parks, Recreation at the University of Utah, BLM, State Lands, Wildlife Resources, Division Law Enforcement, and Park Operations. A staff team with varying expertise and experience spent 12 days field-reviewing and gathering data for the state park evaluation process. They reassembled to weight, prioritize and rank-order 43 state parks and properties. Parks in similar categories were ranked against each other; e.g. Scenic Parks such as Dead Horse Point, Heritage Parks such as This Is the Place, Boating Parks such as Jordanelle, and other recreational parks such as Antelope Island and Wasatch Mountain State Park. (See Utah State Parks & Recreation: Park Site Evaluation System, Multi-Attribute Utility Technology (MAUT)—A System and Process to Qualify and Differentiate Between Competing Existing or Potential State Park Resources for Utah State Park Status, March 2002, T. Green, 57 pp.).
A decision tree format weighted “Positive Environmental Qualities” (9); “Positive Social Qualities” (9); and “Positive Administrative and Management Qualities” (9) for each State Park; i.e., a total of 27 key variables. In August 2000, the Utah State Legislature Interim Committee on Natural Resources and the Division of Facilities Construction and Management had directed State Parks to perform a system-wide evaluation for each state park Weighted values or scores were summed to differentiate between the four categories or types of State Parks, differentiating or illustrating “less valued parks” against “higher valued” state parks. The evaluation system will be modified and recalibrated (ongoing) to reflect current park standards, needs and policies in future years, as conditions require. The process included several elements: (1) a site description or information sheet; (2) a decision tree sheet for three levels of weighted criterion; (3) a site measures workbook that defines attributes and their values for state parks; and (4) a scoring sheet for weighting coefficients and calculations, summed for a total score or park value—called a “utility score” to be used by management and decision-makers.