Instead

30– What are they up to & Why are they up to it, with Dr. Jordan Smith

August 10, 2020 Episode 30
Instead
30– What are they up to & Why are they up to it, with Dr. Jordan Smith
Chapters
1:17
The IROT
9:41
Insights on Instagram
17:36
The Californians are coming!
26:03
Finding the sweet spot
34:22
Optimism and outdoor recreation
Instead
30– What are they up to & Why are they up to it, with Dr. Jordan Smith
Aug 10, 2020 Episode 30

When you need help managing the recreation experiences in your community, Jordan Smith is the researcher you need. Using Instagram posts, big data, and other tools, he figures out what all those recreationists are up to.

Dr. Smith is a featured speaker for a virtual USU Research Landscapes event: “National Parks, Forgotten Resources, and Growing Wisely.” You can find more about the event at rl.usu.edu, including the recording, other podcast episodes from featured speakers, and links to useful resources.

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

When you need help managing the recreation experiences in your community, Jordan Smith is the researcher you need. Using Instagram posts, big data, and other tools, he figures out what all those recreationists are up to.

Dr. Smith is a featured speaker for a virtual USU Research Landscapes event: “National Parks, Forgotten Resources, and Growing Wisely.” You can find more about the event at rl.usu.edu, including the recording, other podcast episodes from featured speakers, and links to useful resources.

Wyatt: [00:00:00] Hello, and welcome to the instead podcast, a show about research happening here in the mountains of Utah. In last week's episode, we heard from Dr. Jessica Schad she told us about a community that was quickly becoming a summer destination hotspot. There were a lot of feelings in Rivertown. If you want to hear about them, you should go back and listen to episode 29.

But this is episode 30 with Dr. Jordan Smith and he picks up where Jessica left off, because if there's a fresh crop of people coming to your neck of the woods to recreate, you got to know where they're coming from, what they're doing and why they're doing it so that you can effectively manage for those outdoor recreation experiences.

If you haven't yet, please subscribe to the instead podcast and take a look at our past episodes. My name is Wyatt Tropper and you could be perpetually clicking that button on your TV remote. As he tried to find a new series to watch. By it, you are listening to this instead. Dr. Jordan Smith is the director of Utah state university's Institute for outdoor recreation and tourism.

And if you're wondering what the goal of that Institute is, uh, that's where we're going to start. 

Jordan Smith: [00:01:17] The Institute is, is meant to give communities and land managers. Throughout the state, a better understanding of the trade-offs that are associated with providing outdoor recreation opportunities on public lands.

Wyatt: [00:01:31] What kind of trade-offs are you balancing or did those communities have to balance 

Jordan Smith: [00:01:37] most of the communities that have become well-known as outdoor recreation and tourism destinations, um, in Utah, um, are relatively small. They tend to be more rural communities. Um, and they've had long histories of being extractive communities or having industries having economies that were independent upon resource extraction.

And over the past, 40 or 50 years, uh, these communities have started changes and away from extraction and into amenity dependence, really building their industries around outdoor recreation, around tourism, around the dollars that, that outdoor recreation and tourists spend in their communities. And so a lot of these communities, but no, this is great.

It's a lot better on the environment for the local local residents. It doesn't lead to all these. Uh, negative consequences of having either clearcut forests or having, um, mining deposits issues with water quality that often come from resource extraction, but there's also a host of. Problems a host of negatives that come with building an economy that's around, it's focused on outdoor recreation and tourism.

Uh, some of those negative consequences include having large portions of your, your workforce who are employed in relatively low wage industries are service sector employees. So they work at restaurants. Uh, they work in retail shops. They're not making a lot of money. And so consequently, you have individuals, you have this kind of bifurcation of who's living in who's recreating in, in outdoor recreation, active recreation, dependent communities.

You have a large portion of the community who can afford to live there, who can afford to buy houses, um, in these locations, uh, real estate values for most of these locations that is, is very high because they are, they have a lot of these natural amenities that people really want to live. Right next to, um, but unfortunately you have also these large portions of the local economy that are taken up by employees and labor and service sector jobs.

And those individuals have a very difficult time living in those communities. So you have this problem of many of these outdoor recreation towards independent communities have, have really outstanding amenities, but. Often a large portion of the locals can't afford to live there. So that's the trade offs that we're often talking about.

It's starting to think about outdoor recreation and tourism development, not as, as a panacea for the development of, of rural communities throughout Utah. It's starting to identify the ways that. Uh, outdoor recreation and tourism communities can start to think about smarter ways to diversify their economies, where outdoor recreation and tourism might be a big component of that, but it's not going to be the entire focus of the, the local economy.

Wyatt: [00:04:32] Yeah. Um, when you look back at the work you've done related to this in the past years, is there a story of one town that sticks out to you as them going, you know, and seeing them progress from like one state to another that you think is interesting community 

Jordan Smith: [00:04:48] that really stands out is park city. I grew up outside of salt Lake city.

So, and hearing about the stories that the way that the Wasatch back has developed it's changed dramatically just in my lifetime. And. And in the, in the last 40 or 50 years, um, it's, it's changed even more. So with historic mining town and start to, it started to get developed as a ski resort town. Once the ski resorts started to, they got their leases with the forest service and, and got access.

Uh, to, to build the resource there. Uh, the development trajectory of that community really changed forever and they've done a very good job at. Defining themselves as a ski resort town, along the way, I did had to deal with all those challenges that often come with gateway community development with providing these, uh, world-class outdoor recreation opportunities and trying to find out ways that they can both have a sustainable longterm populace have residents that live there and they can afford to live there year round while also.

Providing for, uh, tourists and then hosting the world from, you know, But the international visitors that are coming in every year in record numbers park city provides that a nice, full example of, of a community that has gone completely from resource extraction to amenity dependence, to being primarily driven by outdoor recreation and tourism, and having to fight those challenges of, of dealing with the able to attract and employ.

A workforce that can live and work. I mean the same community. 

Wyatt: [00:06:29] What would your advice be to people who live in communities who are worried about, um, being priced out. Of where they 

Jordan Smith: [00:06:38] live? Well, it really, it really comes down to, to building out a local economy and focusing on developing industries in that local economy that aren't solely focused on outdoor recreation and tourism.

One of the industries that we often see that rises. In conjunction with, after recreation and tourism is professional and technical services. So these are the jobs that are in that come from from more typically larger corporations and then their jobs that can be done remotely. So these are the professionals that individuals who can provide professional services.

Technical services, scientific services, and they could often work remotely. Uh, so this is kind of more, what you often hear described as like the knowledge economy and the people can work for maybe Adobe down in point in the mountain, but they can live in park city. They can live in Moab, they can live.

Um, in Tropic outside of rice. Uh, so a lot of these types of industries, nice professional and technical services industries often rise in conjunction, uh, with gateway communities. And so trying to think about the ways that a local economy local. Useful leaders can diversify their workforce and their resort that employees 500 people, a thousand people in every winter running ski lists or, you know, running, uh, guiding services or operating and working in retail shops.

But they're actually attracting a diverse employment base. Um, and then plant employees that who can actually live there and support, um, that. The majority are the middle-class of that local economy. 

Wyatt: [00:08:28] So tell me like what you do when it comes to supporting recreation and why is management of it? What 

Jordan Smith: [00:08:35] we basically do is try to provide those organizations and those agencies or those communities in those agencies with sound scientific evidence about how many people are coming to those locations, how visitation has changed over time, the way that it's changing across space, the way the different trails are getting used, um, relative to others.

And the way that algebra recreation use generally is occurring within that region. So a lot of the work that we do at the Institute is what we call visitor use monitoring. And that's kind of the bread and butter of what an outdoor recreation manager does. It's quantifying how many people are coming to an area where they're coming from, how much they're spending, what the local economic impact is of their outdoor recreation visits, what types of activities that are participating in while they're there.

What types of experiences they're seeking out so that those managers and those community leaders can start to tailor, uh, the services that they provide, the infrastructure that they build to accommodate those visitors who are coming in. Yeah. 

Wyatt: [00:09:42] Yeah. What kind of data sources are you using for this? I mean, I've talked recently to Zach Miller, um, about like the trail counters and that kind of stuff.

So I'd want to hear about. The other tools that you have. Yeah. 

Jordan Smith: [00:09:55] So we have a whole bunch of tools in our toolkit that we use to monitor and manage visitor use on protected parks and protected lands throughout the state. Most of these are what we call it. A remote more traditional visitor use monitoring tools where it's sending.

Crews out to trail heads and surveying people as they come off a trail and asking them all those questions about where they're coming from and how much they're spending. We have a lot of those more passive ways to count visitors. And that's probably what you've talked with Zach a lot about as far as counting the number of.

People on a trail over an entire day or taking photos while they're actually out there and monitoring their behavior that way. Um, one of the other ways that we do it is to monitoring social media data. And so that's the, the photo sharing that everybody does through, um, apps that they have downloaded on their smartphones.

And. When individuals share that information on their smartphones, they're also sharing a lot more information than they often think with those app developers. They're sharing the geographic coordinates of where they are when they take that picture of where they are when they send that tweet. And what we're able to do is take that information, take all that geotagged information about where people are when they send those tweets.

When they make a post, when they share a photo. And use that to actually, we accurately represent where people are going across landscape. So until now we've until we'd had that access to that data and those methods, we didn't really have a real reliable way to know where people were going in more remote locations.

It was often, you know, we knew people were using a specific forest or they were accessing a park. It's very easy to count people as they come through a gate. But it's much more difficult to know where they're actually going once they get inside of a park. And so what we're doing now is, is quantifying that by tracking a smartphone data throughout, throughout the park and using social media data as well to, to quantify exactly where it is that people are going, whether they're in a park or when they're in a protected area.

Wyatt: [00:12:07] So when people post a picture, is that the only time you see their photos or do you get, or is there another area where you get smartphone data? 

Jordan Smith: [00:12:16] Most of the data that we use is, is social media data, because it is for a lot of platforms it's free and publicly available. Um, some of our projects also use.

Mobile location data. So that the data that actually comes when we purchase from, from cell phone companies and that's, that gives us a broader pool of people, a broader sample to draw from outside of the people who are using a specific social media platform. It allows us data of everybody who has a, who has a smartphone.

We use both methods and, uh, they're basically giving us the same information about where people are going across the landscape. Yeah, when 

Wyatt: [00:12:55] you're pulling or when you're analyzing social media posts, are you just looking at the metadata that's on the phone? Are you also like taking in like the caption and what's happening in the picture into it?

Jordan Smith: [00:13:07] We are, we are using both. Um, so we use each piece of information or each piece of data to answer different types of research questions. We'll use the information on the specific location of where a picture was taken just to map out. Where people are going. So we can identify where, what portions of trails are heavily used.

What portions of parks are heavily used relative to others, but we'll also use the content of that photo to really try to understand what types of outdoor recreation experiences and preferences people actually have. So what are they actually taking? Pictures of that usually gives us a really good indication of the things.

That they're liking why they're, why they're actually going to those parks. And so with an understanding of what people are taking a picture of, we'll have a better understanding of, of what types of experiences they're seeking out. If they're taking pictures of more natural features or, you know, that it's the natural amenities of those regions, that's actually drawing people.

But if they're taking pictures of cultural and archeological resources, We know that it's, you know, those experiences and those types of opportunities that they're seeking out when they go to a location, if they're taking pictures of their friends and families, we know it's the, it's the social experience as provided by those, um, by those destinations.

Wyatt: [00:14:24] Are you going back in people's feeds to like, try and figure out where they're from so you can like, understand like, Oh, we have this much out of state tourism and this much in-state and people from Michigan really like coming to this random spot for some reason. Do you do any of that? 

Jordan Smith: [00:14:38] We, we do, but it's not, it's not specific.

It's specifically focused on any one individual. We only use it really to identify where individuals home locations are. Based upon an individual's hosting history. We have a strong understanding of whether whether their home locations are because people tend to post. Most often or wrap it around their homes.

And so that gives us a good understanding of our individuals coming to a particular national park. Are they international visitors or are they domestic visitors? And if they're domestic visitors, are they coming regionally? Uh, from era aided around Utah, or are they coming primarily from, uh, just locally?

Are they just local visitors? Uh, so it gives us a good understanding of trying to pinpoint where people are actually coming from. And that's what we use that data 

Wyatt: [00:15:29] for. So, I mean, I love that this data exists and like I'm happy that it can help make wise decisions and communities grow wisely, but it is a little freaky and it, how do you, um, in your head  sharing information.

Jordan Smith: [00:15:46] Yeah. So, so all of our research has really focused on trying to understand general visitation patterns to an entire park or protected area or a forest. It's not meant to be, uh, a tool that we can glean glean insights into the preferences or. Perceptions of any one individual. And so all of our research has to go through the institutional review board at the university where we, where we make sure that we provide assurances, that all of the data that we collect is first it's public.

So, so we collect information that's already made publicly available by those social media sites that you're sharing your, your data to. Um, and we always make sure that we anonymize any information. We're not digging into individual's personal profiles and stuff to find out who's doing what so we can sell them more of a specific thing, which is what a lot of companies are already doing to do social marketing, to specific types of individuals.

So much, much of our research. All of our researches is really focused on generating these generalizable findings that are not specific to any one type of individual or one individual specifically. 

Wyatt: [00:16:58] Um, how do you have your, do you share photos on social media or how do you have your privacy settings on your phone changed?

Because of. But you do what you do. 

Jordan Smith: [00:17:09] I do. I'm just, I'm just like anybody else. Are you getting sucked in, um, to having that social experience? So it's, it's something that I think is kind of part and parcel of the way that we live in 2020. So much of the experience of being outside anymore is, is sharing it with your friends and family.

We always knew the dog. Outdoors being outdoors, uh, participating in after recreations had this huge social component to it. 

Wyatt: [00:17:35] So, so I recently went on a hike, um, down in St. George with a friend and she took me on a hike that isn't super popular. And it's just kind of more of a, it's not locals only, but it's just kind of one of those that.

Um, they don't like, if you live down there, you don't really like tell tourists about, and we saw, and I think like part of that is like a cautionary tale from what happened to Canaryville Canyon. Anyway, as we were leaving the hike, we saw some people with California plates pull up and she was just like, how did they find out about this place?

What role has social media played in impacting some of these natural sites? 

Jordan Smith: [00:18:11] It has played a huge role. In attracting a lot of visitors that might not have known about a site otherwise to those locations, it raises a lot of questions for an, uh, it causes a lot of problems for managers because all of a sudden, a location that they might've had, infrastructure that's capable of handling maybe 50 to a hundred people on a given day.

All of a sudden CS visitation start to increase in it. It has the capacity, or it has the, the visitation numbers start to spike towards hundreds, maybe thousands of visitors a day quickly outstripping the, the capacity of that trail or that restroom facility or that parking lot. And consequently, the managers have to kind of struggle to keep up.

With that. I think there's been a lot of smart and conscious effort on the part about direct creationist to are visiting those locations. After they've realized some of these unintended consequences of sharing their visits on social media. I'm trying to be a little bit more discreet about where, where they're sharing their posts from and saying I'm somewhere, but I'm not exactly going to tell you where, uh, so, so that's.

Uh, definitely been a byproduct of this noticeable change in visitation to these locations that only locals really knew about until social media came about locals 

Wyatt: [00:19:46] versus people who are from out of town. Um, probably recreate in different ways, but also people from with different financial backgrounds are gonna recreate in different ways.

And I know you've done some research on that. Can you tell me about it? 

Jordan Smith: [00:20:01] Yeah, we've done. We do a lot of work on trying to understand access and equitable access to public lands around the state. Most of the public lands around the state are accessible, free of charge for day use activities. So you can do, you can go and go on a hike.

Uh, free of charge, but a lot of other locations, um, do charge a fee a day use fee, and often those strip, those fees are pretty minimal. But what we've seen in our research is that even when those fees are relatively small, like three to $5 to park at a Trailhead for a day, they can have big impacts on the behavior about direct is particularly those behaviors, behaviors about direct creationists, um, who are, um, earning.

Low not low incomes. Uh, so what we found in our research along the Wasatch front is that even when a forest implements, a low day use fee, that causes individuals who are at the lower end of the income spectrum, individuals who are low income to travel further to visit sites. That don't have, uh, uh, use feet, which is kind of counterintuitive that they're, they're paying much, much more in gas to get to a location that's farther away, free and paying a use fee to visit someplace that's close to home.

So people have a natural aversion to paying for things like public lands that they think are free and that they're already paying for it in their taxes. So one 

Wyatt: [00:21:29] of the things, sorry, I just, do you think that something about having to pay a fee makes. Inexperienced feel more commercial and less natural.

Do you think maybe that's part of it because I'm just thinking about my family and we never camped anywhere where you had to pay. And I think that might've been why 

Jordan Smith: [00:21:48] that's definitely true. So many we can, we hear this from, from about to recreation is all over this state is when they go into visit their public lands.

What they want is a non-commercial experience. You know, it's not, they don't want an amusement park experience. They want to go somewhere where they can do what they want to do in the way that they want to do it. With those that they bring with them, their friends and family, and. Having a fee placed on them or restrictions placed on the things that they can do at those sites often causes conflict.

Um, so they're, they shift their behavior in response though. Uh, they'll either willingly, um, disobeyed the rules of the site or they'll, they'll go somewhere else where they can have the experiences that they want. 

Wyatt: [00:22:36] So. The Wasatch front is like getting more dense and there's more people living there. How does, um, increases density effect, natural amenities and how do we, what tools do we have to cope with that?

Jordan Smith: [00:22:49] It has huge impacts. Uh, so the Wasatch front is, is growing rapidly for counties within the state of Utah account for about 78% of entire state's population. So we were Davis salt Lake and in orange County. They account for about 70% of the, of the entire state's population. And that has huge implications for how they use natural spaces, trails, not to recreation infrastructure along the Wasatch front.

So we know that those areas that are getting used the most, um, or areas along the Wasatch front, it's hard to, to hit get us. Parking spot, you know, shell head up little, a bit Cottonwood canyons or mill Creek Canyon any day of the week anymore. And so the increasing pressure and that pressure will increase as the population to urban areas continues to grow, but it will also cause a lot of this displacement to areas along.

The edges of that urban center. And so we've seen this a lot, is that as visitation pressures continue to increase those areas where they're the hotspots, where they're, where they're, they're known to have a lot of visitation pressure year round. Uh, visitation will start to spill over and we'll, we'll have, it will start to happen at different locations, kind of along the edges of whatever visitation is already happening.

So this is a great example of the reasons why visitation to the Wasatch back, why summit County and Wasatch County have become major outdoor recreation destinations over the past 10 years. You know, I think when I was growing up. It was Heber and midway. We're small little towns and now, and now it's a major destination on the, on the Wasatch backer.

It's a major base camp for everybody's outdoor outdoor trips. Um, if they're, if they're going to visit there, Whether they have friends or family. And from, from out of town, you know, that you can either have a really crowded experience along the Wasatch front, where you can take a 45 minute an hour, drive up one of the canyons and get to a place that's a little bit less used.

So the biggest thing that we've seen is that as visitation continues to rise and as the population pressure continues to put. Um, increased the visitation on our trails and our Greenways in urban areas. Uh, we're getting more and more spillover to those areas that are outside of urban areas that often haven't thought about themselves as providing the after recreation opportunities to.

Huge population centers. So it causes a lot of challenges in that you might have. How do you find ways to equitably fund an after recreation program? Um, when you're providing services to a lot of people who are don't live within your, your county's boundaries. And so is it provided, is providing a fee.

And if you do provide a fee, you might be displacing some of your local residents, but it's might be the only way to generate income and generating revenues in such a way that you're able to build the infrastructure that's required to provide the services. That are being demanded of your location that are being depended upon by a population, the size of aura or Provo or salt Lake city 

Wyatt: [00:26:09] conceptions.

Do people have about, um, the public lands that are available or how much public land is available for recreation? I would say that

Jordan Smith: [00:26:17] the biggest misconception that we have amongst the public is that a lot of these outdoor recreation resources are. Completely and fully funded by, by tax revenues and by paying your, your federal taxes is you're, you're providing for, um, the outdoor recreation opportunities and the ability to access those federal lands.

Um, so it is a tricky balance is how do you find that sweet spot where you can attract as many visitors as possible, where you can provide this many after recreation opportunities as possible at a minimum cost. But you can also generate enough revenue that you have the infrastructure that's adequate to meet the demand.

Yeah. 

Wyatt: [00:27:01] Yeah. So besides developing, um, new recreation spaces, what other tools do we have to disperse use from, um, Areas that are perhaps overused. 

Jordan Smith: [00:27:13] A lot of the tools that we have, or are more passive and active recreation management tools where we're trying to sec segregate different types of use.

Specifically. One of the common conflicts that we have is this conflict between motorized recreation and non-motorized recreation. And that occurs both in the winter and the summer. And so what outdoor recreation manager has really tried to do is when they look at the. That particular park or the forest that they're responsible for managing, they'll try to identify the ways that they can spatially separate those uses.

And so that, uh, motorized users can have the experiences that they want. On a, a particular trail circuit or an open player area. And that, that non-motorized users can have the outdoor recreation experiences that they want in their specific location. So one of the tools that we often use in our recreation management is trying to spatially segregate use.

Um, other tools that we try to use are temporal separate separation. So we might allow one use on even number of days and another use on odd number days. And, and those are tools that all get to the same purpose of trying to minimize conflict amongst user groups that, that have different motivations than have different outcomes in mind when they, when they go outside.

Wyatt: [00:28:33] Um, how has COVID 19 affected outdoor recreation 

Jordan Smith: [00:28:38] in Utah? It's had a huge impact. Um, the biggest change that we have seen is concerns. Increased concerns, obviously about individual's health and safety when they participate in outdoor recreation. And so we often think that outdoor recreation is just going to, uh, to go into a trail and going on a hike.

And that's definitely the experience that most people are seeking, seeking out or going for a fishing experience or whatever. And that's the, that's the experience that people remember. But after recreation, Often involves a lot of other processes, like getting to the Trailhead, interacting with others, maybe going to a visitor center, using a restroom, all those.

Locations are areas where outdoor recreation has come in contact with other after recreation is, uh, so this has caused huge consequences for how planners and managers start to think about the ways that they can ensure the health and safety of their visitors. So for a lot of locations, it's meant.

Putting in place, uh, additional signage and, uh, cleaning regulations and cleaning requirements for restroom facilities, or potentially closing down visitor centers and restrooms, if they can ensure that they're able to be used in itself and in a safe and healthy way. This concern for the health and safety about direct creationists when they're participating in out direct creation is probably the biggest change that we've seen.

Uh, and the other thing though, that has been a major change, uh, within the state is that when you have individuals who can't go to work or they're being advised to stay at home, those individuals. Aren't just, just staying at home, working there, their typical nine to five jobs from their home offices.

What we've seen is that visitation to local trail systems, local parks and amenities has absolutely skyrocketed. Um, during the pandemic, as people are having more free time to participate in outdoor recreation, they're taking advantage of that time. And so visitation has, has increased, and this has been compounded by the fact that.

During the pandemic in the early days of the pandemic, back in late March and April, a lot of the national parks closed down at one point, all five national parks within Utah were closed down. And when you eliminate those opportunities for. Uh, for local destinations, at least for Utahns, those are relatively local destinations that people aren't just going to stop participating in out the recreation.

They're not going to want that experience just to go away from their lives. They'll seek out other locations where they can have. Um, where they can still engage in those same activities. So while when the national parks closed down visitation to national forest and municipal parks and recreation systems, so a huge jump.

And so, so what we've seen is that people are still wanting to participate in outdoor recreation and actually it's. Dramatically higher numbers than we've ever seen before because people have all this extra free time and they're taking advantage 

Wyatt: [00:31:45] of it. Yeah. So are the parks busier and have the demographics of who's coming to like the national parks changed?

Jordan Smith: [00:31:53] Well, definitely the demographics of the national parks have a visitor to the national parks have changed after, um, they have started to reopen largely because of the travel restrictions of this church from other countries. So, you know, the international visitation to two Utah's five national parks is a huge component of.

Those visitors who come. And so now we've seen more regional visit visitation, more local visitation, um, but still has been, it's been exceptionally high even after, uh, even a couple months in now that the parks have been open visitation is still, is still very high 

Wyatt: [00:32:28] COVID-19 has kind of been like an upset to like the system, um, that you study in a way has.

His it answered questions or confirmed, um, hypothesis, hypothesis that you've had. And now are there any questions that it brings up? 

Jordan Smith: [00:32:42] Yeah, one of the, one of the things that we often talk about in, in our field about your recreation management is, is this idea of spacial substitution, and that if an individual or a group can't go and participate in a specific outdoor recreation activity at one location, What are the, what do they do and what leave up kind of a scene at a very small scale in the past is that if people can't like fish on a particular segment of the river, or if they can't get a parking spot at a particular trail head they'll search for other opportunities that are immediately adjacent to them.

And what the COVID pandemic has really proven that that that process has played out on a much larger scale. So when we see visitation or. Visitation be limited to national parks when the national parks completely closed, that visitation just didn't go away. It was picked up by state park, the state park systems, which remained open and it was picked up by local and municipal proximate creation programs.

And so that spatial substitution pattern doesn't just happen on a very small scale where. You know, if I can't fish on the lower stretches of the Logan river, I'm just going to go up a couple more miles. And if I can't find a parking spot at my, at my favorite trail head, I'm just going to go up the Canyon in a little ways.

And what we're basically seeing is that individuals will we'll substitute quite a, quite a long ways. And the bill. Completely changed their plans. Don't travel many miles out of the way to still participate in that after recreation activity, if they, if they're displaced from their, their original plans.

Yeah. 

Wyatt: [00:34:26] Yeah. Um, so my final question is you've helped out a lot of areas in collecting data, um, to help. Park managers or area managers manage those places like Boise. And I think you've done stuff in like Jackson or the Teton area down the Wasatch, obviously. And then in Southern Utah, what. Are some of the changes that have been made because of this information that you've seen been made.

Um, and that, that might not have been made without this data. Yeah. One of 

Jordan Smith: [00:34:58] the projects that really kind of stands out is this the new project that we're, we're focused on with a gateway. Natural amenity region initiative. And that's a initiative here at UTA. It's housed here at Utah state in the Institute where we're trying to connect municipal leaders with en gateway communities with other municipal leaders of gateway community.

So they can share experiences about what they're doing. Doing to respond to COVID-19 how they're trying to, um, put in place planning, procedures, protocols for responding to, to, to COVID. And what's the best way to do that. Um, so we we've started to facilitate these, these online forums with community leaders around Utah.

And a lot of those commune leaders have come back to us and said, we didn't really know about access to a specific federal grant program or a state grant program. It's now being put in place and that allows it allowed us to get additional resources, to keep our recreational resources open, uh, to provide additional resources, to build new infrastructure.

That's going to accommodate use in a socially distance world where we have to have more space to accommodate the same amount of people. So that's probably the most recent example that I can think of. And, yeah. 

Wyatt: [00:36:25] Have you seen, um, before the pandemic, have you seen like areas open up because of the data you've collected or have you seen, um, rules of use change because of that information that you've been able to provide?

Jordan Smith: [00:36:40] I can't say that we've, that we've seen management decisions that have specifically changed, which areas are open and which areas are not open. A lot of what we do as far as collecting information on visitor use monitoring and management really goes into. Providing managers with that information so they can best direct their resources, their labor, and their staff in a way that's most efficient.

So that's probably the, the most common kind of on the ground implementation of the, of the research and the outreach work that we do.

Wyatt: [00:37:14] Yeah. Yeah. I'm sorry that I lied when I said something was my last question. Cause maybe, hopefully this is my last question, but why are, why is this function and in your Institute housed at USU and not, um, at some other organization in the state or federal level, 

Jordan Smith: [00:37:32] how to recreation is such a huge component of public lands management within Utah.

And at Utah state, we are the land, the federal land grant institution. And so as a land grant institution, we work closely with, uh, not only the individuals who produce goods and services, uh, on public lands, but also the consumers. And that's really what outdoor recreation is. It's outdoor recreation is a good, it's a service that's provided on public lands and it's demanded by the public.

And so it just makes sense for us to be located at the state's land grant institution. Uh, so we can have that direct conduit to both state. Managers who manage our state park system, uh, and to the federal agencies who work closely with  who work within the state in providing outdoor recreation opportunities to you, Jones, what brought you 

Wyatt: [00:38:31] to this area of research?

And, um, why do you care about it? 

Jordan Smith: [00:38:36] Well, I think what brought me to this area of research is just being born and raised in Utah. Like I mentioned, I was, I grew up just outside of salt Lake city and having those experiences become. Part of my daily life growing up made me really realize why they were so valuable.

And then I moved back East for about 10 years. And when you don't have the types of outdoor recreation opportunities directly at your back door, Like you do here in Utah, you realize even more how valuable they are. And so that's why I really know that I know how important they are because I did move back to Utah after being away for 10 years, just to have access.

To those after recreation opportunities. And if I can leverage research and my skills as a scientist to provide better outdoor recreation opportunities in the state, I think that's, that's a good mission or a good vision to have. Yeah. 

Wyatt: [00:39:34] Yeah, I'm also, I don't know, from I'm from a small town in Idaho. And so it's definitely something I appreciate, but also just living in Logan again for the past, like seven or eight years and seeing Logan grow and seeing salt Lake grow from what it was a decade or so ago, I get nervous about the future and the use that is happening.

What things make you optimistic about, um, our ability to. Preserve these experiences, 

Jordan Smith: [00:40:02] outdoor recreation experiences are incredibly social experiences. And that the reason that we go outside it is to be with others and to share those experiences with those that, that are close to us. And so even though the use will increase, we have to realize that people are going out to have experiences positive experiences with their friends and their family.

And that these experiences are very similar to those experiences that are sought by by you or for me, or are very similar if not identical, to the same experiences that other people want to have. And so I think once we realized that people are wanting to have those same experiences, they'll provide the space and the.

The kindness that's required. And when places become crowded, fighting for a parking spot to realize that, uh, that having access to those experiences is the same thing that, that we're all looking for. And so, you know, Utahns are amazingly, uh, friendly and gracious people. And I think if you had to live in a one location where.

The increasing pressure on trail systems and our recreation resources, um, could be mitigated by the generosity and kindness of individuals who are participating in our direction. It would be Utah. 

Wyatt: [00:41:29] Uh, I think that's a nice note to end on. Thank you for listening to this episode of instead, if the recent research landscapes virtual event is the reason you're here.

Thanks for joining us. Don't forget to check out episode 26 with Zach Miller 29 at Jessica shod, and basically all the other episodes, because if you're into research and you're into research about Utah, this is the place this episode of instead was edited by Nick Vasquez and me Wyatt Tropper is part of our work in the office of research at Utah state university.

 

The IROT
Insights on Instagram
The Californians are coming!
Finding the sweet spot
Optimism and outdoor recreation