The activities, perceptions, and management preferences of local versus tourist boaters on the Arkansas River

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Virginia Tech

The purpose of this study was to determine whether local and tourist boaters in the Arkansas River Headwaters Recreation Area differed in their activities, perceptions of environmental problems and user conflicts, and preferences for management. Locals were defined as living 100 miles or less from the river, and tourists were those living more than 100 miles away.

Data were collected by on-site interviews with boaters as they completed their trip, and through a 12-page mailback questionnaire. Approximately 1168 questionnaires were returned, for an overall response rate of 58%.

Few differences were found between locals and tourists. The largest differences between the two groups were in their trip expenditures and in their recreational activities in the river valley. Expenditures by tourists were significantly greater, and tourists also showed a greater tendency to both participate in and express interest in a greater variety of activities than did locals. The locals tended to be slightly more experienced and involved than were tourists, and they were also more predisposed toward membership in river running clubs. On reasons for selecting the Arkansas River, locals were more inclined to feel that a convenient location and being with friends were more important, while tourists felt that being in a new area with a variety of recreational opportunities was more important. In addition, locals exhibited a slightly greater sensitivity toward both environmental and people problems along the river. However, neither group supported more controls to reduce environmental damage or user conflicts. With respect to services and facilities, differences between the two groups were tenuous. Tourists were slightly more supportive of both manipulating the river's water level to benefit boating and constructing more shower facilities along the river. Locals were more in favor of scheduling 'no boat' times on the river to benefit fishing. Finally, in response to willingness to pay for services, tourists were more inclined to pay a greater amount for a given service than were locals in four out of five responses.

Results of this study indicate that managers need to be aware of and monitor the perceptions, opinions, and preferences of both local and tourist users. Additionally, user groups other than boaters (such as landowners, river fishermen, or wildlife observers) must be studied in order that a more complete and thorough understanding of the different resource users and their relationships with the resource can be attained.