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  GCMRC Sponsors Recreation Research
  BQR ~ fall 1998

he Grand Canyon Monitoring and Research Center (GCMRC) is sponsoring a recreation research project directed at understanding the attitudes and preferences of recreational users of the Colorado River in Grand Canyon, particularly as they relate to flow levels. By representing viewpoints of river guides and recreationists, the objectives of this study ultimately aim to maintain and enhance opportunities for rewarding recreational experiences. The study is being conducted by Bill Stewart, University of Illinois; Bob Manning, University of Vermont; Jonathan Taylor, usgs Ft. Collins; and Dave Cole, Leopold Institute.

   There are two aspects of flow level being studied that may influence recreational use of the river. One is associated with flow levels that users experience while on the river, the other is associated with the long-term flow regime that users experience primarily through the number and type of beaches they encounter while on their trip. A previous study conducted during the 1980s and sponsored by gces was directed at preferences for flow levels experienced while on the river. Although the current study replicates some of the items of this previous study, it also extends the scope of issues to include a user assessment of preferences for beaches and beach types. The type of beach resulting from a spike flow depends on many factors, some of which are influenced by the Dam operations, including spike release level, duration of spike, and downramp time. The numbers of beaches, their size, and vegetative covering are related to management of release flows, and considered relevant factors in recreational use of the Colorado River.

   Mailback questionnaires will be sent to a number of user groups during the first part of 1999, including anglers upstream from Lees Ferry, day-use rafters between the Dam and Lees Ferry, commercial raft patrons, private river trip leaders, and river guides. The questionnaires for each user type will be different, however there will be some shared content. A section of the questionnaires will be associated with preferences for setting attributes related to flow level, which include delays at rapids, speed of travel while on the river, time spent floating, time spent at attractions, arrival time at campsites, size and number of beaches, and perceptions of safety. Another section of the questionnaires adapts a relatively new technology of photographic imagery to assess user preferences for flow-related parameters, particularly directed at beach types. A third section of items on the questionnaires will be drawn directly from the previous study of user attitudes and preferences conducted in the 1980s. Employment of items used in this previous assessment ensures the validity of interpreting changes or trends in attitudes and preferences of recreationists.

   As a time frame, focus group discussions will be held during Fall 1998, and will include discussions with the Technical Work Group of the adaptive management team, as well as a presentation and discussion at the meeting of the Grand Canyon River Guides Association on November 7th. The purpose of these focus groups will include discussions related to objectives and/or visions for the future of the Colorado River and its recreational use, as well as identification of issues related to linkages between recreation opportunities and river flows. In addition, participants in the focus groups will be asked to comment upon various photographs and their ability to represent flow levels and beach types. Mailback questionnaire administration will occur in Spring 1999. Data analysis and report writing occurs during Summer 1999, with a draft final report scheduled for August 1999 to be submitted to the GCMRC.

   There are currently two other recreation research projects associated with the Colorado River in Grand Canyon; both of these studies are being funded by the Grand Canyon Science Center. Troy Hall from Virginia Tech is investigating issues related to number of contacts and crowding, which facilitates the development of indicators and standards associated with river use management. Her data collection started this past summer and included participant observers on raft trips. Another study is being conducted by Randy Gimblett from University of Arizona to develop a simulation model for river recreational use, and is directed at understanding issues related to management of trip scheduling. Researchers from the three projects have held several discussions to prevent overlap and enhance the collective impact of the three studies.

   The research being sponsored by the gcmrc is an opportunity for river guides to be represented within the context of release flows from the Dam. There have been numerous studies directed at the assessment of the downstream effects of the Dam; most have been associated with sediment transport, fisheries habitat, or wildlife such as flycatchers or snails. This study provides an important platform to reaffirm the importance of recreational use within the river corridor, particularly as user evaluation of the quantity and quality of beaches plays a meaningful role in recreational opportunities.

   If you have questions about this study, contact me at (217) 244-4532, or by writing Department of Leisure Studies, University of Illinois, 1206 S. Fourth St., 104 Huff Hall, Champaign, IL 61820; or email: wstewart@uiuc.edu. Or come to the GCRG fall meeting to participate in discussion about this research.

Bill Stewart

big horn sheep