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: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Or come to the GCRG fall meeting to participate in discussion
about this research.