Last week I began a research project for @FoothillsOfNC

On the Monday of spring break I drove to Morganton, NC and visited Oak Hill Community Park and Forest

Located 10 minutes from downtown Morganton, the park will be a hub for outdoor recreation, education, agriculture and archaeological exploration for Morganton residents and visitors.

Foothills Conservancy’s Executive Director Andrew Kota (one of my former MBA students) led us on a hike where you can get a view of the South Mountains. In the foreground of the picture you can see the plantings of native trees (I forget the species). 

We’ll be putting up signs with a URL and QR code to an online survey when the park opens later this year. Combined with a trail counter we can develop estimates of economic impacts and do a benefit-cost analysis (an “estimate of probable costs” can be found in the Oak Hill Master Plan (see the park link above). The data is from a convenience sample but some data is better than no data. As these studies can be used to decide whether a more representative (and much more expensive) sample is necessary. The out-of-pocket cost estimate for this study is less than $1000. The signs will be about $250 and a trail counter is between $620 and $800

Back in 2021 I worked on a Beech Mountain trails study and this will be similar to that, although I’m hoping to get better at this sort of thing as more lessons are learned. For example, I need separate surveys for different data collection methods. At Beech we had signs with URLs and QR codes and a team of students passing out rack cards with the same information. It would have been very useful to see where the data came from but the links went to only one survey. Also, Beech Mountain is full of vacationers so it is difficult to estimate a recreation demand model. 

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