Goucher Poll Has Marylanders Weigh In on State Parks

The Goucher Poll asked Maryland residents for their perspectives regarding Maryland state parks, including park use, activities, goals, and barriers to visitation. 

Use of Maryland State Parks

In terms of visitation of Maryland state parks during the last year, Maryland residents reported:

  • 25 percent visited 1-2 times;
  • 28 percent visited 3-9 times;
  • 16 percent visited 10 or more times; and
  • 32 percent have not visited any state park during this time frame.

Residents who had visited a Maryland state park at least once during the past year were asked to rate their overall experience on a scale of 1 (poor) to 5 (excellent). A large majority (82 percent) rated their experience at Maryland state parks at a 4 or 5.

More than half of Maryland residents indicated they are “very interested” in visiting a Maryland state park during the next year; 35 percent indicated they were “somewhat interested” in visiting a park. Thirteen percent of residents said they are “not at all interested” in visiting a Maryland state park during the upcoming year.

Park Activities

Marylanders were asked to rate—on a scale of 1 (very unlikely) to 5 (very likely)—how likely they would be to participate in activities offered at various parks across the state.

Percent Likely to Participate (4 or 5)

  • Visiting historic sites – 69 percent
  • Hiking – 56 percent
  • Fishing – 42 percent
  • Guided nature programming – 38 percent
  • Canoeing or kayaking – 38 percent
  • Camping – 36 percent
  • Mountain biking – 26 percent
  • Hunting – 12 percent

Park Goals

When asked what goals were the most important for the Maryland Park Service to achieve, more than 80 percent of Marylanders said preserving historic sites, improving natural areas for wildlife, and conserving more land to protect natural resource were important. Seventy-eight percent of residents said improving outdoor recreating opportunities is an important goal for the Maryland Park Service to achieve. Providing more guided nature programming was lowest in terms of importance (46 percent).

Barriers to Visitation

Thirty-five percent of Marylanders said a lack of free time is a barrier to visiting a Maryland state park. Sixteen percent were not aware of the location of any state park, and 15 percent felt Maryland state parks are too far from their home. Ten percent of residents responded expense and crowds were barriers to visiting a Maryland state park.

The poll, conducted October 27-31, surveyed a dual-frame (landlines and cell phones) random sample of 665 Maryland residents and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.8 percentage points. The sample is of all Maryland residents and does not restrict by registered or likely voters.

For full results, including crosstabs, please visit www.goucher.edu/hughescenter. Mileah Kromer, the director of the Sarah T. Hughes Field Politics Center, is available for comment. She can be reached at mileah.kromer@goucher.edu or 724-840-0990. For additional media requests, please contact Kristen Pinheiro, director of media relations, at 410-337-6316 or Kristen.pinheiro@goucher.edu.

About this Project

In addition to its regular release of data that reflect the most pressing statewide issues, the Goucher Poll also works with community partners in the “Polling for the Public Good” series. Through partnerships with government and nonprofit entities, additional questions are included in the poll to shed light on issues that provide collective benefits to Marylanders.

In July 2013, the director of the Sarah T. Hughes Field Politics Center reached out to the Maryland Park Service to inquire whether there was interest in a collaborative research project on resident perceptions of Maryland state parks. In exchange for a series of questions on the October Goucher Poll, the Maryland Park Service gave students a firsthand experience of working with a governmental agency and the opportunity to present their work to members of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. Under the guidance of the director of the Sarah T. Hughes Field Politics Center, Goucher undergraduate students helped design the survey instrument, analyze the data, and co-author the executive report.

This project exemplifies the Goucher College commitment to experiential learning and the integration of environmental issues into the academic curriculum. We are thankful for this opportunity for student learning and to provide valuable information on public perceptions of Maryland state parks to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

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