A Market Analysis and Visitor Services Plan for the Schmeeckle Reserve
Yarmark, Deborah L.
University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, College of Natural Resources
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The Schmeeckle Reserve is a 200 acre nature preserve located in Central Wisconsin within the city limits of Stevens Point, and is associated with the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point (UWSP). The role of the Reserve in providing recreation, environmental interpretation and education opportunities is increasing and recent developments significantly increase the Reserve's ability to serve its visitors. Therefore, a market analysis was needed to identify the current and potential users of the Reserve and their needs and expectations. A visitor services plan was desired to guide the development of the Reserve's facilities and services. A market analysis was conducted of the Schmeeckle Reserve and its associated facilities i.e., Visitor Center, Wisconsin Conservation Hall of Fame and five miles of nature trails, from September 1993, to May 1994. Written questionnaires, personal interviews and telephone interviews were used, totalling eight different surveys with sample sizes of 534, 289,282,107,261, 102, 65, and 7. Populations targeted for the analysis were UWSP students and faculty, Stevens Point residents, and out-of-town visitors staying at motels within walking distance of the Reserve. Surveys were conducted both on-site and off-site. Survey results showed that for out-of-town visitors staying at motels, UWSP students and Stevens Point residents, the three most appealing opportunities offered at the Reserve are: viewing nature-related exhibits, viewing wildlife and using the trails to relax. Most out-of-town visitors staying at motels had never been to the Reserve and were not aware that the Reserve existed, while 88.3% of UWSP students and 52.0% of Stevens Point residents interviewed had visited the Reserve at least once in their life. Of Schmeeckle Reserve trail users interviewed, only 12.4% were first-time users, while 38.2% of those surveyed at the Visitor Center were first-time visitors. Likewise, only 15.5% of trail users interviewed were out-of-town visitors, while 50.0% of Visitor Center guests surveyed were from out-of-town. Brochures drew more people to the Schmeeckle Reserve's interpretive programs than any other form of advertising, and brochures were the source listed most often by motel customers (38.3%) for information, but word-of-mouth was credited for bringing more first-time guests to the Visitor Center than any other media. Comments from UWSP faculty and student organizations showed appreciation for using the Reserve for classes and projects, but also concern about the need to manage the Reserve from an ecological perspective. Comments from trail users revealed an increasing conflict between pedestrians and bicyclers on the trails. Recommendations were made for limiting access onto the Reserve's trails for bicyclers, but accomodating them by designating a bike trail primarily around the perimeter of the Reserve. Additional recommendations were made for visitor orientation, information services, administrative policies, visitor safety, outreach and advertising, and natural resource/ ecological management.