In mid-July, I blogged about a new project we began in Racine, Ohio. It is now January and the project is complete. We thought it would be a good time to discuss a couple of “lessons learned” from the past several months.
First, never take mother nature for granted. The Racine, Ohio project site is located on the Ohio River. As such, the water levels fluctuate and can remain elevated for long periods of time. Park and recreation professionals have often heard about “barriers to participation” but sometimes weather or natural conditions can be overlooked. The primary recreation activity at the Racine, Ohio locks and dam is sport fishing. The elevated water levels affect tackle choices, fishing locations, and whether folks fish or not! It seems simple, sure, but there are a lot of factors that influence visitor behaviors.
Second, never underestimate the power the natural world has on our curiosity. I had the privilege of collecting spot and calibration counts at the project site throughout the year. I witnessed many visitors and passersby transfixed by the moving water. It is not every day that you can see such a magnificent interaction between the natural and manmade worlds. The locks and dam system creates increased turbulence, wind generation, and noise from the rushing water. Many visitors would drive in, temporarily park their vehicles, and walk to the top of the stairs to observe this intriguing phenomenon. Even if for no other reason, the locks and dam attract visitors by arousing their curiosity.
In conclusion, there are several takeaways from this experience:
- Service providers should consider natural phenomena when planning for outdoor recreation sites. That is, consider the entire context that goes into shaping the visitor experience each time a user comes to your site.
- We live in a world in which the built environment may replace the natural world depending on where you live.