Our Observations

State Park Strategies Focus on Relevancy

With 700 million people and counting visiting state parks every year, attendance isn’t exactly a problem. Yet a growing operations cost and reliance on politicians often leaves parks wondering if they will be able to offer the same services the following year. The only way to ensure longevity is to expand their already growing “client” base. According to the Pew Charitable Trusts, some states have decided to take matters into their own hands.

An article by The Pew Charitable Trusts says states such as Maryland, Minnesota, New Mexico and North Carolina are sponsoring programs like camping trips and outdoor conservation programs, kids have a chance to put down their technology and get back in touch with some of the natural wonders that are often in their own back yard. At a time where obesity is a growing concern and environmental regulations are met with partisan divide, programs such as these attempt to better several issues with a rather simple solution. These programs, which can have a positive effect on a community, also address a more long term struggle for many parks.

Demographics indicate that the people who take their families to parks (a large chunk of the visiting market) are the same people who went to parks when they were kids. This natural passing down of the values that respect nature and the parks are a great positive feedback loop, those who enjoyed that park will passing down to their kids to enjoy. Surely this is something the parks themselves want to encourage, but what about those who are left out?

Allowing kids the opportunity to get out into one of their state’s great natural attractions creates all sorts of new families that might consider a visit to their state parks. Imagine the effectiveness of sponsoring a similar program in the urban areas of states, where people logistically have the hardest time making it to the state parks. That’s the type of insight that can feed your business for generations whether it is in the public or private sector.

The lesson from the states implementing these measures is threefold. First, it shows how a simple, practical idea can get support and funding when it benefits a wide intersection of people. Whether the backers of the bills cared about the obesity epidemic, the overstimulation of children, environmental concerns or just wanted a great photo opportunity, there was common ground for the parks to work on building their membership. Second, many of these programs are funded partially by grants. All too often leaders get stuck in the trap that makes them afraid to innovate by investing in projects. With commercial sponsors and grants, many ideas can be funded at a fraction of their actual cost.

Whether you are a state park or a multinational corporation, the way to thrive is to change the way you think about the future. Instead of trying to hold on to the current model of operations, it is the visionaries behind these programs who ask, “what can we be doing better to stay relevant and prosper?”


(Photo: Minnesota State Parks Facebook page)



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