Otak Team to Support the National Park Service with Socioeconomic Research and Special Studies Nationwide
The Organic Act requires the National Park Service (NPS) to provide for the enjoyment of current and future generations. The NPS Social Science Program supports research to gain an understanding of dimensions of enjoyment and public appreciation through the study of humans and their interactions with NPS services, sites and facilities. An interdisciplinary team led by Otak, Inc. was recently awarded a nationwide contract with the NPS Social Science Program to provide visitor surveys, visitor use and transportation studies, and other socioeconomic research and analytic task orders that will assist parks with ongoing planning and management to serve visitors’ needs. With key partners RRC Associates of Boulder, CO, and the Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research (ITRR) in the College of Forestry and Conservation at the University of Montana, along with multiple other subcontracting partners, the team will be on-call to the NPS for the next five years to a maximum contract level of $40 million.
“Our team is honored and excited to be selected to support the NPS in its ongoing mission to preserve the natural and cultural resources and values of the national park system for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of this and future generations,” said Mandi Roberts. Mandi will serve as the overall contract manager for the team, and she brings a strong commitment to stewardship and supporting America’s treasured National Park System, with more than 20 years of working with the NPS on a wide variety of task orders across the US. “One of our first assignments under this new contract will be conducting a visitor survey for Zion National Park, where I have worked on previous transportation-related studies. Zion continues to experience heavy visitor use, particularly related to the popular shuttle through Zion Canyon. The results of the visitor survey work at Zion will help inform core issues of visitor use management, management solutions, and to develop a current and deeper understanding of who visits Zion National Park, what they do during their visit, and their spending profile.”
Otak, RRC, ITRR and our other team members bring unique qualifications and strengths including management of NPS task orders and completion of tourism and recreation research across the country for decades. According to Jeremy Sage, ITRR Associate Director, “This contract is an opportunity to assist the NPS with a variety of issues, such as addressing crowding and congestion to improve visitor experience and access; helping to identify staffing needs and management strategies; and quantifying the positive economic impacts the parks have on local economies. We are excited to work with this stellar team to bring new and creative research methods and analyses.”
These creative approaches will be applied for task orders under a variety of project types:
- Understanding in-park visitor use to allow land managers to make better decisions on visitor experiences and the protection of resources.
- Investigating personnel and partner studies of internal agency and department issues from federal staff comprised within and with partners.
- Assessing regional economic impact and economic welfare studies that include cost/benefit and regulatory flexibility analyses, willingness to pay and visitor spending profile estimates.
- Studying recreation, transportation and carrying capacity issues including visitor movement, travel pattern studies, visitor use level estimation and evaluations of conditions with how they change over time and under various use levels.
- Conducting non-visitor studies to look at visitor displacement and awareness of people in gateway communities and regional stakeholders, and studies of potential future visitors to assist in future management decisions.
The trio of Otak, RRC, and ITRR worked together on a large visitor study to better understand the visitor experience given varying congestion levels at sites in Yellowstone National Park. “Our unique approach in Yellowstone of using geofence technology to better understand the visitor experience in real-time provided managers with broad decision-making capabilities not possible in past research. We’re thrilled to be able to continue assisting NPS units across the country protect their vital resources and continue providing high-quality experiences through innovative research.” said Jake Jorgenson, Lead Analyst of RRC Associates.“The NPS is excited to work with this extensive team of subject matter experts to inform the variety of socioeconomic and natural resource data and analytic needs for our parks and programs. This contract will significantly contribute to data-driven decision making across the bureau,” said Bret Meldrum, NPS Social Science Program Chief.
The five-year contract will be served through a collaborative approach between Otak, RRC, and ITRR, as well as team members around the country that include academic partners who lead research at the University of Montana’s College of Business, Department of Mathematics, and the W.A. Franke College of Forestry and Conservation and other academic researchers from Utah State University, Oregon State University, University of Colorado, Kansas State University, University of Florida, University of Georgia, University of Maine, and Virginia Polytechnic University. Collaborative business partners nationwide include Bioeconomics and Global Parks Solutions both from Missoula, MT; NatureWerks, LLC from Minneapolis, MN; Agnew: Beck Consulting from Anchorage, AK; EPS from Oakland, CA; Fehr & Peers from offices throughout the US; New Line Consulting from Gallatin Gateway, MT; Evermost from Kirkland, WA; Industrial Economics from Cambridge, MA; Kirk Value Planners from Goodyear, AZ; OmniTrak Group from Honolulu, HA; NeoTreks from Castle Rock, CO; and L2 Data Collection from Boise, ID and Salt Lake City, UT.
For Otak, the NPS is a cornerstone client. “The culture and values of the NPS and those of our firm are closely aligned,” said Chad Weiser, Otak’s Federal Practice Leader, “through a collaborative, interdisciplinary approach, we analyze, plan, and design the best solutions for each unique park setting. Our teams focus on being thorough, diligent, and responsive in serving the needs of the NPS, whether for research and studies or for design and construction.”