Survey Says Montanans Love Their State Parks

Aug 29, 2018

Montanans are fond of their 55 state parks. A survey released Wednesday finds residents who visit state parks visited almost three different parks on average in the past year.

Edward O’Brien reports on what they’re looking for.

According to this survey, there’s no contest. When Montanans visit their state parks, they want to hike on public trails.

Graphs showing the percent of survey respondents who visited state parks in past 12 months, and the number of different State Parks visited by respondents in past 12 months.
Credit Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research Publications

“It didn’t surprise me at all. Trails always comes out on top. Montanans want their trails," says Norma Nickerson, the director of the Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research at the University of Montana.

The Institute conducted the survey on behalf of the Montana Parks in Focus Commission, which is developing recommendations to strengthen the state park system.

“What’s interesting is how adamant they are about the trails," Nickerson says. "If you don’t have the trails, you might not have the people coming to the state park, because they want that opportunity.”

The survey of over 6,000 adult Montanans this spring found about 90 percent of state park visitors use those trails.

Picnic shelters, swimming areas and interpretive centers – in that order - were the next most popular amenities. WiFi service came in dead last.

The Montana Parks in Focus Commission’s Ben Alexander explains the survey’s importance.

"I think we can safely say that parks does not have an adequate budget to provide the ideal park experience currently. With this information we can better target our investment to provide the amenities that are identified as the most important for Montana residents.”