In one of the most comprehensive visitor surveys ever conducted along the Oregon coast, a new study from Surfrider Foundation reveals that Oregonians awareness of our state’s Marine Reserves and associated protected areas is increasing significantly! This comes as great news to the many organizations and partners who have been working extensively over the last decade to support outreach and awareness of the relatively new protected areas in Oregon’s nearshore ocean. The study was conducted over the course of 2 years and randomly intercepted nearly 1000 visitors along 5 different shoreside areas of Cape Perpetua’s Marine Reserve and associated protected areas. Lead partners from the Cape Perpetua Collaborative, the City of Yachats and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Marine Reserve Program provided much of the vision as well as academic rigor to the survey and resulting analysis so that it could be compared (and replicated) with other human dimension studies at Oregon’s Marine Reserves – Download the Full Report

A couple conducts a survey at a wayside near Cape Perpetua

Understanding Cape Perpetua visitors is useful for local community organizations serving these visitors – beyond just whether or not we’re doing effective outreach, we were able to uncover a lot of other valuable information important to businesses, adjacent towns and natural resource agencies that manage these important areas. The main objectives of this survey were to better understand Cape Perpetua visitors’ marine reserve awareness and knowledge, demographics and characteristics, and tourism decisions and opinions. Through this two-year intercept survey of Cape Perpetua visitors, we were able to capture the first comprehensive understanding of Cape Perpetua visitors’ marine reserve awareness, demographics, trip characteristics and opinions.

This graph shows general awareness across all visitors whether they live in Oregon or not – Oregonians demonstrated higher awareness, nearly 50% aware while Oregon coastal residents were nearly 60% aware

The survey was distributed from November 2017 through November 2019 at five sites near Cape Perpetua Marine Reserve. Survey distribution followed a visitor intercept method and was randomized by time of day, day of the week, and sampling site order. The survey instrument was designed for comparability with previous surveys along the Oregon coast. No other coastal visitor survey, from resource managers or even the tourism industry has come close to this level of comprehensive visitor analysis with year round coverage over 2 years through all seasons of visitors – making this one of a kind survey not only unique, but an extremely valuable resource for planning and management.

A total of 919 surveys were completed, 8% of which were coastal residents, 33% non-coastal Oregon residents, and 59% non-Oregon residents. Survey respondents were analyzed as a whole and also disaggregated into coastal residents, non-coastal Oregon residents, and non-Oregon residents for analyses.

Marine Reserve awareness varies based on where one resides. Coastal residents in Oregon demonstrated the highest level of awareness.

Awareness is extremely important to the groups conducting outreach activities not just for understanding the efficacy of their outreach efforts, but for achieving our long-term goals of appreciation and compliance with these special protected areas in Oregon’s ocean. It took many years and many discussions at the local and statewide level to establish Oregon’s Marine Reserve Program and associated system of protected areas up and down the coast. Many local groups have formed around these special places and built strong programs of outreach, citizen science and local monitoring partnerships that are important to the success and long term establishment of these sites. Conducting research not only helps us evaluate the impacts of this work, but also aides as another arm of outreach in itself. Through this level of extensive contact with nearly 1000 visitors, we gain a much greater opportunity to connect with people during our research and have a meaningful presence in the field.

Further, our research helps us evaluate why these places are special to people and how businesses and municipalities around these areas may better serve and inform coastal visitors. In addition to a number of standard demographic questions, The City of Yachats was particularly interested in why Cape Perpetua was a destination, where do they stay and what types of services might the city or local businesses consider investing in to better serve their visitors.

Interestingly, visitors reported increased mental benefits at a much higher rate than the physical benefits associated with Cape Perpetua…despite the area being a hotspot for both ocean and terrestrial recreation.

Some Information Gathered for Yachats and Surrounding Cities

Visitors tend to come back! This is quite significant when considering how to cater to visitors and keep them coming back!

Not surprising Yachats was at the top but we were surprised that Florence topped Newport for visitor stays, indicating that Florence is a valuable future target for outreach partnerships for the Cape Perpetua Collaborative

Based on lessons learned and results from this survey, partners of the Cape Perpetua Collaborative wrote a report with suggestions on how to improve the survey instrument and sampling design. This report suggests questions to consider excluding from future survey instruments that decrease respondent burden (i.e. the effort and time a respondent uses to complete the survey) while providing the most widely useable information. This report also suggests questions to amend for clarity purposes and questions to include in future survey instruments to better understand Cape Perpetua visitors. Lastly, this report suggests amendments to the sampling design to increase the number of Oregonian respondents, which are the target audience. For access to the full report, please contact Charlie Plybon.

Far too much good stuff to include in this post –

Download the Full Study Here