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A new study focuses on the best three counties have to offer: Boone Forks

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
University of Iowa Marketing Institute student Reese Vedder, right, talks about the results of their study to improve usage of the Boone, Hamilton and Webster county parks. Students MIchele Siamis, at left, and Amber Leisinger, center, also spoke during the presentation at the Briggs Woods Convention Center south of Webster City.

BRIGGS WOODS — When a group of University of Iowa Marketing Institute students presented the results of their two semester long study on the Boone Forks area to the Boone Forks Regional Planning Committee Wednesday in the new Briggs Woods Convention Center, it left the members of the committee impressed with their work.

The area consists of Boone, Hamilton and Webster counties.

Brian Lammers, Hamilton County Conservation director, was among the committee members.

“It’s very impressive,” he said. “They did a really nice job, lots of detailed findings. I’m impressed with how much work they did.”

The five students each took turns sharing the results.

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
Hamilton County Conservation executive director Brian Lammers listens Wednesday during a presentation by a group of students with the University of Iowa Marketing Institute on their study to improve usage of Boone Forks and other areas.

Michael Hoffman took the microphone first.

“What we found was there’s a lack of awareness of the different activities,” he said. “That’s why we’re here. We hope to help you bring about a way to share the great experiences, help you create programs, offer education and help protect the parks.”

Student Amber Liesinger shared who they gathered their data from.

“Over a period of two weeks we surveyed 311 people who responded,” she said. “It was cold then so that might effect the results, but it showed that they’re getting outside but not a lot.”

“One of our key findings was a lack of time,” she said. “No matter what, they want to spend the time with family.”

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
University of Iowa Marketing Institute student Michael Hoffman, right, talks about the results of their study during a presentation Wednesday in the Briggs Woods Convention Center south of Webster City.

Michele Siamis shared another key finding.

“When possible,” she said, “all of them (activities) need to be free. One way to do that is to start a volunteer network of residents that have free time and are willing to teach others.”

Time spent traveling to activities is also a factor.

“Studies have shown that participants are not willing to drive for more than 50 miles,” she said. “You have to emphasize the close proximity. Make it easier to see what can be done in a day of family trip.

Another key point, the parks in the area are a great place to have that family time.

“You can spend time with family and friends anywhere,” she said. “We want to bring them out of their homes. Employee and family groups are another idea. Make it easy to see what fits their needs.”

Reese Vedder shared some additional findings.

“Ninety percent wanted a web experience where you could get all the information in a comprehensive place,” he said. “You can give that 90 percent what they want on your website.”

The students also demonstrated a proposed web design that would meet these goals: provide information, explain programs and feature lots of photos of the many sites available to visitors.

“We even divided it into seasons,” he said.

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
The group of students from the University of Iowa Marketing Institute showed this proposed logo for the campaign to improve usage of the facilities in Webster, Hamilton and Boone counties.

As part of the study, the students also shared a new proposed logo for the Boone Forks area with the tag line, “Your parks, your land.”

Michael Hoffman summarized the main issues.

“A lack of awareness has led to a decrease in participation which in turn led to a decrease in support,” he said. “We hope this will help bring people out.”

Boone County Conservation Naturalist Katie Healy was also impressed with the students’ work.

“We definitely needed information on the best ways to draw people in,” she said. “It’s nice to see what people want and to see a platform where we can put our programs.”

All three counties share the common issue of limited programs. Healy said Boone feels it particularly since it’s located next to well-funded urban counties.

One of the cornerstones of the Boone Forks project is sharing resources.

“The whole goal is to try to do it as a region,” Lammers said

Matt Cosgrove, Webster County Conservation director, said the study confirmed some of their own research.

“It backs up the information from other public input,” he said. “It’s a great idea to widen our net and market not just to us, but to the entire region.”

A recent example of the sharing was the annual Maple Syrup Festival at Camp WaNoKi near Coalville where Hamilton and Webster county staff were on hand to share and educate the public.

“We’ve all got great programs,” Cosgrove said. “How do we tell people, how do we get them there?”

Cosgrove, Lammers and Healy are pretty sure that following some of the recommendations in the study will help do that.

“The students really tried to put themselves in our position,” Lammers said. “It was a new fresh look with fresh eyes. No one ever does a good enough job of telling their own story.”

Lammers hopes the public responds well.

“Try something new,” he said. “We have it for them.”

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