A Look at Arboretum Visitors: Usage and Demographics

January 1st, 2010 | EVALUATION

The Washington Park Arboretum (WPA) in Seattle is a 230 acre expanse of land which abuts Lake Washington. Apart from the Japanese Garden, admission into the arboretum is free and access points into the park are numerous. As such, tracking visitorship is challenging. For this front-end study the focus was on visitors at the Graham Visitor Center entry point. This point-of-entry has the benefit of both a parking lot and an established facility, allowing for a large amount of visitor data to be collected in a relatively short amount of time. The goal of this study was to better understand who visits Washington Park Arboretum and to capture their self- generated reasons for visiting the arboretum. 125 visitors were surveyed during an eight-day period in May. The results of their surveys provide a demographic snapshot of WPA visitors, which the arboretum can use to make visitor-centered decisions, such as tailoring its programs. The research also serves to inform subsequent visitor studies at the arboretum. KEY FINDINGS The vast majority of visitors surveyed had been to the arboretum before, though not necessarily in the last twelve months. 17.6% of visitors ethnically identified with a category other than Caucasian. 14.4% of survey participants said that part or all of their party was from out-of-state. To be in nature and to exercise were the two most frequent reasons given for visiting, followed by social reasons and the enjoyment of good weather. There was a significant increase in the number of visitors who identified picnicking as a reason for visiting over Mother's Day weekend. Slightly less than half of the visitors surveyed considered themselves birdwatchers. Over half of visitors surveyed reported studying plants for a hobby or profession. Visitors who reported studying plants for their hobby or profession were significantly more likely to indicate that they came to the arboretum to learn. However, the same percent of plant-studiers and non-studiers consider the WPA a place for others to learn. About a third of visitors surveyed came to the arboretum in a group of two. About a fifth of visitors came in a party of three people and another fifth visited alone. Over a third of surveyed visitors were part of an intergenerational group and almost three-fourths of intergenerational groups included children. Approximately a quarter of survey participants had children in their party. More than one in every ten survey participants visited the arboretum with a dog. The interview instrument used in the study is included in the appendix of this report.



Team Members

Kaleen Tison Povis, Evaluator, University of Washington
Cynthia Welte, Evaluator, University of Washington
Washington Park Arboretum, Contributor


Funding Source: IMLS


Audience: Evaluators | General Public | Museum | ISE Professionals
Discipline: Ecology | forestry | agriculture | Education and learning science | Life science
Resource Type: Evaluation Reports | Interview Protocol | Research and Evaluation Instruments | Summative
Environment Type: Exhibitions | Park | Outdoor | Garden Programs | Parks | Outdoor | Garden Exhibits | Public Programs