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Developing a Survey Plan

    The survey planning process will result in a sampling schedule(s) that lists the locations (recreation areas) and times (dates) on a Project at which a fixed quota of comment cards will be administered to visitors. Most Projects will generate two different sampling schedules- one for day use visitors and another for camping visitors.

    The planning process has been automated in a survey planning tool called the Survey Schedule Generator for Recreation Areas. This Microsoft Excel spreadsheet tool is specifically designed to help Project personnel create standardized survey plans for Visitor Comment Card surveys. Please review the remainder of this section before attempting to run the Survey Schedule Generator. It provides guidance that will help you accommodate a number of Project-specific circumstances that might otherwise make it difficult to execute the survey.

    The Survey Schedule Generator is designed to be downloaded to and run from your personal computer. Click here to download the current version. (Do not run this program from the server. To download the Generator, right click on the link and select “Save link target as” to save file to your computer).

    Open the program by clicking on the Excel file icon as you would to open any other file or program. After opening the Excel spreadsheet, read the important information and instructions on the “Intro” worksheet to ensure that you will be able to run the pre-programmed features of the spreadsheet on your computer. When you are ready to plan your customer satisfaction survey, click on the “Get Started” button in the upper right-hand corner of the page to open the “Start” worksheet. You are now ready to begin.

    The Survey Schedule Generator is self contained on the “Start” worksheet.” It is divided into four steps. Each step requires you to select or modify information about your recreation areas and the survey plan you wish to develop.

    Step 1: Select a Project from the menu of available Projects. This will populate the work area in Step 3 with a list of all Corps-managed recreation areas on the Project and associated visitation statistics for each area. The source data are from OMBIL.

    Projects that have no Corps-managed recreation areas should not be listed in the Survey Schedule Generator. These projects need not participate in the Comment Card Survey. If your Project is not listed, you can exit the Survey Schedule Generator at this time.

    The survey is optional for projects that received a total recreation budget of less than $50K last year. Selecting a project with a budget of less than $50K will bring up a pop up message indicating that the survey is optional. If you receive this message and elect to opt out of the survey, you can exit the Survey Schedule Generator at this time.

    Step 2: From the menu of available dates, select the 3-month period you want to survey. This should ideally correspond to the 3 consecutive months during which you expect to receive the highest visitation.

    Available sampling windows correspond to whole calendar months. Mid-month starting and ending dates are not available.

    Projects that elect to survey the June-July-August sampling window can also elect to either include or exclude the Memorial Day holiday period from the survey. The default option is to include the Memorial Day holiday in the sampling window. If you do not want to survey during the Memorial Day holiday period, you can change the starting date to June 1 in Step 3 below.

    Step 3: This step allows you to verify and/or modify the list of recreation areas that will be included in the comment card survey and the annual visitation amounts associated with day use and camping visitation at each recreation area.

    You can affect several aspects of the final survey plan in ways that can greatly improve your ability to execute the survey by ensuring that the recreation areas you choose to include in the survey are appropriate and the associated visitation data are accurate. You can make the following changes in the work area in Step 3:

    • Add recreation areas: On the line immediately following the last recreation area in your project list, type in the name of the recreation area you want to add as well as all associated visitation data.

    • Delete recreation areas from the survey: Do this by changing the “Total Visitation” value to “0” (i.e., zero). This will cause that recreation area to be omitted from the survey. Deleting the row of data associated with this recreation area is not recommended.

    • Change "Total Visitation": If the default value is incorrect, you can change it to the correct numeric value. Default values are derived from the prior year's visitation estimates found in OMBIL.

    • Change the percentage of day use and camping visitation: If you believe that the relative amount of day-use versus camping visitation is incorrect, you can correct it by changing the current entry for “Pct Campers” to any value from 0 - 100 percent. Entering 0 percent has the practical effect of eliminating that recreation area from the survey of camping visitors, while entering 100 percent has the practical effect of eliminating that recreation area from the survey of day use visitors.

    • TIP: You may wish to exclude from the survey any recreation area that receives fewer than 5,000 visits annually. A high level of effort is typically invested in sampling these low use areas because of the long waiting times between departing visitors. Since these areas generally contribute little to overall project visitation, and as a result have little influence on project satisfaction levels, it may be desirable to exclude these areas from the survey.

    Step 4: This step allows you to specify how visitation is distributed across months and days of the week within the sampling window you selected. Separate values should be specified for day use and camping visitors. These values are used in the calculation of sampling probabilities associated with different dates in the sampling window you selected in Step 2. Taking the time to specify these values accurately will help to minimize the chances of selecting sampling dates on which little visitation is expected to occur. You can make the following changes in the work area in Step 4:

    • Specify Monthly Visitation: Visitation levels may vary considerably across the months you have chosen to survey. You can specify the relative amount of project visitation you expect to occur each month of the sampling period you elected to survey. Values should be specified for camping and day use separately.

    • Specify Visits Across Days of the Week: Default values shown are national averages obtained from old VERS data. Edit these values so that they better reflect the visitation on you project. Separate values should be specified for camping and day-use.

    • IMPORTANT TIP ABOUT SPECIFYING DAY-OF-WEEK DISTRIBUTION OF CAMPING VISITATION: The day-of-week distribution of camping visitors should reflect the distribution of checkouts that occur during the course of a typical week. Checkouts are typically more numerous on Sunday than any other day of the week. As a result Sunday should typically account for a higher percentage of camping of any other day of the week. Those visitors checking out on Sunday would be sampled at their campsite on the Saturday evening prior to checkout.

    • Specify Holiday Visitation: Holidays that occur in the sampling window you selected in Step 2 will be included in the survey schedule unless you specifically exclude them. The increased visitation typically associated with the Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Labor Day holiday weekends can be specified in the columns associated with these holidays. Default values shown in the work area are national averages computed from past VERS surveys. These values represent the average daily visitation during the holiday period compared to a typical Sunday. For example, the default value of 61 percent for the July 4th holiday weekend is 2.25 times the default Sunday value of 27 percent. This indicates that daily visitation on the July 4th holiday weekend is 2.25 times that of a typical Sunday during a non-holiday period. Please note:
      • If you are sampling the June-July-August sampling window, you can choose to either include or exclude the Memorial Day holiday period (May 28-30) from the sampling schedule. By specifying any value greater than 0 for the Memorial Day in the “Days of Week and Holidays” work area, the Memorial Day holiday weekend will be included in the corresponding sampling schedule. To exclude the Memorial holiday weekend from the survey, enter a value of 0 for Memorial Day. Using the default values will include the Memorial Day holiday weekend in the sampling schedule(s) you generate.

    Step 5: This step allows you to select one of six survey options. Clicking on one of the available options will immediately initiate a pre-programmed evaluation of the data and survey options you have specified and will generate a corresponding sampling schedule(s) for your Project.

    The survey plan options available to you in Step 4 depend primarily on the total annual day use and camping visitation that occurs on the Corps-managed recreation areas on your project. Two reduced-effort options and a No Survey option are available to projects with low project visitation and/or staffing or other limitations that make it administratively unfeasible to conduct the standard survey. Two of these options require written justification.

    The survey plan options are described in the following table:
    Option No. Survey Description Sample Size
    Total Scheduled Sampling Periods Samples Per Period
    1 Survey of camping visitors on project; Survey of day use visitors on project 160 + 160 20 + 20 8 + 8
    2 Survey of day use visitors on project 160 20 8
    3 Survey of camping visitors on project 160 20 8
    4 Combined survey of day use and camping visitors across project 160 20 8
    5 Combined survey of day use and camping visitors with reduced sampling effort 78 13 6
    6 No Survey 0 0 0

    The options that are available on your Project are primarily a function of visitation levels on your Corps-managed recreation areas as follows:

    Visitation At Corps-Managed Recreation Areas Available Options
    Project Day-Use Camping
      >50,000 >20,000 1
      >50,000 <20,000 1 or 2
      <50,000 >20,000 1 or 3
      <50,000 <20,000 1,2,3,4 or 5 Use of 5 requires justification.
    <50,0000     1,2,3,4,5 or 6 Use of 6 requires justification.

    Step 6. The Survey Schedule Generator will create one new worksheet labeled “Calendar” or two new worksheets labeled “Calendar-day” and “Calendar-camp,” depending on which survey option you elect in Step 5. Open one of the program-generated worksheet(s) to observe the survey schedule. Click on “Print the Calendar” to obtain a hard copy of the sampling schedule. If applicable, click the adjoining “Go to....” button to go to the second calendar. Print this calendar also.

    Step 7. After printing the calendar, you should save the entire Microsoft Excel file under a different name from the file you opened to access the program. Saving the file will save for future reference the survey schedule(s) you produced during the survey scheduling session.

 
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