Voting for Local Parks, Recreation and Conservation: An Investigation of the Elements of the Champaign County Forest Preserve Tax Referendum


Champaign County Forest Preserves LogoAcademic mentor: Prof. Suiwen (Sharon) Zou

Community partner: Champaign County Forest Preserve District

Community-Academic Scholar: Izabelle Jaquet

Project description: 
Public referenda are of great importance for local parks to carry out their conservation, education, and outdoor recreation missions, which have been considered essential for community health, particularly amid the pandemic. In the fall of 2020, Champaign County Forest Preserve District (CCFPD) campaigned for a ballot measure to increase property tax to allow more funds for maintaining and improving preserved lands in Champaign County. The referendum was passed with 57% support from county voters.

The purpose of this project is to examine CCFPD's 2020 referendum campaign to identify elements of the campaign that secure support from voters. Specifically, the project aims to understand what factors or types/elements of messages contribute to the campaign's success. The study will conduct in-depth interviews with the campaign committees, CCFPD staff, interest groups involved in the campaign, and Champaign County residents, supplemented by a content analysis of campaign materials/social media posts. Insights gained through this project can be invaluable for similar ballot initiatives for park conservation and outdoor recreation.

Role of the Community-Academic Scholar:
The Community-Academic Scholar will assist with the discourse analysis of campaign materials, recruiting participants, scheduling interviews. After receiving training, the researcher will conduct interviews, transcribe interview audio/video files, and assist with data analysis.