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Kelly Goonan - Southern Utah University. Cedar City, UT, US

Kelly Goonan

Assistant Professor of Outdoor Recreation | Southern Utah University


Outdoor recreation expertise with outdoor safety tips, planning national park visits, and planning and management of outdoor recreation.


Dr. Kelly Goonan is the program coordinator and associate professor of outdoor recreation in parks and tourism at Southern Utah University. A self-described “hybrid recreation ecologist/recreation social scientist”, her expertise is in management of outdoor recreation, natural resources and protected areas.

Dr. Goonan’s research interests include recreation impact analysis, park sustainability and visitor disturbance projections. She has published academic papers in various national journals, including the Journal of Park and Recreation Administration and the Journal of Environmental Management. Dr. Goonan also taught for the Semester in the Parks and Jumpstart - Our National Parks programs at SUU. She has also led Partners in the Parks projects to introduce Honors students from across the country to our great national parks.

Dr. Goonan earned her bachelor’s degree in environmental studies and Spanish with a minor in outdoor studies from St. Lawrence University. She earned a master’s degree in natural resources from the University of Vermont and a Ph.D. in human dimensions of ecosystem science and management from Utah State University.





Kelly Goonan Publication



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Meet Our Professors: Dr. Kelly Goonan, Outdoor Recreation


Industry Expertise (3)


Environmental Services


Areas of Expertise (13)

Visitor Use Management

Wilderness First Aid

Resource Management

Recreation Impact Analysis

Recreation Ecology

Outdoor Recreation Management

Outdoor Recreation

Outdoor Education

Natural Resources

National Park Sustainability

Human Dimensions of Ecosystems


Americans in the Outdoors

Education (3)

Utah State University: Ph.D., Human Dimensions of Ecosystem Science and Management

University of Vermont: M.S., Natural Resources

St. Lawrence University: B.A, Environmental Studies

Accomplishments (4)

Wilderness First Responder (professional)

Certified by the Wilderness Medicine Training Institute

Utah Women's Leadership Exchange Associate, (professional)


Conservation Representative (professional)

Utah Outdoor Adventure Commission

Certificate (professional)

Experiential Education Academy

Languages (1)

  • Spanish

Media Appearances (6)

Zion Regional Recreation Management Plan

The Conservation Fund  online


Webinar on visitor use management

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2023’s Best Cities for Ice Skating

LawnStarter  online


We looked for cities with plenty of access to ice rinks, skating lessons, and hockey equipment. We also considered climate conditions and local popularity based on hockey teams, figure skating competitions, and Google searches.

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2021’s Best Cities for Hiking

LawnStarter  online


Common barriers to access to outdoor recreation and green space include physical barriers such as infrastructure and community planning; lack of transportation (either personal or public); limited financial resources; and social influences including lack of awareness/education, history of exclusion from outdoor spaces, or not having experienced family or friends to introduce you to outdoor activities.

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What does it mean to be the only university of the parks?

ABC 4 News  online


Located in the world’s best backyard, Southern Utah University is the University of the Parks thanks to its close proximity to several outdoor recreational areas and its educational partnerships with the National Park Service. SUU is the only designated University of the Parks in the U.S.

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Spring Break was "Grand"

SUU News  online


SUU Outdoors has always offered spring break adventures to students, but this year they accomplished their most “Grand” excursion yet. Jake Manning and Kelly Goonan, assistant professors of outdoor recreation, assisted as trip leaders and guides.

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Outdoor Recreation Major Publishes Paper on Space Travel Ethics

SUU University News  online


Vesely, who is majoring in outdoor recreation, completed this paper for her class ORPT 2040: Americans in the Outdoors. After Vesely saw a notice announcing that UReCA was accepting submissions for their journal, she decided to submit her paper with the help of Professor Kelly Goonan.

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Research Grants (4)

Recreation Impact Inventory

Bureau of Land Management $18,000

Recreation Impact Inventory, Monitoring and Assessment, Arizona Strip District, Arizona. 2015

Recreation Impact Inventory

Bureau of Land Management. $22,000

Recreation Impact Inventory, Monitoring and Assessment, Arizona Strip District, Arizona. 2017

Determination of Standards of Resource and Visitor Experience Conditions to Protect Sensitive Coastal Resources

Ocean Alaska Science and Learning Center, Pacific Ocean Parks Strategy Technical Assistance Program $7,427

This research was designed to identify indicators of quality and formulate associated standards of quality for social and recreational resource conditions for the coastal back country of Kenai Fjords National Park.

Implement Multi-Modal Transportation Plan

National Park Service. $157,296.00.

Implement Multi-Modal Transportation Plan, to Improve Visitor Experience, Bryce Canyon National Park.

Articles (9)

Studies in Outdoor Recreation

Oregon State University Press

Robert E. Manning With Laura Anderson, Megha Budruk, Kelly Goonan, Jeffrey Hallo, Daniel Laven, Steven Lawson, Rebecca Stanfield McCown, Ben Minteer, Peter Newman, Elizabeth Perry, Peter Pettengill, Nathan Reigner, William Valliere, Carena van Riper, and Xiao Xiao


Studies in Outdoor Recreation is a standard text in courses on parks and outdoor recreation

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COVID-19 and its impact on visitation and management at US national parks

International Hospitality Journal

Templeton, A., Goonan, K., Fayal, A.

2021 This paper examines the challenges and opportunities for visits to national parks post-COVID-19, generally and in the specific context of Southern Utah. This paper will critically examine how visitation may change and what adaptive measures and alternative forms of unit management may be necessary.

Visitor satisfaction levels at Southern Utah national parks as the number of visitors increases.

International Journal of Business, Marketing, and Decision Sciences

Steed, E., Kroff, M., Goonan, K.

2018 This study investigates the visitors' satisfaction levels to find out if satisfaction levels were decreasing due to the increased visitation levels at southern Utah national parks, which had experienced double digit visitation increases the past two years.

The Effect of Minimum Impact Education on Visitor Spatial Behavior in Parks and Protected Areas: An Experimental Investigation Using GPS-Based Tracking.

Journal of Environmental Management.

Kidd, A.M., Monz, C., D’Antonio, A., Manning, R.E., Reigner, N., Goonan, K.A., Jacobi, C.

2015 This research aimed to reduce impacts resulting from lack of knowledge both about the consequences of one's actions and impact-minimizing best practices.

An Analysis of Current Resource Conditions and Visitor Standards of Primitive Campsites Along Lake Champlain.

Journal of Great Lakes Research

Goonan, K.A., Monz, C.A., Manning, R.E., Anderson, L.

2012 Primitive campsites located on a paddlers' trail on Lake Champlain in the northeastern USA were assessed for their resource condition quality using standard campsite assessment protocols common to campsite monitoring studies.

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Indicators and Standards of Quality for Paddling on Lake Champlain.

Journal of Great Lakes Research

Anderson, L., Manning, R.E., Monz, C.A., Goonan, K.A., Valliere, W.

2012 This study focuses on indicators and standards of quality for paddling on the lake along a non-motorized kayak and canoe trail.

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Tradeoffs Among Resource, Social, and Managerial Conditions on Mountain Summits of the Northern Forest

Leisure Sciences

Van Riper, C. J., Manning, R. E., Monz, C. A., & Goonan, K. A.

2011 This research examined the relative importance of indicators and standards of quality at three mountain summits in the Northern Forest. The three summits ranged from low to high levels of use, development, and management. Computer-generated photographs were used to present a range of resource, social, and managerial conditions in a stated choice survey.

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Defining, Measuring, Monitoring, and Managing the Sustainability of Parks for Outdoor Recreation.

Journal of Park and Recreation Administration

Manning, R., Valliere, W., Anderson, L., Stanfield-McCown, R., Pettengill, P., Reigner, N., Lawson, S., Newman, P., Budruk, M., Laven, D., Hallo, J., Park, L., Bacon, J., Abbe, D., van Riper, C., Goonan, K.

2011 The purpose of this paper is to suggest that management-by-objectives frameworks used in contemporary park and outdoor recreation management can be useful in defining, measuring, monitoring, and managing the sustainability of parks for outdoor recreation.

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Assessment and Monitoring of Recreation Impacts and Resource Conditions on Mountain Summits: Examples From the Northern Forest, USA

Mountain Research and Development

Monz, C. A., Marion, J. L., Goonan, K. A., Manning, R. E., Wimpey, J., & Carr, C.

2010 Mountain summits present a unique challenge to manage sustainably: they are ecologically important and, in many circumstances, under high demand for recreation and tourism activities. This article presents recent advances in the assessment of resource conditions and visitor disturbance in mountain summit environments, by drawing on examples from a multiyear, interdisciplinary study of summits in the northeastern United States. Primary impact issues as a consequence of visitor use, such as informal trail formation, vegetation disturbance, and soil loss, were addressed via the adaption of protocols from recreation ecology studies to summit environments...

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Courses (9)

HONR 2040 Honors Inquiry and Analysis

Students will engage in learning activities to develop the critical thinking, problem solving, and research skill-sets necessary to investigate complex interdisciplinary questions and problems thoroughly.

ORPT 2040 Americans in the Outdoors

Examines human values, uses, and management of natural settings at the individual, community, and societal levels.

ORPT 3030 Recreation Resources Management

Principles of wildland recreation management including: characteristics of recreation use and users, introduction to planning concepts, management of wildland recreation facilities and infrastructure, and integration with other natural resource uses.

ORPT 3060 Behavioral Aspects of Outdoor Recreation

This course examines the social, psychological, and geographic influences on human behaviors in outdoor recreation settings. An emphasis is placed on current research and critical challenges affecting recreation management.

ORPT 4030 Interdisciplinary Outdoor Education

A course designed to provide students with the knowledge and skills to plan, implement, and evaluate interdisciplinary outdoor education programs that promote environmental literacy in wilderness, community and education settings utilizing inquiry and experiential education teaching methods.

ORPT 4500 Recreation Ecology

Examines the effects of outdoor recreation activities on biophysical resources. Students with review current knowledge concerning impacts of recreation on wildlife, plants, soil, air and water resources, and ecological processes. Students will also learn and practice methods for assessing and monitoring resource conditions.

ORPT 4740 Organization& Administration for ORPT

Organization, administration, and evaluation of outdoor recreation programs. Topics include: Planning, programming, evaluation, budgeting, human resources, risk management, policy, & procedures.

ORPT 4745 Organization & Administration Lab

The Organization and Administration lab provides students with an opportunity to apply the processes and information from the ORPT 4740 into their own program. The lab will include implementation of a program plan and an in-depth evaluation of that program.

ORPT 4860 Outdoor Recreation Skills Practicum

This course is designed to give outdoor recreation majors and minor experience leading, teaching, and developing skills in the outdoor recreation field.