Whether they return: Modeling outdoor recreation behaviors, decision-making, and intention-to-return in congressionally designated wilderness

Michael D. Ferguson*, Alexander R. Caraynoff, Lauren A. Ferguson, Robert J. Barcelona, Darrick Evensen, Holly Knox, Steven Pytlik, Donna Grosz

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Visitation to parks and protected areas (PPAs) has become increasingly widespread in the United States. This increased visitation is especially concerning within congressionally designated wilderness areas where federal agencies are tasked with the dual mandate of preserving wilderness character while simultaneously providing high-quality outdoor recreation experiences. This study investigated the influence of social, situational, and ecological factors on outdoor recreation visitor behaviors and decision making within the Lye Brook Congressionally Designated Wilderness (LBW) area in Vermont, USA. An on-site intercept survey (n = 576) was employed to collect data from LBW visitors in the summer of 2021. Descriptive and multi-variate statistics (e.g., binary logistic regression, structural equation modeling) indicated that visitor behaviors (e.g., coping, substitution) and decision-making (e.g., intention-to-return) were significantly influenced by social (e.g., conflict), situational (e.g., litter, access), and ecological (e.g., trail conditions, weather) impacts. Moreover, the presence of various weather conditions was found to significantly influence the severity of perceived social, situational, and ecological impacts. Study results indicated that outdoor recreation experiences are multifaceted, necessitating a suite of social, situational, and ecological considerations, especially when examining the relationship between visitor coping behaviors and intention-to-return. This research advances the coping framework, provides empirical support for future examination of social–ecological system (SES) theory, and emphasizes the utility of employing an adaptive systems approach for sustainable PPA management.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1018
Pages (from-to)1-19
Number of pages19
JournalForests
Volume13
Issue number7
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 28 Jun 2022

Keywords

  • outdoor recreation
  • visitor use management
  • COVID-19 pandemic
  • social-ecological systems
  • visitor behaviors and decision making
  • parks and protected areas
  • weather impacts

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