Assessing community values of National Park Service units in Virginia
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In an effort to increase understanding of social values connected with natural resources, a methodology was developed to identify and assess community values of 14 National Park Service (NPS) units in Virginia. The methodology used a qualitative research approach which emphasized meaning and understanding. Numerical analyses were used where appropriate. This thesis reports the design, application, and evaluation of the methodology.
Representatives of the NPS, local government, and chamber of commerce were chosen to provide a broad-based perspective of community values. Time and budget constraints excluded the use of a random survey. Interviews using open-ended questions elicited comments about various topics related to community values. The survey results were used to quantify the relative importance of services and contributions of the NPS units.
The survey indicated relatively high importance of educational and cultural/historical contributions to all groups. Active recreation pursuits and social activities were least important. Differences in perceived contributions between NPS personnel and the community (local government and chamber of commerce) were greatest in the education, economic, and cultural/historical categories. NPS personnel always indicated a higher value in the education and cultural/historical categories and the community indicated higher value in the economic category.
Comments received were analyzed by categorizing and examining them for common themes. Common themes were found in the areas of land use, education, psychological benefits, and interactions between the NPS and community. Many of these themes included values recognized by NPS personnel and community representatives. Key differences include land development buffer and psychological benefits that were perceived to be greater by community representatives. The results of the survey and interview comments enhanced understanding of the types of community values associated with NPS units and how they affect public perceptions of the NPS.
Evaluation provided feedback to improve the methodology in its future applications to NPS units in other states or regions and for other preserved cultural and natural landscapes. Suggestions are given for future research to examine specific community values which this study identified.
- Masters Theses