Wilderness visitor response to ranger educational contacts at trailheads
Irwin, Kenneth M.
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The use of wilderness rangers to educate visitors on Without-A-Trace camping and wilderness ethics at trailheads is a common management practice, but little is known about how such contacts affect the visitors' wilderness experiences. The purpose of this study was to determine whether Shining Rock Wilderness visitors perceived trailhead contacts as light-handed or heavy-handed and the factors which caused them to perceive the contact the way they did. It also determined whether or not the visitors felt that site conditions in the wilderness were getting better or worse. On-site questionnaires were administered to visitors as they left the area. A majority felt the trailhead contact was a light-handed way to manage wilderness use. The visitors felt that the contact did not take away their freedom to choose how, when or where to recreate. The rangers were perceived as friendly, knowledgeable, and non-authoritarian. The condition of Shining Rock Wilderness was perceived to be relatively free of site impacts. There were no significant differences in the visitors' perceptions of the ranger or the contact due to the sex or experience of the ranger or the sex, age, or experience of the visitors. Implications for wilderness management and research are discussed.
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