Minimizing Visitor Impacts to Protected Lands: An Examination of Site Management and Visitor Education Methods

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Virginia Tech


This thesis contains two studies that explore different methods of visitor management in recreation. The management strategies studied here are both relatively indirect approaches intended to minimize the environmental and social impacts that visitors cause in protected areas. The Annapolis Rocks study focuses on visitors' evaluations of a site management strategy that shifted camping from a flat, open area to constructed side-hill campsites. A visitor questionnaire was administered before and after the treatment to determine visitors' ratings of importance and satisfaction for various campsite attributes. We found some evidence of visitor displacement but concluded that the site management strategy supported the intentions of the managers. The Leave No Trace study evaluates the effectiveness of the Trainer courses in improving the knowledge, ethics, and behavior of the participants and encouraging them to teach others in the community. This study employed pre-course, post-course, and follow-up questionnaires to evaluate the participants' short-term and long-term gains from the course. Trainer course participants showed significant short-term and long-term gains from the course, with a slight decline in the total gain four months after the course. The participants showed improvements in low-impact behaviors, suggesting that education is an effective visitor management strategy. These studies demonstrate that managers can be successful at controlling visitor impacts without relying on stringent regulations and enforcement.



Recreation management, low-impact camping, visitor impacts