Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

Respondent Self-Assessment of Research on Crowding Norms in Outdoor Recreation

Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

Respondent Self-Assessment of Research on Crowding Norms in Outdoor Recreation

Article excerpt


Indicators and standards of quality have emerged as integral elements of contemporary frameworks in park and outdoor recreation management. Indicators of quality are measurable, manageable variables that help define the quality of the visitor experience. Standards of quality define the minimum acceptable condition of indicator variables. Once indicators and standards of quality are formulated, indicator variables can be monitored and management action taken to ensure that standards of quality are maintained. Indicators and standards of quality play a central role in contemporary park and outdoor recreation management frameworks such as Limits of Acceptable Change (LAC) (Stankey et al., 1985), Visitor Impact Management (VIM) (Graefe et al., 1990), and Visitor Experience and Resource Protection (VERP) (National Park Service, 1997).

One of the most problematic issues in this contemporary approach to park and outdoor recreation management has been setting standards of quality. Such standards may be based on a variety of sources, including legal and administrative mandates, agency policy, historic precedent, expert judgement, interest group politics, and public opinion, especially that derived from outdoor recreation visitors. This latter source has special appeal because it involves those most directly interested in and affected by park and outdoor recreation management policy.

Research on visitor-based standards of quality increasingly has focused on personal and social norms. Developed in the fields of sociology and social psychology, norms have attracted considerable attention as a theoretical construct and empirical framework in outdoor recreation research and management. In particular, normative theory has special application to setting standards of quality for the recreation experience. As applied in outdoor recreation, norms are generally defined as standards that individuals and groups use for evaluating behavior and social and environmental conditions (Vaske et al., 1986; Shelby & Vaske, 1991; Donnelly et al., 1992). If visitors have non-native standards concerning relevant aspects of recreation experiences, then such norms can be measured and used as a basis for formulating standards of quality.

Application of visitor-based standards of quality in outdoor recreation is described in Shelby and Heberlein (1986), Vaske et al. (1986), Shelby et al. (1996), and Manning (1999a and b). These applications have relied heavily upon the work of Jackson (1965), who developed a methodology-return-- potential curves-to measure norms. Using these methods, the personal norms of individuals can be aggregated to test for the existence of social norms or the degree to which norms are shared across groups. Normative research in outdoor recreation has focused largely on the issue of crowding (e.g., Shelby, 1981; Heberlein et al., 1986; Whitaker & Shelby, 1988; Patterson & Hammitt, 1990; Williams, et al., 1991; Vaske, et al., 1996; Manning et al., 1996a; Manning et al., 1996b; Manning, 1997; Manning et al., 1998a; Jacobi & Manning, 1999), but has addressed other social and resource conditions, including ecological impacts at wilderness campsites (Shelby et al., 1988) and along trails (Manning et al., 1996b), wildlife management practices (Vaske & Donnelly, 1988), and minimum stream flows (Shelby & Whittaker, 1995).

Research on crowding norms has raised a number of theoretical and methodological issues. Moreover, research in other, related fields of study, such as contingent valuation, can be applied to measurement of crowding norms (Manning et al., 1999a). This collective body of literature contributes to testing the validity of research on crowding norms and exploring the effectiveness of alternative measurement techniques. The objectives of this paper are twofold. First, research on theoretical and methodological issues related to measurement of crowding norms is reviewed and synthesized. …

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