What are people doing in our parks? Understanding, comparing, and predicting the low-impact camping practices of Canadian Provincial Park over-night visitors

  • Author / Creator
    Blye, Clara-Jane E
  • Canadian provincial parks attract millions of visitors every year; and while these visitors come to parks to enjoy their natural beauty, experience cultural and natural heritage, and participate in outdoor recreation they are also simultaneously having a negative impact on the park ecosystems. Damage is being done to soil, vegetation, animals, waterways, and more. There is not much of our Canadian park system that is not affected by human interactions. However, there are strategies in place to help mitigate these negative effects, and management approaches which help to educate park visitors on how to reduce their impact. Such strategies include visitor education programs like Leave No Trace [LNT]. LNT is a widely accepted educational program that seeks to reduce environmentally depreciative behaviours and promote responsible outdoor recreation through low-impact camping practices. The purpose of this thesis was to investigate how LNT was understood and engaged by Canadian provincial parks users. The aim was to investigate which factors best predicted engagement in LNT as well investigate park users (front country vs. backcountry) engagement in LNT practices. In addition this thesis explored the LNT practices and environmental world views of park users in two geographically distinct provincial parks to determine if there was a difference between visitors to these different parks. The two parks examined were Algonquin Provincial Park (APP) in Ontario and Peter Lougheed Provincial Park (PLPP) in Alberta. These parks are culturally comparable, have high visitation numbers, offer similar front country and back country camping opportunities, and provide a broad representation of visitors to provincial parks in Canada. Data was collected using a survey questionnaire administered on Android tablets and paper. Surveys were collected at trail heads, campsites, permit offices, and visitor information centres. This resulted in 456 respondents, 229 visitors in Alberta and 227 in Ontario. The first study examined the LNT knowledge and environmental world views of overnight park visitors and compared front country and back country users as well as APP and PLPP visitors. T-tests were employed to determine if there were statistical differences (p<.05) between the visitor groups with regard to self-reported LNT knowledge, actual LNT knowledge, and environmental world views. Results suggested statistical differences between front country and back country overnight visitors, as well as between Alberta and Ontario park visitors. It was back country overnight visitors who reported higher levels of LNT knowledge; however, it was those who camped in the front country who scored higher on actual measures of LNT awareness. Additionally, those who camped in the Alberta park reported higher levels of LNT knowledge and a more pro-environmental worldview but there was no statistical difference between the environmental world views of back country and front country overnight visitors. The second study examined factors explaining park visitors’ intention to engage in LNT practices while camping. Factors included: perceived behavioural control, subjective norms, attitudes, environmental values, environmental worldview, awareness of consequences, ascribed responsibility, personal norms, and knowledge of LNT. Guided by value beliefs norm theory and the theory of planned behavior, structural equation modeling was used to determine what the best predictors of LNT intentions were. Two separate models were tested (TPB and VBN) and both models were found to have good fit with the data and able to explain more than half of the variance in LNT intentions. Results further suggest that all factors with the exception of attitudes are significant predictors of LNT intentions.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    2016-06:Fall 2016
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Master of Arts
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
  • Language
  • Institution
    University of Alberta
  • Degree level
  • Department
    • Physical Education and Recreation
  • Specialization
    • Recreation and Leisure Studies
  • Supervisor / co-supervisor and their department(s)
    • Halpenny, Elizabeth (Physical Education and Recreation)
  • Examining committee members and their departments
    • Harshaw, Howie ((Physical Education and Recreation)
    • Hvenegaard, Glen (Geography and Environmental Studies)