Understanding hikers' behavioral intent towards Leave No Trace in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

WCU Author/Contributor (non-WCU co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
David McDowell Schafer (Creator)
Western Carolina University (WCU )
Web Site: http://library.wcu.edu/
Andrew J. Bobilya

Abstract: Resource degradation is a primary concern related to increased visitor use of U.S. public lands. This can manifest in vegetation loss, soil compaction and erosion, degradation of water quality, and wildlife disturbance. The Seven Leave No Trace (LNT) Principles are a primary means of educating visitors to reduce impact on public lands. Given that Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GRSM) is the most visited National Park in the country at 14.1 million visitors in 2021, there is a need to replicate previous LNT research conducted in other parks and protected areas in GRSM. This study sought to understand GRSM hikers’ behavioral intent towards LNT practices. A quantitative questionnaire was used to measure participants’ behavioral intent based on four variables towards LNT: attitudes of appropriateness, perceived effectiveness, perceived difficulty, and self-reported knowledge. A total of 285 questionnaires were completed. Findings show the variables had varying levels of influence on hikers’ behavioral intent, with perceived effectiveness and difficulty having the most influence. Based on this, GRSM staff may reduce hiker impact hiker by focusing education on the effectiveness and ease of practice of LNT Principles foremost. Supplementally, staff can provide education that increases hikers’ understanding of impacts and emphasizes appropriateness of proper LNT behavior. Better practice of LNT by hikers in the Park may minimize recreation-related impacts in GRSM and may subsequently improve visitor experience.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2022
Environmental education, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Leave No Trace , Theory of Planned Behavior
Environmental education
Natural resources conservation areas
Public Lands -- Recreational use -- Moral and ethical aspects
Outdoor recreation

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