Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management

Committee Member

Jeffrey C Hallo, Committee Chair

Committee Member

Elizabeth Baldwin

Committee Member

Matthew Brownlee

Committee Member

Rachel Collins


Visitor use management (VUM) is the proactive and adaptive process for managing characteristics of visitor use and the natural and managerial setting using a variety of strategies and tools to achieve and maintain desired resource conditions and visitor experiences (IVUMC, 2018). For nearly 40 years, the application and operationalization of visitor use management has relied on a normative approach, which assumes that visitors to parks and recreation areas have shared attitudes and preferences about resource and social conditions. Visitor use management frameworks and the normative approach rely on defining management objectives, identifying indicators and thresholds for the visitor experience, monitoring change in recreation conditions, and adapting management strategies where necessary. This dissertation reexamines some of the scientific methods historically used to inform visitor use management decisions.

This dissertation focuses on the development of indicators and associated thresholds, which has historically relied on visitor surveys, on-site interviews, and management expertise. Given the importance of incorporating the provision of quality visitor experiences into park and protected area planning, and the difficulties associated with understanding the nuances involved in shaping an experience, the purpose of this dissertation is to offer and explore unique techniques that may facilitate the development of indicators and associated thresholds. This dissertation first used visitor-employed photography to develop indicators of the wildlife viewing experience, where important visitor experience qualities emerged that were not found from survey or interview questions. This dissertation additionally offered a more efficient and perhaps more valid technique for defining thresholds for the indicator of people at one time (PAOT), which is used as a proxy to indicate use-levels and crowding. Results indicate that a combination of the traditional and novel approach may be appropriate. Lastly, this dissertation explored the phenomenon of displacement, which has historically been treated as a negative outcome of the visitor experience. The results of this suggest that displacement should be operationalized as an indicator of the visitor experience, rather than an outcome. This dissertation overall contributes to the development and application of the normative approach to protected area management and planning.



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