Author

Rex Turner

Date of Award

2001

Level of Access

Open-Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Forest Resources

Advisor

Wilbur LaPage

Second Committee Member

John Daigle

Third Committee Member

MaryAnn McGarry

Abstract

The summit of Cadillac Mountain, located in Maine's Acadia National Park, can be reached via three hiking trails and a scenic auto road. This site attracts over an estimated two million visitors per year. Most of this visitation is concentrated from Memorial Day to Labor Day. The sensitive sub-alpine nature of the site, coupled with high visitation rates, has created a scenario where significant vegetation and soil damage occurs. Additionally, Acadia National Park has experienced chronic problems at this site stemming from visitors altering, destroying, or constructing cairns (pyramid shaped piles of rocks built by trail crews to mark trails and guide hikers). In an attempt to describe visitor behaviors and the context in which those behaviors occur, an unobtrusive, observational study was conducted on the summit of Cadillac from June 19,2000 through October 4,2000. Field observation periods totaled 219 hours and were performed on 31 weekdays and 9 weekend days. The primary observer's researcher role was concealed by appearing to look like a hiker, nature enthusiast, reader, or tourist. Observations of visitors' actions and comments, recorded during stationary and roving observation periods, were subtlety recorded in a small, inconspicuous journal. To analyze the data, field note entries were organized into general categories. Individual entries were coded for specific themes or patterns identified by constantly comparing and analyzing the entries. Emerging theories/hypotheses, which were borne out of (or grounded in) recorded data, are discussed in relation to potential management approaches. Most impacts to the site occur in a positive social atmosphere. Damaging behaviors such as cairn building and trampling did not appear to show malicious or even rebellious intent. Cairn building was most attributable to families with young children. Findings identified numerous factors influencing off-trail travel (e.g. personal space, photography, picnicking, etc.). Furthermore, insight was gained about how visitors react to low-impact messages (on signs) and to physical barriers erected to protect damaged areas. Future research and management considerations are put forth based on the results of this study. Particular emphasis is given to persuasive communication. The influence of high visitation rates on several potential management strategies is discussed.

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