Title page for ETD etd-05072005-070609

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Garst, Barry Austin
Author's Email Address bgarst@vt.edu
URN etd-05072005-070609
Title An Exploration of Developed Forest Camping Experiences and Meanings in the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area
Degree PhD
Department Forestry
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Roggenbuck, Joseph W. Committee Chair
Axsom, Daniel K. Committee Member
Barrow, Mark V. Jr. Committee Member
Hull, Robert Bruce IV Committee Member
Lambur, Michael T. Committee Member
  • Forest Camping
  • Constructivism
  • Meanings
  • Experiences
  • Recreation
Date of Defense 2005-05-03
Availability unrestricted
Developed forest camping has received little attention in the recreation research since the late 1960s and early 1970s. Changes in socio-demographics, technology, and the public’s expectations for amenities over the past forty years suggested that the nature of the developed camping experience may have changed. Thus, the purpose of this study was to understand the modern developed forest camping experience and associated meanings and the influence of technology on developed forest camping. In-depth interviews were conducted in the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area with thirty-eight camping groups in three campgrounds which varied in their level of development.

Developed forest camping experiences were described by participants as a combination of what they were doing (i.e., activities), who they were interacting with (i.e., social interaction), where they were camping (i.e., setting), and what they were feeling while they were there (i.e., psychological states/feelings). The camping experience occurred in stages and it emerged over the course of participants’ trips, with emotional highs and lows. Camping was a social experience, with participants defining much of their experience in terms of who they were with. The developed camping experience was influenced by the natural environment, particularly scenic beauty and other aesthetic setting qualities.

The majority of participants in this study suggested that they were able to get a nature-based experience even in highly developed camp settings in which large motor homes, televisions, and satellite dishes were common. Participants used a range of camping gear and electronics, and this technology was important to promote comfort and conveniences and for a distraction during inclement weather.

The associated meanings of developed forest camping were restoration (i.e., rest, escape, and recovery), family functioning, special places, self-identity, social interaction, experiencing nature, association of God and nature, novelty, and the opportunity for children to learn. Restoration was the most commonly expressed meaning across all three campground types. The most commonly expressed life-context meanings were restoration and sharing positive family memories and stories. These family memories and stories often developed into important camping traditions.

Recommendations for recreation managers, study limitations, and opportunities for future research are identified and discussed.

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