Evaluation of Interpretation and Experiencescape Strategies for Mitigating Risk


  • Kelli K. McMahan Baylor University
  • Gary D. Ellis Texas A&M University
  • Christopher J. Wynveen Baylor University




Risk mitigation, interpretation, experiencescape, risk behaviors×


Managers use numerous strategies to mitigate risk. Interpretation educates visitors and thereby facilitates decisions about risk. Experiencescape strategies redirect visitors’ attention from high-risk features by broadening the scope of activity opportunities. We created simulated hikes under different interpretation and experiencescape scenarios to evaluate effects on the probability of visitors engaging in risk behavior at a natural attraction with significant environmental risks. Four hundred six adults interested in outdoor recreation participated in the simulation. The risk context was the Big 4 Ice Caves trail at Washington State’s Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. Managers sought to reduce the number of people approaching, entering, or climbing on the ice caves. Prompted by on-site studies previously conducted, we created video simulated hikes with five strategies for mitigating risk that systematically varied (present or absent) including: a) new terminus design, b) signage telling the story of the formation

Author Biographies

Gary D. Ellis, Texas A&M University

Gary Ellis is Professor and Bradberry Chair in the Department of Recreation, Park and Tourism Sciences in the Texas A&M University System. He served two terms as Department Head from 2008 through 2016 and was appointed Bradberry Chair in May of 2017. Dr. Ellis served on the faculty of Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism at the University of Utah from 1985 through 2008. His appointment included 12 years as department chair (1994-2006). He was assistant professor at Western Kentucky University faculty from 1983-1985.


Dr. Ellis holds a doctorate in Higher Education Administration from the University of North Texas (1983) and masters and baccalaureate degrees in Recreation and Park Administration from the University of Kentucky (1979) and Eastern Kentucky University (1978), respectively. He is a Fellow in the Academy of Leisure Sciences, the American Academy for Park and Recreation Administration, and the World Leisure Organization. Among the many leadership positions he has served are President of the Academy of Leisure Sciences; President of the Society of Park and Recreation Educators; Treasurer of the Academy of Leisure Sciences; Vice-Chair of the Council on Accreditation of Parks, Recreation, Tourism, and Related Professions; and Board member of the American Academy for Park and Recreation Administration. In local service roles, he has served as treasurer of the Bryan-College Station Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, board member on the Mayor’s Council on Physical fitness, and University of Utah representative to the Utah State University Tourism Advisory Board.


Dr. Ellis is recipient of numerous awards. Prominent among these are the Franklin and Theodore Roosevelt Research Award, which is the highest recognition for scholarship recognized by the National Recreation and Park Association, the Society of Park and Recreation Educators’ Distinguished Colleague Award, and the Utah Outstanding Professional Award. Dr. Ellis is also recipient of institutional awards for excellence in research and administration, including outstanding Department Head.


Dr. Ellis’ current research focuses on structuring immediate experiences for youth, tourists, and other recreationists. Well-structured experiences yield value, loyalty, advocacy, and repeat visitation. In the instance of youth development, structured experiences may be transformative. Dr. Ellis has an extensive history of publications, scientific presentations, workshops, and keynote addresses on immediate experiences. He has generated over four million dollars of funding through, contracts, grants, innovative projects, and collaborative initiatives with managers in different sectors of the experience industries.

Christopher J. Wynveen, Baylor University

Dr. Chris Wynveen is Associate Professor at Baylor University.  His research focuses on the human dimensions of natural resource management. Specifically, I have a continuing interest in the meanings recreational visitors' ascribe to parks and other protected areas. I use place meaning to refer to the thoughts and feelings people hold for specific settings. The concept provides the foundation for understanding other constructs important to the human-environment relationships (e.g. sense of place and place attachment) and the sustainable management of protected areas (e.g. relationships between various resource uses and recreation users, community stakeholder involvement, and collaborative management).



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