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Place Attachment on the Maine Coast: User Characteristics and Reasons for Visiting

Andrea J. Ednie, John J. Daigle, Jessica E. Leahy

Abstract


The concept of recreation place attachment is used to help natural resource managers understand recreational users as part of a landscape. The source of place attachment is examined in a mixed-use natural area in order to learn what draws individuals to a landscape and to better predict how visitors might react to management actions. With an emphasis on physical, social, and cultural characteristics, this study set out to develop an understanding of how recreational users become connected with a resource and how different forms of connections are shaped by sociodemographic and travel variables. The Stonington region island archipelago, hosting a range of recreational use and user characteristics, is a popular ocean-recreation destination along the Maine Island Trail, one of North America’s first and longest water trails. A visitor survey (n=427, response rate=85%) was conducted in the region during the summer of 2006, measuring place attachment, reasons for visiting, socio-demographic variables, and travel characteristics. A factor analysis of the place attachment scale supported previous conceptualizations of place identity and place dependence as two separate, but highly correlated components. The place identity and dependence factors were clustered into three groups for comparison with other variables. Results indicated that visitors seek a diversity of experiences in the Stonington region and that travel patterns vary according to attachment to the place. Regardless of level of attachment, study participants were most attracted to the physical landscape and least to the local culture of the area. However, through time, visitors gained more of an attraction to those cultural components of the landscape. Participants in the high-attachment cluster were more attracted to the culture of the area than those in the low-attachment cluster. The results from this study highlight the need for managers to protect a diversity of experiences on the islands by connecting new visitors with special places while protecting the freedom for long-term users to select specific islands to match their desired trip experiences. For tourism marketing, the best way to appeal to new visitors may be through promoting the scenic value of the undeveloped islands and the challenge/excitement of paddling to remote islands. However, the safest way to reach a more diverse audience (including 37 individuals with low and high attachment) might be to combine physical with more social and cultural aspects of the place in promotional material. In terms of research, this study sheds light on the importance of including local community members into studies of the full spectrum of connections recreationists have with a resource (from local community members to short-term recreational visitors). By studying this broad spectrum, we are able to better understand the diversity of experiences people seek, and therefore, to draw implications regarding support for management actions.?

Keywords


Place attachment, recreation management, reasons for visiting

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