Attached Recreationists “Who Are They?”


  • Gerard Kyle
  • Alan Graefe
  • Robert Manning


Place attachment, visitor characteristics, resource appraisals, hiking, Appalachian Trail


Building on previous conceptual and empirical work, the purpose of this investigation was to examine place attachment’s effect on several variables purportedly related to the construct. The place attachment construct has been used by recreation researchers and managers to explain a variety of leisure behaviors (e.g., recreationists’ setting preferences, management preferences, activity participation). While place attachment has been examined by researchers within a variety of disciplines, most definitions focus on the bonds that humans share with specific settings. In the leisure literature, most conceptualizations have focused on two dimensions of attachment: place identity and place dependence. Place dependence is said to capture recreationists’ setting attachments that are instrumental and goal related, particularly with regard to the setting’s ability to facilitate desired leisure experiences. Place identity, on the other hand, captures recreationists’ emotional and affective bonds with the setting.Data (N=1,879) were collected from hikers along the entire length of the Appalachian Trail, a linear hiking trail stretching from Georgia to Maine in the U.S.A. Confirmatory factor analytic procedures confirmed that the two dimensional conceptualization of place attachment was appropriate for these data. Respondents were clustered into three distinct groups using their mean scores on the two dimensions of place attachment. The three groups differed with regard to their level of attachment to the trail. These three groups were then examined in relation to several variables (e.g., demographics, visit motivations and preferences, activity involvement). A profile of the different segments of users was constructed to document how place attachment affects and is affected by these variables. Overall, the nature of respondents’ attachment to the trail was largely affective (i.e., place identity). Variations among groups based on level of attachment were observed for trip motivations, evaluations of setting conditions (resource and social), evaluations of management actions, level of experience (setting and activity), and level of involvement with the activity of hiking. The findings provide further evidence of the validity and reliability of the two-dimensional conceptualization of place attachment. For managers, these findings demonstrate that place attachment can be a useful tool for better understanding visitor behavior and assisting with management decisions.





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