Perceived Constraints to State Park Visitation: A Comparison of Former-Users and Non-Users


  • Deborah L. Kerstetter
  • Harry C. Zinn
  • Alan R. Graefe
  • Po-Ju Chen


Constraints, state parks, former-users, non-users.


This study was conducted to extend the theoretical understanding of perceived constraints to visiting a state park, and test for differences in the ways that sub-groups of non-participants conceptualize constraints. Using random-digit telephone numbers, we obtained a sample of 1,077 Pennsylvania residents who had not visited a state park during the 12 months prior to the survey. Of this group 836 (78%) were former state parks users and 241 (22%) had never visited a state park. Overall, the largest percentage of respondents (60%) identified lack of time as a constraint to their state park use. This was followed by lack of knowledge about state parks (34%), lack of friends or family with whom to visit state parks (24%), distance (22%), physical limitations of the respondent or someone he or she travels with (15%), perceived crowding in state parks (12%), and costs in state parks (11%). Other constraints were identified by fewer than 10% of respondents. With respect to those who had never visited a state park, they were most likely to perceive that their use of state parks was constrained by lack of knowledge, distance, and transportation. Former-users were most likely to perceive that their use of state parks was constrained by the fact that they had visited state parks before. Open-ended responses to follow-up questions revealed that respondents did not think about one constraint in isolation. For example, some respondents related lack of knowledge to time, interest, or family issues.For managers, our results suggest that multiple constraints typically overlap in the mind of the potential visitor to prevent participation. Furthermore, the overlap among different constraints differs for non-users and former-users and changes during the life span. These findings suggest that a single approach to marketing is unlikely to be effective for all audiences. Finally, it is important to consider the possible outcomes of a successful marketing campaign. In a situation where 12% of non-visitors reported that they were constrained by crowding in state parks, a marketing campaign that increases state park visitation might also diminish overall user satisfaction.





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