Place Attachment in Canyonlands National Park: Visitors’ Assessment of Setting Attributes on the Colorado and Green Rivers


  • Cynthia A. Warzecha
  • David W. Lime


Place attachment, sense of place, rivers, natural resource management, displacement, recreation opportunity spectrum (ROS).


In recent years, place attachment, and its non-economic approach to assessing the value of places, has gained acceptance in the natural resource management field. Managers and planners have begun to recognize the concept of place attachment as a tool for understanding resource conflicts and identifying key stakeholders. To further advance the knowledge of place attachment as a potential resource management tool, the authors examined attitudes and preferences of river users in two river environments in Canyonlands National Park. The purpose of the study was to investigate the potential utility of place attachment as a way to help understand how people identify themselves with outdoor natural settings, as well as to investigate the implications of such research for land management resource professionalsEmotional/symbolic and functional place attachments were measured on the Green and Colorado Rivers within the park’s boundaries. Although the two rivers represent very different recreational settings, it was possible to document both types of attachment by using 12 place attachment statements. Based on respondents’ agreement with the place attachment statements and their rating of specific experiences, as well as their support for potential management actions, river users on the Green and Colorado Rivers demonstrated different motives for taking a river trip as well as different levels of support for specific management actions. Results suggest that this analysis provides another useful variable for segmenting visitors with respect to their preferences and attitudes concerning recreation settings.Concerning visitor tolerance for encountering other river users, comparisons also were made between visitors with high and low levels of agreement with place attachment statements to determine the existence of differences as related to encounter norms. For each day of their river trip, study participants were asked to record the maximum acceptable number, preferable number, maximum number of watercraft they could see before they would consider not visiting the river again, and the maximum number of watercraft for which the National Park Service should have managed for them to see. Based on their level of agreement with both emotional/symbolic and functional attachment statements, respondents demonstrated significant differences in tolerances for encountering other watercraft, regardless of how the encounter question was asked.Results indicate that applying different management strategies on the Green and Colorado Rivers within Canyonlands National Park may be an effective approach to providing quality recreation opportunities for visitors with varying degrees of attachment to the resource. In addition, implementation of a resource management framework that recognizes the potential value of managing a particular resource to provide more than one type of recreation opportunity could help prevent the displacement of Green River visitors seeking a feeling of solitude in a minimally developed setting.





Regular Papers