The Influence of Anthropogenic Sound in Historical Parks: Implications for Park Management


  • Gretchen Nurse Rainbolt
  • Jacob A. Benfield
  • Paul A. Bell


National park, historical park, anthropogenic sound, noise, visitor experience


Understanding the influence of anthropogenic sounds on national park visitors has been the subject of several recent studies. In general, most of this research has focused on the implications of anthropogenic sounds (i.e., car noise or human voices) on landscape evaluation and overall visitor satisfaction depending on sound type and volume level. These studies have revealed significant interactions between visitor experience and sound in the nature-based national parks, but there has been little research investigating the role of the anthropogenic sounds on visitor experience in historical parks that are also part of the national park system. In particular, visitor expectations and experiences in national parks may vary depending on if a park is more focused on the natural environment or the historical heritage of the United States. The current study focuses on historical parks and how visitor outcomes based in both experiences (e.g., satisfaction) and benefits (e.g., learning) are influenced by the presence of anthropogenic sounds. Undergraduate college students were exposed to a simulated, laboratory-based tour of two historical parks (The National Mall, Gettysburg National Military Park) that included six tour stops per tour with narrative information provided at each stop. Both human voices and aircraft noise (i.e., anthropogenic sounds) were introduced in conjunction with narratives at historical tour stops. The percent time audible of these anthropogenic sounds varied within the sample with three sound interference conditions: no sound, low presence (16–33%), and high presence (66–100%). In other words, based on the experimental condition to which they were assigned, participants were exposed to varying levels of anthropogenic sounds during the tour stops. Questions related to the tour stops were asked at the end of each historical park tour. Results suggest that there is a relationship between the presence of sounds and certain visitor outcomes. Both experiencebased visitor outcomes (e.g., satisfaction with tour stop) and benefits-based visitor outcomes (e.g., retention of information) varied depending on sound type and sound duration exposure. More specifically, human voices detracted from satisfaction ratings more so than no anthropogenic sound and aircraft conditions. Also, as interference level (duration of sound exposure) increased, appeal of the site and prescribed level of appropriateness related to the information in the tour narrative decreased. Benefits, in the form of retention of the themes related to both tours (Washington DC, Gettysburg), also decreased for the high sound interference group. These results have important implications for management at the park level to ensure a high quality visitor experience.





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