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Multiple Dimensions of Adaptations to Climate Change by Visitors to Vermont State Parks

Elizabeth Perry, Robert Manning, Xiao Xiao, William Valliere


Climate change is an increasingly important issue in Vermont and around the world, and has implications for many forms of outdoor recreation. The scientific and professional literature is illustrative of the ways participants in a number of outdoor recreation activities are adapting to climate change, including the ways in which these adaptations are likely to increase in the future. This study explores these issues as they apply to visiting Vermont state parks. Climate change models developed in the physical and natural sciences offer insights into future climate-related scenarios in the Vermont state parks (thereby helping to define the supply of state park recreation opportunities). We used social science to complement these models by examining how visitors may adapt to these changing conditions (thereby helping to define the demand for recreation in the state parks). We conducted an on-site survey of visitors to three representative state parks, describing a range of climate changerelated recreation conditions and asking respondents how they would adapt. Three types of adaptations were included in the study: 1) changes in the amount of use, 2) changes in the spatial and temporal patterns of use, and 3) changes in recreation activities. Study findings suggest that most climate-related changes included in the study will: 1) decrease the amount of use; 2) shift substantial amounts of use to more northerly parks and parks at higher elevations, and shift use to earlier and later in the conventional state park season; and 3) shift participation among the 10 recreation activities included in the study, though the pattern of these shifts is complex. Study findings suggest that visitors are likely to make substantial adaptations in their use of the Vermont state parks in response to climate change, and that state park management will also have to adapt accordingly.

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climate change; visitor adaptations; outdoor recreation; Vermont state parks

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