Recently, people have expressed concerns about how declining outdoor recreation participation and increasing housing development in high-amenity areas may affect conservation attitudes and behaviors as well as environmental quality. Recreation participation and property ownership have been identified as antecedents to place attachment. However, limited research has examined how people develop attachments to specific places and how these attachments relate to management preferences and support for conservation of specific areas.
This study used data from two 2004 surveys addressing the management of lakes and aquatic plants in Minnesota. One study was conducted with a sample of Minnesota residents and the other with a sample of lakeshore landowners on “fisheries lakes” in the state. Data were analyzed to examine relationships among recreation participation, lakeshore property ownership, place attachment, and intentions to conserve lakes. Four clusters of recreationists were identified: all-around, appreciative, consumptive, and less-involved. Respondents were also segmented based on their ownership of lakeshore property, and whether property was used as a primary or second home.
This study contributed to research on how participation in outdoor recreation relates to environmental attitudes and behavioral intentions. Results suggested that recreation participation relates to attitudes and behavioral intentions for lake protection. Among members of the general public, less-involved participants in lake-based recreation reported significantly lower intentions to take political or philanthropic action to protect lakes. Appreciative recreationists from the general public sample were more likely to take political action, while all-around and consumptive recreationists were somewhat more likely to donate time and money to protect lakes. Among lakeshore property owners, less-involved recreation participants reported lower personal responsibility for protecting their lake generally and a lower rating of personal norms for protecting native aquatic plants. However, all-around recreationists from the lakeshore property owner sample reported significantly higher behavioral intentions to remove native aquatic plants compared to appreciative, consumptive, and less-involved recreationists.
The study advanced research on place attachment by: (a) examining visitors’ and residents’ attachment to Minnesota lakes and (b) how place attachment relates to conservation attitudes and behavioral intentions. Stronger place attachment was associated with property ownership and frequency of recreation participation. The study developed a scale to measure family connections to a lake, which was introduced in this dissertation as normative place attachment.
Results supported previous research that has suggested: (a) a positive relationship between outdoor recreation and environmental attitudes, and (b) differences based on the type of recreation participation. Study findings suggested the importance of recreation participation to protection of Minnesota lakes. Participation in lake-based outdoor recreation was related to place attachment, personal responsibility, and behavioral intentions related to lakes. In particular, less-involved recreation participants reported lower levels of attitudinal and normative place attachment to lakes, expressed less personal responsibility for protecting lakes, and had the lowest intentions of taking philanthropic or political action to protect lakes. However, a substantial amount of unexplained variance remained in models of attitudes and behavioral intentions related to the protection of lakes and aquatic plants. Future studies of recreation, property ownership, place attachment, and conservation, could incorporate more comprehensive measures of recreation participation, place attachment, “insidedness” to a place, and environmental attitudes, and behavioral intentions. In addition, future research could examine the influence of place meanings, environmental values, social capital, sense of community, political ideology, educational background, and length of association with a place on environmental attitudes, behavioral intentions, and actual behaviors.
Key words: conservation, lakeshore property, norm activation theory, place attachment, recreation participation, structural equation modeling