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An exploration of visitor motivations: the search for silence




Marin, Lelaina Denise, author
Newman, Peter, advisor
Fristrup, Kurt M., committee member
Lawson, Steve, committee member

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This research aims to study the relationship between visitor motivations for experiencing solitude, sounds of nature, and quiet and a visitor's soundscape experience. This relationship will improve managers' ability to provide satisfying and diverse experiences for their visitors and "protect" something that is increasingly rare outside of national parks and other protected natural areas; natural sounds and quiet. Chapter 1 focuses on the effect motivation for a quiet setting can have on acceptability of natural or human-caused sound in Muir Woods National Monument. This study used a dose-response methodology where visitors listened to five audio recordings varying in the percentage of time that human-caused sound was louder than natural sound (percent time above). Visitors were then asked to rate the acceptability of each recording. Three sound-related motivations for visiting Muir Woods were examined: "enjoying peace and quiet", "hearing sounds of nature" and "experiencing solitude." Cluster analysis was used to identify discrete groups with similar motivational profiles (i.e., low, moderate and high motivation for quiet). Results indicated that as percent time above natural sound increased, visitor ratings of human-caused sound decreased. Tolerance for human-caused sound also decreased as motivation for quiet increased. Consensus regarding the acceptability of sound was greatest when the percent time above natural sound was lowest (i.e., quietest sounds). Chapter 2 describes a study of the ability of motivations to predict which of three locations a visitor would most likely choose for recreation. Particular focus was given to sound-related motivations. Data for this study were collected at three sites with varying visitation levels within two national parks; Sequoia National Park-backcountry (low visitation), Sequoia National Park-frontcountry (moderate visitation), and Muir Woods National Monument -frontcountry (high visitation). Survey respondents were asked to rate the importance of six items in their decision to visit the particular park; (a) scenic beauty; (b) experience solitude; (c) time with family and friends; (d) get exercise; (e) experience the sounds of nature; and (f) peace and quiet. Results showed that, of the three study sites, those visitors more motivated to spend time with family and friends and experience the sounds of nature were more likely to visit a frontcountry site, while those motivated for experiencing solitude and getting exercise were more likely to visit a backcountry site. The experience of peace and quiet was not a significant predictor of park location chosen, suggesting that respondents were similarly motivated for quiet across all three sites. Both chapters in this thesis reveal interesting results that may cause managers to consider soundscape management differently in frontcountry and backcountry areas of national parks. For example, these results imply setting acoustic standards, designating management zones, and using education programs to manage for and meet varying levels of motivation for experiencing natural sounds and quiet.


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Sequoia National Park
Muir Woods National Monument


Associated Publications