Title

Visitor Motivations and Public Health Perceptions During the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Case Study from First Landing State Park

Description/Abstract/Artist Statement

State and national parks are sites to which, until recently, American citizens enjoyed largely unlimited and uninhibited access. During the COVID-19 pandemic, outdoor recreationists have been forced to make important and difficult decisions about the use of parks they once enjoyed in a blissful, carefree manner. Concerns about the nature of COVID-19, which placed the entire world in a state of disarray, have risen and fallen since March 2020. In the United States, variations between the states’ responses to the pandemic have created unique dilemmas for citizens, who still depend on public places such as parks for recreation and exercise. In this study, First Landing State Park (FLSP) was selected to gauge how visitors made decisions about their outdoor recreation participation, specifically their decision to camp at and enjoy the resources of FLSP. During Fall 2020, campers (n = 114) were surveyed for their motivations for visitation, trust in public health messaging from various sources, and compliance with public health guidance. Results indicate visitors exhibit a moderate level of concern about the pandemic, and use of park resources to pursue what they perceive as safe outdoor activities that support mental health and family leisure. Additionally, various public health messaging strategies received varying support dependent on demographic categories (i.e., political affiliation). Using these data, FLSP staff intend to continue to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and more accurately target certain types of visitors with information about how to recreate in and enjoy public spaces safely.

Presenting Author Name/s

Alexander Burns

Faculty Advisor/Mentor

Chris Zajchowski

College Affiliation

College of Education & Professional Studies (Darden)

Presentation Type

Oral Presentation

Disciplines

Leisure Studies | Social Psychology

Session Title

Coastal and Estuarine Science

Location

Zoom Room F

Start Date

3-20-2021 9:00 AM

End Date

3-20-2021 9:55 AM

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Mar 20th, 9:00 AM Mar 20th, 9:55 AM

Visitor Motivations and Public Health Perceptions During the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Case Study from First Landing State Park

Zoom Room F

State and national parks are sites to which, until recently, American citizens enjoyed largely unlimited and uninhibited access. During the COVID-19 pandemic, outdoor recreationists have been forced to make important and difficult decisions about the use of parks they once enjoyed in a blissful, carefree manner. Concerns about the nature of COVID-19, which placed the entire world in a state of disarray, have risen and fallen since March 2020. In the United States, variations between the states’ responses to the pandemic have created unique dilemmas for citizens, who still depend on public places such as parks for recreation and exercise. In this study, First Landing State Park (FLSP) was selected to gauge how visitors made decisions about their outdoor recreation participation, specifically their decision to camp at and enjoy the resources of FLSP. During Fall 2020, campers (n = 114) were surveyed for their motivations for visitation, trust in public health messaging from various sources, and compliance with public health guidance. Results indicate visitors exhibit a moderate level of concern about the pandemic, and use of park resources to pursue what they perceive as safe outdoor activities that support mental health and family leisure. Additionally, various public health messaging strategies received varying support dependent on demographic categories (i.e., political affiliation). Using these data, FLSP staff intend to continue to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and more accurately target certain types of visitors with information about how to recreate in and enjoy public spaces safely.