Date of Award
Master of Science
The Ozark National Scenic Riverways (ONSR) has seen a wide range of recreationists since its establishment in 1964. To better understand these recreationists, Experience Use History (EUH) has been identified as a measure of exposure to ONSR. EUH is a construct used to identify how often a visitor frequents an area, as well as his or her history with that area. The purpose of this study is to identify the changes in river user demographics over the past 24 years and how these changes relate to EUH using time series analyses. Study field methods follow procedures of Rapid Assessment Visitor Inventory (RAVI), which has been periodically conducted at ONSR since 1972. This study utilizes questionnaires for which raw data were available, collected from 1986 through 2010 to conduct time series analyses of visitor demographics and EUH. EUH groupings were created using the methods of Smith et al. (2009), resulting in the identification of Casual Newcomers, Casual Veterans, Occasional, and Frequent visitors. While a wealth of information exists pertaining to EUH and general demographics, there is an absence of studies analyzing the dynamic relationship of these variables over time. This research examines for the first time if EUH classifications are also time-dependent or if they are functionally stable at a quarter-century time scale. EUH trends over time showed that Casual Newcomers have begun to transition into Casual Veterans throughout the riverways as their history and frequency of visits increased over the years. Changes in age, watercraft type, and gender were also detected resulting in an aging visitor group to ONSR, an increase in motorboat use, and a slow increase in the proportion of female visitors. Experiences, preferences, and attitudes were also analyzed in terms of both EUH and river district. Finally, average distance traveled by visitors was also analyzed showing ONSR to be a regional attraction attended by both urban and nonurban visitors. Overall this study suggests that visitor populations to ONSR are dynamic. Some of the most important findings of this study showed that EUH category for a given visitor can and does change over time. The Casual Newcomers and Casual Veterans had clear trends; all three river districts showed distinct trends of increasing Casual Veterans and decreasing Casual Newcomers over time but at varying rates of change in proportion. This finding coupled with the aging of visitors to ONSR, suggests that visitors are returning to the riverways and, over time, increasing in experience, thus transforming the Casual Newcomers into Casual Veterans.
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