Date of Award
Master of Science
AN ABSTRACT OF THE THESIS OF IAN M. PENDERGAST-WHITE, for the Master of Science degree in FORESTRY, presented on *July 7, 2010, at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. TITLE: CONSTRAINTS TO CONTINUED ROCK CLIMBING PARTICIPATION IN THE SOUTHERN ILLINOIS REGION MAJOR PROFESSOR: Dr. Jean Mangun In recent years rock climbing has seen dramatic increases in the number of participants nationwide. Climbing opportunities in southern Illinois are expected to become popular climbing destinations as the area becomes better publicized. The high quality sandstone, aesthetic features, and easy access help to ensure that the number of rock climbers coming to the region will only continue to grow. As has been described in the literature with other "new" activities on public lands, concern from land management agencies likewise continues to grow in direct correlation with the increasing numbers of climbers. Although there are literally dozens of published articles in the sports medicine literature about injuries from rock climbing and physiological responses, there is a surprising lack of research on the activity itself. The present study applies a qualitative approach to collect baseline data that characterizes regional climbing participants and their concerns before resource allocation issues develop further. Twenty climber interviews, two climber focus groups, and four key informant interviews with managers were conducted and data analyzed for emerging themes. Findings from the analysis suggest: although a strong sense of community and dedication to the activity exists within the climbing user group, climbers express concern that their activity lacks stature as a legitimate resource-based recreation activity among other stakeholder groups. Differing perceptions of the environmental impacts associated with climbing persist that lead to climbing access issues. Creation of local climbing organizations, such as the Illinois Climbers Association, can play a pivotal role in promoting progressive collaboration among stakeholders groups, which will be necessary to resolve these issues and better integrate rock climbing into the mix of accepted recreation activities in the southern Illinois region.
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