KWRRI Research Reports


The research reported is based on a holistic sociocultural study of a popular regional recreation site in Eastern Kentucky, the Red River Gorge. Our research with over 3200 recreational visitors to the Gorge, 395 members of four recreation/conservation groups, 44 local landowners, and with a large number of management personnel from various governmental agencies permits us to provide an especially comprehensive overview of the problems and prospects of this popular area. Our general purpose is to provide descriptive and analytic information that will allow managers to more effectively understand and cope with their work in Red River Gorge.

In addition to this overall goal, our research provides an example of the use of some innovative ideas and techniques for the study of recreationists. Among our study tools was the construction of density tolerance curves for our recreationists. This method of assessing visitors' tolerance for other recreationists was borrowed from the work of Heberlein (1977) though we know of no other instance in which it has been used so extensively. Density tolerance is an important component of the measurement of social carrying capacity of areas such as Red River Gorge.

Perhaps the most important contribution of this research is the positing of the idea of recreational niches. Our work demonstrates that recreational areas like the Red River Gorge may contain many different recreational niches that are used in very different ways from other recreational sites within the same general setting. In addition, characteristics of the visitors who use any niche may be quite different from the characteristics of visitors using other sites. The recognition of the existence of recreational niches is vital to future recreational research which has management implications. The presence of recreational niches in an area may bias the data collection unless data are collected in all types of niches. Using only one niche as representative of the entire recreating populace can lead to erroneous predictions of visitor characteristics and preferences, and may lead to inappropriate management, The niche concept can also be used positively: managers may wish to encourage or discourage certain types of users, and knowledge of niche variety may contribute to this goal.

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Funding Information

The work upon which this report is based was supported in part by funds provided by the Office of Water Research and Technology, United States Department of the Interior, Washing ton, D .C., as authorized by the Water Research and Development Act of 1978. Public Law 95-467.

"Landowners, Recreationists, and Government: Cooperation and Conflict in Red River Gorge" is based on materials collected as part of the project, "Two Kentucky Wild Rivers: Present and Anticipated Demand, Public Preferences and Social Carrying Capacity" (OWRT Project No, A-079-KY) which was sponsored by the Kentucky Water Resources Institute and supported in part by funds provided by the United States Department of the Interior as authorized by the Water Resources Research Act of 1964, Public Law 88-379.