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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2022

Why do normative encounter standards change? The social evolution of recreational crowding

Kuentzel, Walter F.; Heberlein, Thomas A.; McCollum, Daniel W.


Why do recreational carrying capacity standards change over time? When shared evaluative standards change at a recreational destination, what are the social processes that might lead people to evaluate "how many is too many" differently over time? This study examined how 24-year changes in personal, social, and experiential characteristics of boaters at the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore were related to changes in their evaluation of encounters with other boaters. The results showed that boaters had become more tolerant of encounters over time. This normative change was associated with a changing profile of visitors with an increased percentage of older empty-nest boat owners, who were more skilled and experienced, and more committed to the Apostle Islands boating experience. These visitors were part of a developing boater community and were less worried about "crowds" and more interested in the social presence of other boaters as part of their recreational experience.


Apostle Islands National Lakeshore; crowding; hierarchical linear modeling; normative standards; visitor change

Published in

Journal of Leisure Research
2022, Volume: 53, number: 3, pages: 357-376

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    Social Sciences Interdisciplinary

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