Natural Resources, School of


Date of this Version



A THESIS Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements For the Degree of Master in Science, Major: Natural Resource Sciences, Under the Supervision of Professor Mark E. Burbach. Lincoln, Nebraska: May, 2010
Copyright 2010 Chelsea D. West


There is evidence that park visitation is on the decline (Pergams & Zaradic, 2008) and if this is the case, and budgets decrease proportionately, there is a chance park land will be lost. Definitive explanations of the decline in park visits and time spent in nature are not available. In addition, there has been some discussion and research pertaining to the possible effects on people of not going into the natural environment and experiencing a connection with nature.

This study represents the first research known to focus on connectedness to nature and its relationship to structured and unstructured recreational activities. To test this relationship, a post-test only control group design was used to survey visitors at state parks. The Multi-dimensional Connection to Nature Scale was used to measure connectedness to nature in campground visitors. This paper presents results of participation in structured and unstructured activities. A significant positive relationship was found between connection to nature and participation in structured activities. This result supports the contention that participation in structured activities at a state park can increase a person’s connection to nature. Some of the causes underlying this finding could include the intimate outdoor setting for outdoor programs and the information being provided during a program. For infrequent park users, there was no significant difference between connection to nature and participation in structured and unstructured activities. This study will greatly benefit the state park system by providing useful information to park personnel. Park managers and planners can develop proper management and planning programs to make the most of the visitors’ experience and better achieve the park’s objectives.

Advisor: Mark E.Burbach