Date of Award

Spring 2023

Project Type


Program or Major

Recreation Management and Policy

Degree Name

Master of Science

First Advisor

Michael Ferguson

Second Advisor

Lauren Ferguson

Third Advisor

Forrest Schwartz


Parks and protected areas (PPAs) provide essential ecosystem services to society, including both the material and non-material benefits obtained from healthy ecosystems. While research on this topic has mainly focused on material-based ecosystem services, limited attention has been given to the benefits of non-material cultural ecosystem services (CES) such as recreation, history, and culture. Visitor loyalty refers to an individual’s commitment and willingness to return to a PPA in perpetuity and is influenced by various factors, including the quality of the recreation experience and the ecological integrity of a natural resource. CES may significantly influence visitor loyalty in PPAs, as visitors are often drawn to certain PPAs because of their cultural relevance or aesthetic beauty. The relationship between CES and visitor loyalty, however, is understudied in PPA settings. Therefore, this study examined the influence of CES on specific elements of visitor loyalty behaviors at the Great Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve (GBE) in southern New Hampshire. The study employed a knock-and-drop population sampling method in the summer of 2022 to collect data from GBE visitors within proximate high-visitation communities (n=645). Structural equation modeling analyses determined a strong relationship between certain CES and various visitor loyalty behaviors. For example, findings suggest that sense of place has a strong and consistent influence upon visitor advocacy, financial support, and volunteerism. Overall, this research serves to advance both the ecosystem services and visitor loyalty frameworks and provides empirical evidence for natural resource managers. By recognizing the importance of non-material CES, such as sense of place and recreation, resource managers can enhance visitor loyalty and ensure the long-term management and success of natural resources worldwide.