Date of Award
MS in Agriculture - Recreation, Parks and Tourism Management
Botanic Garden User Outcomes: A Means-End Investigation
Christopher Lee Wassenberg
This study explored the outcomes that Leaning Pine Arboretum users experience from visiting the botanic garden. Understanding visitor motivations and benefits has been a focus in the field of outdoor recreation, and the subject of a number of botanic garden and green space visitor studies. Previous studies have found that visiting a botanic garden can serve as a coping strategy for dealing with and reducing life stress (Holbrook, 2010; Kohlleppel, Bradley, & Jacob, 2002; Maller, Townsend, Pryor, Brown, & St Leger, 2005) and that visiting public outdoor green spaces led visitors to experience greater exposure to natural spaces and to have meaningful experiences with others (Burgess, Harrison, & Limb, 1988).
This study employed means-end theory (Gutman, 1982) to investigate the link between garden attributes and user outcomes. In-person interviews were conducted with 83 garden visitors during the summer of 2011. Researchers coded the interview data to identify participants’ reported attributes, consequences, and values. Intercoder reliability was conducted to ensure validity of the results. Coded data were entered into the Laddermap (Gengler & Reynolds, 1995) computer software program to be analyzed. Implication matrixes were created to determine the number of times concepts were linked. From the implication matrixes, hierarchical value maps (HVMs) were developed to display the results graphically. HVMs show the strength of links between attributes, consequences, and values, and were used to compare results from different visitor groups within the study. These groups included males and females, students and non-students, and first time and return visitors.
The findings revealed that participants felt that the botanic garden and plants were the most meaningful garden attributes. These garden attributes led participants to experience the consequences new experiences and learning stress and relief and relaxation. Having experienced these meaningful consequences allowed participants to reach the most frequently mentioned values: transference and improved quality of life. The study found important links between attributes, consequences, and values, including the consequences escape and stress relief and relaxation, and the consequence new experiences and learning, and the value transference. Important differences were also found between the attribute, consequence, and value chains of multiple visitor groups.
Botanical garden and arboretum mangers may use this study to improve visitor experiences and outcomes. A better understanding of visitor benefits and outcomes can help managers understand the needs of current visitors, potential visitors, and potential garden supporters. In turn, garden visitors who have better experiences may be more inclined to provide funding or other support to conserve and preserve their local gardens. Based on the results garden managers should maintain a broad range of healthy, well-displayed plants; exert high-levels of detail to all aspects of garden operations; continue to provide opportunities for full visitor immersion; and offer unified, accessible interpretation of garden spaces and plants. Additionally, these results may be used to validate funding requests and guide allocation of funding.
Keywords: Botanic garden users, outcomes, means-end theory, Leaning Pine Arboretum