Addressing the environmental challenges of outdoor recreational sport : the illustrative case of disc golf
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Environmental issues are manifest throughout our lives. Sport is no exception. The concern for sustainable sport management has precipitated efforts to reduce the ecological footprint of sport, and to use sport to raise environmental awareness. This dissertation examines the challenges of reducing the ecological footprint of an urban recreational sport: disc golf. The project consists of four studies. The ecological degradation associated with the sport of disc golf is reported in the first study. It is shown that disc golf increases soil compaction, which yields greater soil erosion and a decrease in vegetation cover. The second study examines player behaviors, and identifies two behaviors that are clearly related to the environmental degradation, and that could be reduced without interfering with the game: (1) dragging bags with disc golf equipment along the ground, and (2) using tress as practice targets. The subculture of disc golfers is explored in the third study in order to identify characteristics of the subculture that could be leveraged to foster the desired behavioral changes. Disc golfers felt a strong sense of ownership and attachment to the park in which they played, and placed a high value on the sport and the park in which they played. However, disc golfers were unaware of the environmental effects of their behaviors. In the final study, a brochure was distributed to players that informed them about the environmental damage caused by dragging bags and using trees for target practice, and that appealed to their sense of ownership and attachment to the park in which they played. A multiple baseline study of disc golfer behaviors in three parks demonstrated that the brochure reduced the target behaviors so significantly that they were virtually extinguished. It is concluded that behavioral management strategies can be useful tools for environmental management of urban sport settings. It is suggested that appeals to supportive subcultural values enable self-policing of target behaviors. It is also noted that education can be an effective intervention when the values are supportive but player ignorance of their impact has allowed environmentally damaging behaviors to be tolerated.