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Innovation Infusion - Dr. David Weaver: Review and Reflection

Review and Reflection on Dr. David Weaver’s Innovation Infusion Section

On December 11th, 2014, Dr David Weaver from Griff University, Australia delivered a presentation on the topic: From Monitoring and Management to Motivation and Mobilization: Toward a Revolution in Park/Visitor Relations. He demonstrated his research findings collected from the Lamington and Springbrook National Parks, Australia. He pointed out that the trends in park visitation is addressing the fact that visitors are  increasingly important revenues for parks, therefore there should be a shift in managing visitors, instead of purely treating them as a threat. He also provided solutions on how to enable this shift. The presentation is over, but the discussion is ongoing.

Reflections from Dr. Pete Parker, Professor of Faculty of Management

Parks Do More than Preserve Biodiversity
Although Dr. Weaver was presenting his findings from research conducted in Australia, the results echo what is currently happening throughout the world. Parks are more and more becoming isolated refuges of biodiversity that are increasingly dependent on dwindling public funding systems. Economists call on parks to start paying for themselves via visitor fees while biologists push to keep more people away. Dr. Weaver spoke about the need to move away from strictly monitoring and managing visitors to prevent degradation, but rather to positively motivate and mobilize them so they chose to actively participate in biodiversity conservation. The “leave no trace” mantra should be changed from “take only pictures, leave only footprints” to something more positive such as “take only transformational experiences and leave only positive impacts” (like planting a tree, removing an invasive species, or donating resources).
In response to decreasing funds, Dr. Weaver calls for park managers to focus on stimulating active participation from visitors in the management of the public lands. His research found a strong appetite for involvement among nearby park residents, even within the millennial generation. British Columbia manages 972 parks and protected areas covering over 13 million hectares with a budget that lost over $10 million during the past decade. I am now motivated to participate in the management of my parks… how about you?

Reflections from MASLM Students

Revolution in Park/Visitor Relations: from “People or Parks” to “People and Parks”
Leave no trace? Take only pictures? Leave only footprints?
This current outdoor ethics in the efforts of minimizing the impacts of visitors and promoting responsible outdoor recreation and conservation has been challenged by Dr. David Weaver in his lecture “From Monitoring and Management to Motivation and Mobilization: Toward a Revolution in Park/Visitor Relations”. As he points out, increased reliance on visitor-related revenue has placed visitors in significant positions in parks conservation. Thus traditional models of treating visitors as potential threats to protected areas should be replaced by a new model, which is motivating and mobilizing visitors towards positive engagement in those protected parks rather than monitoring and managing visitors.
Changing visitors’ behaviors is always challenging, however, there is a great opportunity for the vast majority of incidental activism to be transformed to focused activism. This could only happen when visitors are actually engaged in the parks. So as Dr. David Weaver suggests, parks should be “disturbed” by visitors. Only through this “disturbance”, visitors can potentially be transformed by their experience, being motivated and mobilized towards focused activism.
Do leave a trace, but a positive one!
                                                       --Yufan Yang (Veronica)

A Strategy to form a Community Base for Increasing Park Betterment
Dr. Weaver propagated a symbiotic relationship between park visitors and nature. In this relationship parks and visitors share a mutually constructive and dependent connection with one another. This relationship yields positive net benefits; in turn for giving back to parks, visitors feel a sense of self-satisfaction. Visitors were presented with a wealth of possible ways to give back positively to parks across a spectrum of participation levels, which included tree planting, litter pick-up, and fundraising. This management strategy encourages visitors of all kinds and possible participation levels to contribute in enacting performances of eco-tourism and responsible forms of enlightened mass tourism.  Rather than seeking to maintain the status quo within parks, this innovative strategy has the potential to mobilize visitors to form community support bases for parks motivated by both altruism and their own self interests. Dr. Weaver’s theories on visitor mobilization and motivation demonstrated ways in which visitors may contribute to the betterment of their own spaces and selves.
-- Jeff Wahl

A Paradigm Shift in Protected Areas Management
It was interesting to hear [Dr. Weaver] talk about how he wanted to change the philosophy of parks management, from monitoring & management to innovative motivation & mobilization. An important, thought provoking question raised by him in his presentation was the question of how can all types of visitors be transformed from being a source of threat to a resource for conservation. An innovative solution offered by Dr. Weaver is the concept of ecotourium, which would provide a platform for all types of visitors to contribute towards conservation during their visit to a particular park. It was a highly educational and a thought provoking discussion which has given me much to ponder upon.
 -- Avneesh Desai

An Enlightenment of Solution of Park/Visitor Relationship Conflict in China
Dr. David Weaver’s lecture indeed inspired me a lot. Although I have never been to Australia nor conducted any research about Australian protected areas, his presentation enriched my knowledge about it. The conflict of park/visitor relationship as Dr. Weaver said happens not only in Australia but also in China. As a country with a larger population, China faces this conflict more seriously, especially during the Golden Week holidays. Dr. Weaver discussed the purposes of the visitors and the site-enhancement activities and then provided a hypothetical participation pattern. Although this pattern may not be suitable for China, it is still informative and helpful for China to alleviate the park/visitor relationship conflict and encourage a coexistent relationship. For example, the government could encourage and host different types of environmental protection activities for people with different purposes, which may be more effective to increase the involvement of people. The concept of ‘enlightened mass tourism’ where strengths of mass tourism are combined with strengths of alternative tourism is new and very interesting for me. I think this would be a good direction for tourism development in China since tourism is a great economic generator and a bridge between the environment and people.
 -- Yunjian Zhong (Jenny)

Dr. David Weaver put forward an innovative approach for managing park/visitor relations. Park management professionals should switch from warning visitors to “leave no trace” to enlightening them to “leave positive traces”. Treating visitors as a threat will only miss the opportunities to remind them of their possibility to contribute to the biodiversity of the park. Thus the current practices should be challenged. Just as Dr. Weaver said, if you host a party in your house and invite people to come, can you say to your guests: welcome to my home, and leave no trace?

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