The nature experiences of wilderness recreation leaders : throwing a stone
Grimwood, Bryan S. R.
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Through this descriptive exploratory study, the ways that wilderness recreation leaders experience nature are illuminated, deconstructing the assumed environmental benefits of and practices used in outdoor recreation (Haluza-Delay, 2001). This study also offers a foundation for advancing an environmental ethic among wilderness recreation leaders, participants, and organizations. With the continued degradation of and threats to natural environments, and the rising popularity of outdoor recreation participation, the outdoor recreation professional can be a leader in promoting human reconnections to the Earth (Henderson, 1999). Leaders of outdoor recreation experiences play an important role in encouraging these revived relationships to natural settings and can contribute to the necessary environmental consciousness shift needed within Western society (Hanna, 1995; Jordan, 1996). The purpose of this research was to describe the lived-experience in nature of wilderness recreation leaders. Specifically, a phenomenological method of inquiry was used to describe the meaning of nature, the connections and relationships to nature, and the behaviours and emotions experienced in nature by a group of wilderness canoe trip leaders employed by a residential summer camp. In addition to the implications of this research, achieving this outcome provides a rich descriptive understanding of wilderness leaders' experiences—a basis from which to extend future research endeavours and programmatic practices that promote effective environmental outcomes of outdoor recreation participation. Each of the five study participants was employed in the summer of 2003 by an Ontario residential summer camp organization that sponsors extended wilderness river canoe trips for youth. Two in-depth and semi-structured interviews were performed with each participant, asking them to reflect on the canoe trip that they led for the summer camp organization during 2003. Phenomenological data was analyzed according to Colaizzi's (1978) thematic analysis process. Consistent with van Manen's (1997) emphasis on phenomenological writing, the final result presents the essence of the nature experiences of wilderness recreation leaders in the format of a narrative description. This narrative piece is the culmination of this research effort. Throughout the journey, however, various foundations within the outdoor recreation field, such as minimum impact principles, environmentally responsible behaviours, anthropocentric and ecocentric worldviews, and effective leadership are deconstructed and discussed.
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