The Visitor Experience and Resource Protection (VERP) framework is a planning framework developed by the U.S. National Park Service (NPS) to help guide visitor use planning and decision-making in U.S. national parks. The research reported here highlights the perceptions of park practitioners about major successes and challenges associated with visitor management and recreation planning using the VERP framework. We used a qualitative multiple case study design to explore three (3) national parks that have applied the framework. We conducted 16 semi-structured interviews with park managers, park planners, and recreation scientists, and used thematic coding to categorize the data to capture relevant themes. Our results show that lack of training and leadership in the social dimensions of resource management has limited the successful application of VERP. On the other hand, closely following framework procedures and maintaining quality partnerships with entities both within the agency and outside to facilitate planning efforts, has helped visitor management approaches achieve desired outcomes. This research contributes to the ongoing work of visitor use specialists by using lessons learned and applying them to future planning. It provides tangible outcomes to park managers by providing examples of VERP application to base decisions.


Outdoor Recreation, Planning, Park Management, Qualitative Research, Case Study

Author Bio(s)

Jessica Fefer is a PhD candidate at Clemson University. She earned a BS in natural resource management, and MS in forest resources. Her work has focused on management of protected areas and visitor use planning and management on federal public lands Correspondence regarding this article can be addressed directly to: jfefer@g.clemson.edu.

Sandra De Urioste-Stone is Assistant Professor of Nature-based Tourism in the School of Forest Resources, University of Maine, USA. She earned a BA in ecotourism, MS in resource recreation and tourism, and PhD in natural resources with emphasis on conservation social sciences. Dr. De Urioste-Stone has done extensive work on sustainable tourism, community-based tourism, human dimensions of biodiversity conservation, and sustainable development (including adaptation to global changes, food security, and community-based public health interventions). Correspondence regarding this article can also be addressed directly to: sandra.de@maine.edu.

John Daigle is Associate Professor of Forest Recreation Management in the School of Forest Resources, University of Maine, USA. Dr Daigle's research has explored outdoor recreation benefits, visitor experience, alternative transportation, public access to recreation on private lands, social and cultural impacts of climate change, among others.

Linda Silka is Senior Fellow at the University of Maine’s George Mitchell Center for Sustainability Solutions. Dr. Silka is a social and community psychologist by training, with much of her work focusing on building community-university research partnerships. She has several decades of experience in leading community-university research partnerships on environmental, economic development, and environmental health issues.


The authors of this article would like to thank study participants for their valuable contribution. This work was made possible by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, McIntire Stennis project ME041504, and the George L. Houston Scholarship (School of Forest Resources, University of Maine).

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