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From backyards to the backcountry: Exploring outdoor recreation coping strategies and experiences during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic in New Zealand

Espiner, N
Degarege, Gebeyaw
Stewart, Emma
Espiner, Stephen
Journal Article
Fields of Research
This paper explores the impacts that the New Zealand government's lockdown measures to contain the COVID-19 virus during 2020 had on the activity and experiences of outdoor recreationists in New Zealand. Concepts related to coping strategies such as rationalisation, displacement and substitution, have been used frequently to explain the behavioural changes and processes involved in outdoor recreation when disruptions arise such as crowding and recreational conflict. However, such concepts have rarely been applied to rapid on-set disruptors such as pandemics. This paper adopts coping strategy theory to help document the strategies adopted by outdoor recreationists in response to the national lockdown in 2020. Based on a qualitative analysis of twenty interviews with outdoor recreationists in New Zealand, various coping mechanisms such as temporal, activity, and spatial displacement are identified. These include increased appreciation for outdoor settings, discovery of local activities and microadventures, and increased walking activity across the restricted, reaction and reset periods. Outdoor recreation coping strategies may contribute to increased resilience to disruptive and rapid on-set events and enhance understanding of how recreationists respond and adapt to disruption. This research presents a unique insight of coping strategies adopted in response to the national lockdown that may have implications for participation and management of outdoor recreation in New Zealand in the coming years. This paper also offers a new perspective on the behaviourist tradition in the field of outdoor recreation which may be fruitful for future research examining rapid on-set disruptions and crises.
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