Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design


Recreation, Parks and Tourism Resources

Committee Chair

Chad D. Pierskalla.


The purpose of this study was to provide management at Spruce Knob-Seneca Rocks National Recreation Area, West Virginia, with an understanding of the social worlds of rock climbers at Seneca Rocks, to ascertain any management interventions that can improve access to climbing areas at Seneca Rocks, and to determine how permitted group sizes among guided and/or unguided climbers would affect the social worlds of climbers at Seneca Rocks. Between the fall of 2009 and spring of 2010 17 interviews with rock climbers of varying experience climbing at Seneca Rocks were conducted, then analyzed along with accident reports, internet forum discussions, academic literature, "grey" literature, and artifacts, using a constructivist grounded theory method. The social subworlds of climbers at Seneca Rocks were found to be highly fragmented among infrequent users of the area as well as social insiders, whereas frequent users were the most cohesive social subworld. This fragmentation led to challenges communicating safety information between more- and less experienced climbers. Social fragmentation among insiders led to incomplete information being passed on to area management, meaning that management decisions may be informed by the group of insiders that partnered with them but not by the group that distrusted the US Forest Service. It is recommended that area management attempt to cultivate trust with the latter group of insiders in order to ensure that future decision making is fully informed, especially with respect to issues that are complex and nuanced among climbers, like bolting. Further, it is necessary to exploit new information channels and reconsider current communication approaches to ensure that climbers with little information about the area can make safe climbing decisions while climbing at Seneca Rocks.