Maya Passmore: Camp Host perspectives of park experience


Maya Passmore, Maria DiGiano, Nicole Ardoin


Understanding the human response to climate change is crucial, in order to develop effective action measures. This includes understanding individual hopes and concerns around climate change, the sense of place and connection to nature individuals exhibit, and how other crisis like the current COVID-19 pandemic influences these factors. This study aims to explore how volunteer camp hosts at Big Basin Redwood State Park: connect to the Redwood Forest as a place in nature, interact with and talk about climate change, and the impact of COVID-19 on that connection to nature and relationship with climate change. We conducted one joint pilot interview with the camp hosts on site the summer of 2020 at Big Basin Redwood State Park. This interview asked a range of open ended questions over Zoom. The questions were sorted into four question blocks: Introduction and demographics, park resources and visitor experience, climate change and COVID-19. Initial themes of sense of wonder, connection to nature, gratitude, hope, concern, fear, anger, sadness, urgency, and  belonging were observed. Sense of wonder, connection to nature, gratitude, and belonging were expressed in regards to time spent in the Redwood Forest, enhanced by the reduction of individuals in the park during COVID-19 closure. Concern, fear, and urgency were observed when discussing the impacts of climate change, as well as sadness and anger when specifically talking about the Redwood Forest and the impacts of climate change on the ongoing lightning complex fire that destroyed the park. Hope was expressed for the recovery and rebuild of the park from the fire, including the impact on visitor awareness of current impacts of climate change. The next steps for the ongoing research in the Social Ecology Lab including developing a complete codebook, conduct further interviews, and analyze the interview data to draw conclusions in regards to the role of climate change, COVID-19 and sense of place are expressed by volunteer camp hosts in Big Basin and other Redwood Parks.

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Interview Quotes

When the park closed [due to COVID-19] we had it all to ourselves. It was a gift. More animals and birds were willing to visit the park when it wasn’t full of so many people.

donna marykwas
Camp Host Donna Marykwas

Climate Change just destroyed [the forest]. I think it’s the reason the fires are so severe, and [Climate Change] is not going to get any better, it’s a future problem as well.

Steven Passmore
Camp Host Steven Passmore

When you speak to people who have experienced the park they say it was a very dry season with hardly any fog. The fog is what nourishes the forest.

donna Marykwas
Photo Gallery of Big Basin Redwood State Park and Camp Hosts Donna and Steven

I would like to thank the members of the Social Ecology Lab and the SESUR staff for making this project possible.

I especially want to thank the park rangers, staff, and volunteer personnel at Big Basin Redwood State Park for their service and dedication to the forest. I hope that the park can recover from the lightning complex fire. It truly was a wonderful place to live, and I hope that those that call the park their home will make it through these difficult times.

And finally, I would like to thank Donna Marykwas and Steven Passmore (my parents) for their participation in this project and for the ability to do research in the Redwoods this summer despite COVID-19.

Feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions or comments in regards to my research project.

11 Comments on “Maya Passmore: Camp Host perspectives of park experience

  1. Hello Maya! I really loved the personal touch on your website (the photos, the quotes) and how your work was centered around a natural space that you have a strong personal connection to. It was also very interesting to know about the preliminary themes (hope) that came up during the study. I am looking forward to learning more about it!

  2. Wow, thanks for your presentation Maya. It’s great to get insight into what camp hosts experience in the park, especially with the fires this year! The before and after pictures, and the personal quotes were very powerful.

    • I wanted to include the photos to give context about the park and a visual representation of the impact of the fire, and what was said during the interview.

  3. Maya – Oh what a year! You had worked hard and it must have been so disappointing not to be able to complete the interviews with more camp hosts. Can you share an example of a question or two that you asked, and maybe how you might change/tweak the questions based on your initial interviews?
    – Jenny

    • Hi Jenny- One of the questions that I asked was “What would you say are the biggest current threats to this redwood forest?” I feel that I should tweak this question a bit, just due to the context of the fire for this initial interview. This question was intended to make people think about things they think impact the park, but in the current context the fire will probably override other perceived threats to the forest. So, in context of the impact of the fire on the park, I think I need to reword this question, and a few that are related, due to the current situation.

  4. Hi Maya,

    Nice job! Thanks for sharing all these pictures and photos, I really enjoyed how you took the time to personalize this page and how you shared your findings with us. I also really loved your video and how you were able to overlay yourself on top of it – super cool!

    It’s also a really neat audience to think about interviewing and investigating the perceptions of camp hosts! I feel like I often hear about research from the visitor perspective, and this was a neat angle. You mentioned a number of themes that came up in your preliminary interviews, were there any surprising or unexpected things that emerged so far? Anything you haven’t heard about yet, that you were expected to?

    You accomplished so much this summer, despite a number of unpredictable challenges – you should be so proud! Great job!

    • Hi Bianca- Thank you, I really enjoyed making this post, and especially the video. In regards to the preliminary themes, I feel that something that was really interesting to observe in the interview, how my parents built off of each other. In some instances Donna would make a comment in response to a question that was more rooted in concern, and then Steven would follow up her response with a comment that was rooted in hope. This interplay of emotions was something that was really interesting to observe. Also, I feel that the sense of place and the gratitude expressed in regards to being in the forest and to be able to volunteer as camp hosts was a lot more strong than I initially thought it would be. I also expected to observe more instances of despair, due to the recent fire, which were more mildly expressed in concern on the timeframe to restore the forest and at the ongoing impact on climate.
      Thank you, this was a great summer project to experience.

  5. Hi Maya,

    I really enjoyed hearing about your work and particularly loved the way you chose to set up your website page. It obvious you have a really personal connection with this space and it’s really cool that you were able to use your personal experiences for your research. I know that the fires were all very recent, but I’m curious to know if you have any plans to continue this research and if so, do you think the fires would impact the results that you get?

  6. Great work here Maya, and absolutely heart-wrenching to see the difference after the fires catalogued in your photos. I think there’s a lot of powerful takeaways to be gained from discussing these themes with people who are on the ground working on behalf of the environment, and whose livelihoods are directly impacted when these natural disasters happen with escalating frequency.

  7. Hi Maya, this is really interesting to see what you were working on this summer as another member of the Redwoods team, bringing a new angle from that of the park hosts themselves. The timeliness of your project with respect to COVID and the impact of fires on Big Basin is crucial, and it is amazing to see such a variety of emotions being expressed in response. With a study placing most focus on hope and concern, do you think there could be more to explore surrounding emotions such as fear, anger, belonging and a sense of urgency?

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