Over the last several decades, marine protected areas (MPAs)—including reserves, parks, sanctuaries, natural monuments, natural resource management areas, heritage areas, and the like—have proliferated throughout the world. In this conceptual and empirical paper, we explore the diversity and nature of MPAs in Puget Sound, Washington, focusing on outdoor recreational uses. Puget Sound MPAs qualify as marine protected destinations (MPDs) and—when taken together with adjacent gateway regions—constitute protected destination systems (PDSs). Internal PDS dynamics are examined with a human-artifactual-natural system (HANS) framework. A face-to-face social survey (N=1532) of people who frequented Puget Sound marine reserves reveals, among other findings, that (1) a great diversity of recreational activities (and associated hard and soft artifacts) populate the MPAs, (2) type of recreational activity is related to perceptions of MPAs as conservation solutions and symbols, (3) level of education is positively correlated with perceptions of MPAs as conservation solutions, (4) respondents with higher levels of education are less likely to engage in recreational fishing and more likely to recreate on the beach than those with less education, and (5) respondents with higher levels of income are more likely than those with lower incomes to recreate on the water. Looking ahead, recommendations are offered regarding social science research addressing MPA recreation and tourism issues.

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