Constructed facilities

A major opportunity for managers to increase the physical carrying capacity of an area is to construct various facilities. Hard-wearing surfaces can improve the robustness of access and confine the visitor to predetermined locations, as many are disinclined to stray far from a trail. Such action requires investment, continuing management, maintenance and good design. Although built facilities can contribute to the robustness of a site they can also stimulate increased demand and adversely affect the visual carrying capacity in certain circumstances. Nevertheless, built facilities are important in increasing the potential for barrier-free access for disabled people.


The climate is often a vital factor in the capacity of an area to supply a particular range of recreation opportunities. For example, it is obvious that snowy winters are needed in order to ski under natural conditions. Areas with more extreme climates—that is, hot summers and cold winters—tend to favour a concentration of recreation at certain times of the year: for example, the winter season for skiing and snow mobiling or the summer for sailing, sunbathing, windsurfing and swimming. Oceanic temperate climates such as that of Britain, the coast of Oregon or parts of New Zealand facilitate a wide range of activities all year round.

Some climates pose risks to people outdoors. In mountains the weather can close in and become dangerous for less experienced hikers in areas where it can change very quickly, such as in Scotland or the Cascade Mountains of Oregon and Washington. Deserts can cause heat exhaustion and dehydration at the hottest times of the year. This limits the range of activities and the type of people who can cope unless special measures are taken—for example, waymarking of tracks in mountains, provision of shade and water in desert areas—so that others beside the young, fit and experienced can enjoy the area.

Seasonal changes are linked to the climate in many ways but also have different features. Some seasons such as autumn or spring are the prime times for scenic viewing, when the vegetation colours are at their best and wildlife is active. Many people prefer to visit forest landscapes during these seasons—New England is noted for the brilliance of its leaf colours in the fall, for example. Seasons for fishing or hunting may be important in many areas, and hunting may cause potential conflicts with other users due either to disturbance of game or the risk to humans of being accidentally shot.

Alternative opportunities in the area

The major recreation providers, such as national parks and forest services in the USA and Canada, frequently have large tracts of land in locations where there are few if any alternatives provided by other operators. In more crowded countries such as Britain, the Netherlands or Germany there may be a wide variety of different opportunities provided by a range of public and private operators. It is unnecessary in most cases for an operator to try to provide all of the potential activities if someone else is in a better position to do so. In many cases, as facilities may be provided free, particularly access, it is sensible to consider where respective strengths may lie. For instance, two neighbours might possess different types of landscape such as a lake or reservoir and a forest. In this case it is easy to provide different experiences such as sailing on the lake and hiking in the forest. It may furthermore be sensible for there to be one car park to serve both facilities instead of two separate ones, and for hiking trails to include access to the water at certain points. In another case, two adjoining owners might both possess lakes. Rather than each trying to satisfy demands for fishing and powerboats it might be better for the landscape, wildlife management and the recreation experience if the lake best suited to fishing was solely used for that purpose and the other concentrated on powerboating. In this way the demand is catered for while the carrying capacity of the wider landscape is respected.

Updated: September 24, 2015 — 11:32 pm