Design concepts for outdoor recreation

In the last chapter, some of the trends in recreation demands and the expectations that people have when they visit the outdoors were examined. How to realize the opportunities that a landscape offers, and how to zone or plan in order to meet the demand sustainably, were also considered. What emerged from this examination is that the quality of recreational experiences is significantly dependent on the quality of the setting in which the activity takes place. By this is meant the whole quality of the environment as perceived by the senses. Of the senses, sight is by far the most important, although smell, hearing and touch are also significant. This means that special attention should be paid to the aesthetic qualities of the landscape setting, the facilities and artefacts provided, and the overall maintenance of areas that people visit.

Quite often, a destination will be chosen because of its particular qualities as scenery or at least as a scenic backdrop in which to pursue a particular activity. The beauty of the landscape will be particularly important to the large numbers of people who visit areas repeatedly during the year. The anticipation of returning to an area is often heightened by a sense of expecting its beauty to be the same as the last time, with the exception of seasonal change. When there has been a change, perhaps due to a management activity such as logging or a natural event such as a fire, then expectations are disappointed, and feelings of anger or sadness can replace those of satisfaction.

It is impossible to keep any landscape from changing. However, some changes are slow and so are barely noticed. It is the sudden and dramatic changes that are difficult to accept. Here lies a challenge to managers: to inform people about the dynamics of a particular landscape and prepare them for change, and to accomplish this—whenever possible—in such a way as to make the change either seem to be for the better or fit in so well that its impact is neutral. This requires design skills that are applied to large-scale landscapes. Such design is largely outside the scope of this book, which is mainly concerned with facility and artefact design, but it does give a sense of the wider context.