Category Design for Outdoor Recreation

Planning to reduce negative factors and perceptions

While recreation managers try to meet the demands and expectations of people who want recreational experiences of various kinds, there are a number of factors not mentioned so far that, unless addressed, prevent many people from making the most of their visit. They are those things that tend to prevent people from enjoying themselves because they are uneasy or frightened, or feel at risk in some way. The main worries appear to be as follows.

1. Are we allowed here? This is fundamental in those countries where it is illegal to trespass on private property. People feel uneasy in case they meet an irate owner, occupier or employee. Signs and information help to reassure people, so that they can relax and enjoy themselves.

2. Are we going to get lost? Many people are not very good at map readi...


The Recreation Opportunity Spectrum

The ROS takes as its major premise the fact that recreation is more than just the activity, such as hiking, fishing and camping, in which people participate. It also includes the quality of the specific setting in which that activity takes place. This was alluded to in the introduction, and may seem to be common sense. Yet to incorporate this concept will not only raise the standard of experience gained by people but will help the designer and manager to refine the match of activities to appropriate landscape zones in space and time and avoid any conflicts that otherwise may arise. The concept therefore deserves further consideration.

The spectrum is one of recreational experience correlated to the type of landscape

setting where that experience is most likely to be fulfilled...



As already mentioned, zoning is one of the major ways in which to resolve conflicts between different users and between users and the landscape. The inventory and analysis described above may simplify the job. Zoning identifies what is acceptable where, although it can include more than just physical factors. Aesthetic considerations and expectations of the experience to be enjoyed can also be built into the exercise. Zones can be based on any convenient and comprehensible unit that helps to manage activities and the landscape in compatible ways.

Following the first coarse sieve of allocating activities to appropriate areas, more refined zones can set limits on what, how much and when activities can take place...


SWOT analysis

There are various ways of refining the analytical process following from the basic inventory. One is to evaluate each character area or landscape zone. SWOT analysis provides a useful method.

SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. It is usual to divide the analysis of an area into those factors that are aspects of the site itself (strengths and weaknesses), and those that are affecting it from outside (opportunities and threats). There are two ways of completing an analysis. The first method is to list the factors under

SWOT analysis

A plan showing the possible range of opportunities for recreation in a

landscape. Co-operation with neighbouring owners should always be considered.

the four headings on a sheet of paper using a matrix format...


Appraisal of opportunities

As part of the initial recreation planning, a survey or inventory of the landscape should be carried out. The area can be classified into areas of particular visual characteristics based on the landform and vegetation types, presence of water, land use, cultural heritage and so on. Special note should be made of sensitive places, those with fragile soils and vegetation, the presence of rare plants or wildlife that are easily disturbed, or where there are dangers of rock fall, avalanche or steep cliffs. Note should also be made of places with unique or prominent features which give them a strong identity or ‘spirit of place’, often termed genius loci...


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 opportunitie...


Carrying capacity

The robustness or fragility of the landscape, and of the habitats and wildlife it contains, is termed its carrying capacity. The landscape’s resilience to wear and tear, and its ability to recover from damage, are key factors in determining what can or cannot be provided.

Rock and soil are the first aspects to be considered. Hard rock is hard-wearing, but alluvial soils, scree and talus are fragile and easily dislodged. Wet soils, clays, soft rocks and peat are easily eroded, so that significant access is acceptable only if specially surfaced paths are constructed and maintained. Unrestricted trampling over peat moss in the English Peak District has shown how difficult it is to put right the serious effects of this type of damage. Sand dunes are the most vulnerable of all (see above)...


Landscape variety

The variety of the landscape and its components can suggest what might be provided. A landscape of extreme topographic variation, such as a mountainous or hilly area, will probably offer more scenic attraction. It might also provide mountaineering, rock climbing, hill walking, hang-gliding and other pursuits not offered by flat terrain. A variety of vegetation types will provide different settings. For example, forests can hide a great many people: they have a high visual carrying capacity, and tend to be robust landscapes containing particular animals and birds. Meadows or grassland provide good walking country with open views, places to camp, and different wildlife. Sand dunes are fragile and easily damaged, and can tolerate only very light or controlled access...


Land base

The extent of the land base will determine how many visitors can be spread out so that some can find true solitude while others can enjoy more gregarious situations. For example, larger areas can allow potentially conflicting activities to be zoned in space: a large lake can be zoned so that dinghy sailors and speed – boats are kept separate, while each type of user has enough room to maximize the experience of the visit. Larger areas also mean more scope to move activities from place to place if wear and tear shows signs of getting serious, or if there is conflict with other land uses. In a managed forest, logging will move from place to place, and may have to disrupt the use of an area for certain recreation activities, such as orienteering, for a number of years...


The landscape as a setting for recreation

While it is possible to take part in many activities in an artificial or unattractive environment—for example, climbing on an indoor artificial rock face, or fishing from the bank of a canal in a derelict industrial area—for most people the setting in which the recreation takes place is a very important part of the whole experience. In many instances it is the landscape that they have come to see, and often the facilities needed are only those that enable them to obtain the most enjoyment from a scenic view.

A landscape embracing habitats, wildlife, cultural heritage and different land uses may have the potential to supply the opportunities to meet some or all of the demand, by way of the type of recreation, by its carrying capacity or land use, or all three...