Category Design for Outdoor Recreation

Environmental concerns

Governments and the public at large are displaying more concern for conservation, heritage and wider environmental issues. It may be easier to manage areas where excessive visitor demand endangers the landscape due to wear and tear, overloads sewage facilities or causes pollution from motor vehicles. People may also be more willing to be managed or even prevented from visiting areas that are fragile or damaged if the reasons are explained to them.

The demand for specific forms of recreation may increase, such as nature watching where rare species have captured the imagination of people through publicity or special projects...


Specialized tastes

With increased experience and more activities to pursue, recreation consumers are becoming more sophisticated, and the market is diversifying in order to meet the wide range of specialist markets. There are now many ‘communities of interest’ who participate in specific activities, often requiring special areas, equipment or access during particular seasons. Success in leisure markets depends much more on identifying the specialisms. This poses great challenges for managers and designers, as special facilities may be needed with particular design requirements, such as segregation, zoning and other forms of management strategies in order to deal with potential conflicts.


In the past, many public-sector recreation providers allowed people free access, or charged for perm...



Available leisure time and spending power have both increased, but in different sectors of the population. With the changed economic patterns of many countries, higher-earning people tend to work harder and have less leisure time, while the lower earners and unemployed have more enforced spare time but, in many cases, little cash for leisure spending.

If these groups participate in outdoor recreation, then the highest earners are more likely to go for weekends at ski resorts or to take expensive long-haul holidays to exotic locations, where the most is made of the limited opportunity for leisure. The lowest earners, on the other hand, may have to be content with visits to local areas on a regular basis to walk the dog, fish in a canal or lake, go jogging or sit on a bench in a public park.



Nowadays there are fewer nuclear families of the variety once featured on most television commercials for breakfast cereal: married couples and their dependent children. More people are living singly, as child-free couples or as lone parents.

The ways in which many of these new types of household use their free time to visit the outdoors are different from the those of heyday of car-borne family camping holidays or visits to the seaside. Single people may be more likely to find friends with similar tastes, perhaps of the same sex, to pursue particular types of activity. Young people, especially, may favour more risky forms of recreation, and if they are reasonably affluent this may require special equipment (see ‘Specialized tastes’ below)...


Trends in demand for outdoor recreation

Observers of recreation management over recent decades will have noticed two things: first, that demand for outdoor recreation has grown continuously, and shows no sign of stopping; and second, that the types of recreation that people are using have changed in several ways.

This could mean that existing destinations may be having difficulty in coping with increased numbers of visitors, and that the facilities and opportunities provided may not be meeting people’s desires and expectations...


. Recreation planning

Before designing sites and facilities it is important to put the right kinds in the right places. Site planning is essential if conflicts between different users, and between users and the landscape setting and wildlife, are to be minimized. Difficult or costly management and maintenance activities also have to be avoided.

As with the development or marketing of any commodity, the operator has to match supply with demand. If this is not achieved, problems are likely to occur. Visitors may fail to obtain the most out of their experience; the setting or site may suffer undue wear and tear; expensive investments may be underused; or other resource values such as habitats may be damaged unnecessarily.

Many of the organizations or individuals that provide recreation own or have access to a land...


The purpose of this book and its audience

Some of these themes will be explored further in this book, because they pose real challenges for the designer. The major message is that the outdoors offers particular qualities and benefits for people, which have evolved and become recognized over the past two and a half centuries. Today’s demands can also cause adverse effects on certain landscapes, habitats and wildlife where outdoor recreation and nature tourism occur, and can place burdens on those who use and manage land.

It is vital that designers and managers work to maintain a good balance between the qualities and special value of the outdoors, which offer such benefits to people and the ways in which land is used...


Escaping from the city

In 1901 John Muir wrote:

Thousands of tired, nerve shaken, overcivilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wilderness is a necessity; and that mountain parks and reservations are useful not only as fountains of timber and invigorating rivers, but as fountains of life.

From that time to this there has been a widely held belief that cities are somehow bad for us, and that in order for a complete feeling of well-being we must be able to escape, to connect with nature, to ‘get in touch with the nerve of Mother Earth’, as John Muir phrased it. What evidence is there that this is so? Those who study the subject find it hard to detect much difference between the physical and mental health of urban or rural dwellers...


The history of outdoor recreation

For most of the history of humankind, and still for huge numbers of people, the main goal of life has been to ensure the survival of themselves and their families. At the same time, civilizations have developed, allowing elites to arise who provide priestly, leadership or royal functions. Such individuals and their families can pursue other activities, as they are largely relieved of the task of obtaining food. Hunting and hawking have been important forms of recreation for the monarchy, from ancient times until the present. Thus it is obvious that civilizations must reach a certain level of economic and cultural development (usually quite advanced) before concepts such as ‘recreation’ or ‘leisure’ can be entertained.

Following the agricultural and industrial revolutions in the eig...


Design for Outdoor Recreation

What is recreation, and why is it important?

Outdoor recreation and its cousin, nature tourism, are the big growth areas in leisure and holiday activities today. As the populations of most Western countries become more urbanized, and as work becomes less and less connected with the land, many more people are seeking to regain a connection with nature and with wild landscapes. There are many reasons for visiting and exploring the great outdoors: physical exercise, release from the stresses of city life, fresh air, getting closer to nature, enjoyment of the scenery, hunting and fishing…the list goes on. For most people it is probably a combination of reasons...