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 reading and worry about getting lost. Waymarking of trails helps, as does a pictorial map showing landmarks that are easy to identify.

3. Am I going to break a leg/fall off a cliff/drown in a river? In other words, safety is important to people, especially in less wild areas where fewer risks are expected. The design of facilities should incorporate as much appropriate safety thinking as possible without taking away the quality of the experience.

4. Am I going to be attacked by animals? In some places people unfamiliar with an area may feel or be genuinely at risk from being bitten by snakes, attacked by grizzly bears or even bulls in a pasture. However, while the risks might be small, some

thought is needed as to how people can be reassured and protected when necessary.

5. Are the trails suitable for my level of ability or disability? It is important that as much of the area is as accessible as possible for all abilities. This does not mean making paths up to the top of remote mountains for wheelchairs, but it does mean thorough planning and design to help all people make the most of their outdoor experiences. The design of facilities to be free of barriers is an important topic (see Chapters 3-14), and the brief for the designer is best developed with the aid of people representing different types of disability, who can evaluate whether or not proposals meet their needs.

Planning to reduce negative factors and perceptions

A relatively remote, quieter part of the Amsterdamse Bos, Holland. The fact that it is possible to find solitude and escape in such a relatively small area subject to many urban influences shows how skilled the planners, designers and managers have been.

6. Am I likely to be attacked/mugged/raped? This is a widespread fear, particularly amongst women, not only in urban parks and forests but also in other places. While this may be only a small risk it does prevent a large sector of the population from making the most of their visit. Designers and managers of facilities can go some way to ensuring a greater feeling of security (see Chapters 3-14).

In Britain the programme of creating new woodland near cities (community forests) has focused on this last problem. Some research carried out for the Countryside Commission has explored issues of safety and fear. Much of the problem stems from the appearance of the areas: if they are untidy, poorly maintained, if litter and rubbish is dumped there, or if a lot of vandalism has occurred. This makes the area seem unmanaged, uncared for and likely to be a haunt of antisocial people. In urban fringe areas the need for solitude is not so widespread. People frequently visit in groups and prefer to see more people, giving them a sense of security or of help being available. Some strategies to be adopted in planning for recreation include different types of landscape that give different atmospheres, from visible open woodland or spaces to wilder areas that more confident people can choose to use. The same applies to routes, where main paths should be designed for maximum visibility and with fewest places where people might feel trapped. Other paths can be wilder, more winding and more enclosed. Signs and waymarking also increase confidence, as long as they are clearly understandable and easy to follow. Finally, the presence of wardens, rangers, workers and other staff in uniform or otherwise recognizable adds confidence, as visitors know that the area is being watched, and there is a source of help or policing.

Planning to reduce negative factors and perceptions

The application of the Recreation Opportunity Spectrum to an area, aiming to match the setting and activities to maximize the quality of the experience. P=primitive; SPNM=semi-primitive, non-motorized; SPM= semi-primitive, motorized; and RN=roaded, natural.