Providing visitor information

At the point of arrival, some information is normally needed so that visitors can make the most of opportunities to enjoy their visit. This may be in the form of a leaflet picked up from a dispenser at or near the entrance or pay station, or in the form of boards or panels in a strategic location on the site, or both.

Information requirements

This information is part of the range of signs that are needed for visitor management. It is useful to develop a hierarchy of signs, starting with the threshold or entrance sign described in Chapter 3, and including orientation signs placed at the point of arrival at each facility, vehicle management signs and way markers. All these signs need to be properly planned during the comprehensive site design phase or at the time of major refurbishment. Each category of sign planning and design will be covered in subsequent chapters. An example of different sign functions is given here, developed by Scottish Natural Heritage. Any of the functions can be combined in a single sign. While the information board may not be visited and read until after parking the car, its location and use as a key orientation and visitor management feature can be so important that it is worth considering first.

From the point of view of the visitor, the information needs to convey the essentials about the site, such as the layout of different areas, the routes of paths and trails, special activity areas, toilets and campgrounds, hours of opening, codes of behaviour and any special dangers or safety information. This is the basic information to enable visitors to find their way around the site and into the landscape beyond without getting lost, straying into danger, trespassing or missing the best features. Additional information such as site or landscape history, interpretation of special scenic attractions or wildlife and natural history are secondary at this point.

The manager may also be interested in conveying certain information to visitors, such as rules and regulations, safety information, advice on footwear, equipment, registration before proceeding on trails into back country, any permits required for certain activities such as fishing, or warnings about locking cars and leaving valuables out of sight. There may be legal requirements to display by-laws, but all such information should be conveyed in as positive and user-friendly a way as possible. When the information is about protecting the environment from damage by trampling, fire, allowing stock to stray, feeding wild animals and so on, then a code of conduct is useful, such as the Country or

Description Function

Pre-arrival Advance roadside information.

Threshold Marking the main entrance to the area of management or ownership.

Orientation Helping people to locate themselves, perhaps before deciding where to go and what to do.

Direction Guiding traffic and pedestrian navigation.

Identification Labelling a feature or object.

Information Displaying details of opening hours, events, facilities etc.

Interpretation Revealing the significance of the landscape or an aspect of it.

Regulation Displaying rules and warnings.

Forest Codes used in Britain. This invites the responsible cooperation of visitors, and offers them a ‘partnership’ with managers in looking after the environment. In remote locations this information may be vital to prevent inexperienced visitors from coming to harm, while in the urban fringe it might concentrate on avoiding damage to the landscape.

When providing information structures there are three components to the design: the message, the medium used to convey it, and the structure used for displaying it.