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 base of varying extent. They are providers of opportunity. How much they provide depends on the demand from actual and potential visitors, the capacity of the site or land base to supply that demand without damage over time—that is, sustainably—and the resources available, including income from visitors, to provide and manage the necessary investments in facilities needed to meet the demand.
Recreation planning is about assessing the demand, both actual and potential; about assessing the capacity of the land base to meet that demand in a sustainable way; and about using available resources wisely to optimize the potential. This chapter concentrates on planning as a preamble to design.