Shared benefits

There should be an equitable distribution of the costs and benefits (material and non­material) of any development. We are all ‘land users’ in our own ways. Access to the countryside confers great non-material benefits on those who can participate in outdoor recreation. But there can be drawbacks, which mainly affect local communities and those who manage land used by the public. Damage now should not compromise the future, either in reducing the enjoyment of generations to come or in creating problems for landowners and managers.

Hence it is important for recreation planners to consider the effects of their actions on the wider environment, on transport, on energy and on the local traditions and economy. Designers need to assess whether their work protects the site from damage, degradation and pollution. The use of materials has to be considered: for example, the implications of using timber from natural and sensitive tropical rain-forests; the effects of timber preservative leaching into the soil; effects on drainage systems; the impacts of construction; the ease of re-vegetation after site work; the ability to restore a site completely after use is finished. This may favour the simplest, most economical solutions, the use of local and native materials, a reluctance to construct anything too permanent, and an adherence to the principle of ‘less is more’. This is a good principle, and is particularly valid when arguably one of the central concepts of design in the outdoors is to allow the landscape to maintain dominance over human activities.

At the conclusion of this chapter the designer should be able to assess the requirements of a comprehensive brief for the kind of recreation best suited to a particular place, its likely impact on the site, and the amount and location of constructed facilities and artefacts needed to limit site damage and provide for the safety, comfort and convenience of recreational visitors. The next step is to consider what concepts are appropriate for design, how these relate to different settings and, most importantly, how they will be used by the visitors themselves.