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. It is important to create and maintain opportunities for people to enjoy and understand nature, but recreation has to be sustainable. Future generations must be given the opportunity to experience Yosemite, the Lake District or the Alps just as we can, and preferably at an enhanced level. Past intervention, such as bad design and lack of management of sites or people, has damaged the special qualities of many places. We should seek to reverse that damage, and to design the features and facilities sensitively, allowing nature, not people, to be the dominant influence on how things ultimately shall be.
Outdoor recreation is provided by many people and organizations. Some of the major providers are national, federal or local government bodies such as national park services, forest services, states, provinces, counties; there is also a vast array of private companies and individuals. Some operate huge areas with recreation as a primary objective; some fit recreation alongside utilitarian functions such as timber production or water management. Some are small businesses: campground operators, trail guides, horse and bicycle hirers. Some employ skilled recreation professionals, landscape architects and designers. Others do it themselves. Some have distinct corporate styles and long traditions; others are newcomers who replicate what they like from others. It is to all these people that I offer this book.
It is not a bible or a cookbook; it is more a synthesis of what I believe, in the light of experience of working for one of the major outdoor recreation providers in Britain and of travelling widely around the world, to be the best and worst practice in the field of site and facility design.
It should help to stimulate the old hands, and give useful guidance to the newcomer. All sites benefit from a reappraisal, a spring-clean and some new ideas from time to time. The book is intended as a guide to the factors that should be considered in design so as to achieve a good balance between the needs of the visitor, the site and the manager. Examples are drawn from a wide field representing several years of travel in Europe, North America and elsewhere.
One aspect that I wish to stress, which is often overlooked, is that of influencing the experience of the visit itself through the design process. Think of how visitors are likely to use the area, what they need, what they expect and how the design can be developed from this perspective. Planning the visit starts at home, often aided by media advertisements, travel programmes and literature, and with anticipation of the trip ahead. Images of the place fill the mind, and travelling to the area allows these expectations to build up. The experience of the arrival and the subsequent visit must fulfil these expectations as far as possible, making the most of the positive features and minimizing the negative ones. The journey home is usually where some sadness sets in, but recalling a good experience retains the positive values of the visit for a long time to come. In addition, such good after-feelings are essential to persuade the visitor to return, and to tell his or her friends to come. This is as important for the variety of commercial ventures as it is for the reputation of government agencies with multi-purpose objectives.
The approach is also worth using when refurbishing existing facilities and sites—a common activity for many providers. Often problems with existing layouts, the effects caused by changes in demand and wear and tear can be solved by a complete reappraisal of the site from the point of view of the user.
Owing to the wide range of countries and varieties of land managers with differing skills and resources available who I hope will use the book, costs, while an important factor, are impossible to deal with in a meaningful way. One general rule, however, is that cheap construction frequently means expensive maintenance or repairs, while good- quality, more expensive solutions can save much time and money in the long run.
It is also worth mentioning at this stage that a number of design examples shown in this book are proprietary makes or are otherwise covered by copyright. If anyone wishes to use or copy a design they would be advised to consider this issue. The book is not meant to be a design catalogue but a stimulus to ideas and approaches for recreation design. Many of the photographs or illustrations give credit to their sources, and these are most likely to be copyright.
In addition to the comments on cost and copyright noted above, it is relevant for readers to consult their local sources of standards for construction, safety and quality, such as the British Standards Institution (BSI), the International Standards Organization (ISO), the German DIN (Deutsche Institut fur Normung) or the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), together with the local planning, zoning, building, highways, pollution control and other regulations and codes that apply.
As the book covers practice in the USA, Canada, Europe and elsewhere, dimensions have been shown in metric and imperial units, converted from one to the other or vice versa unless local sizes are quoted. Normally metric is shown first followed by imperial.
Many of the names or terms used for structures and facilities vary from country to country, particularly between North America and Britain. In most cases the British term is used, but the alternatives are shown in brackets when it is first introduced. Most terms are, in any case, commonly used and fairly interchangeable, so that a glossary is unnecessary.
Finally, I hope that readers are stimulated and excited by what they find within the following pages, so that design is accorded its rightful place in helping visitors to have a rewarding experience when they visit the outdoors.