An Application of Recreation Resource Assessment Techniques to Inform Management Action in an Urban-Proximate Natural Area

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Journal of Outdoor Recreation and Tourism


Elsevier BV

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Urban populations in North America are increasing, putting added pressure on urban-proximate natural areas which provide urban residents with a natural location for respite and recreation. The application of traditional recreation management techniques – generally utilized in federally owned, public lands – can provide an understanding of the biophysical and social conditions of a natural area. In order to better measure both current biophysical and social conditions, set a baseline for future monitoring, and inform future management actions, an interdisciplinary approach was taken at the Swaner Preserve and EcoCenter in Park City, Utah. Trail assessments, visitor use estimations and social science visitor surveys were conducted to provide an understanding of recreation use. Results from the study indicate that despite high levels of use, trails on the Swaner Preserve are in a condition that is acceptable to managers; with the exception of a few locations where high levels off-trail use occurs. Visitors to the natural area, although mostly local, were largely unaware of the other interpretative and educations activities provided by the Swaner Preserve and EcoCenter. Results from the study led to various management and stewardship suggestions which were presented to the Swaner Preserve and EcoCenter managers. Managers utilized these science-based suggestions to make various management changes on the Swaner Preserve. Overall, traditional recreation management techniques can provide the baseline information that natural area managers need to begin long-term monitoring efforts in a reasonable amount of time with a relatively small staff. Management implications: - The study presents recommendations for the management of urban natural areas characterized by an increasing year-round use and encroaching development. - This comprehensive framework of a social-ecological approach that can be used by managers of smaller, local natural areas to balance dual missions of natural r-esource protection and managing for recreation use. - The best management results can be expected when applying this social-ecological approach in a comprehensive manner while working closely with natural area managers. - The approach presented in this study is (1) able to meet the specific needs and objectives of natural areas managers, (2) cost effective in terms of time and labor, and (3) can be easily replicated at other urban-proximate natural areas and/or be used for long-term monitoring.

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