Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

Benefits and Challenges of Computer Simulation Modeling of Backcountry Recreation Use in the Desolation Lake Area of the John Muir Wilderness

Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

Benefits and Challenges of Computer Simulation Modeling of Backcountry Recreation Use in the Desolation Lake Area of the John Muir Wilderness

Article excerpt

Introduction

In the United States, legislation dictates that Wilderness areas should be managed to, among other things, provide recreational visitors with "opportunities for solitude or a primitive and unconfined type of recreation" (Hendee & Dawson, 2002). However, the growing popularity of outdoor recreation in backcountry settings threatens the ability of wilderness managers to achieve these objectives. For example, increasing recreational use of wilderness areas can result in perceived crowding and increasing conflict among different types of users (e.g., hikers and packstock; Manning, 1999). These problems are exacerbated by the fact that backcountry recreation use tends to be concentrated both spatially and temporally (Hendee & Dawson, 2002; Lucas, 1980). For example, most wilderness areas are used most heavily during the summer, and within the summer months, use can be heavier on the weekends than during weekdays. Similarly, recreational use tends to concentrate geographically along established hiking trails/routes, along the periphery rather than within the interior of an area, and close to desirable natural features (e.g., water bodies, scenic views).

Rules and regulations designed to manage recreation-related impacts such as crowding, conflict, and damage to natural resources can diminish visitors' sense of spontaneity and freedom, thus eroding the primitive and unconfined nature of the wilderness experience (Cole, Peterson, & Lucas, 1987). Managers are faced with the challenge of preventing and mitigating recreation-related impacts to wilderness with the most unobtrusive, indirect, light-handed means possible (Hendee & Dawson, 2002). That is, managers are expected to identify the "minimum tool" required to achieve desired conditions within wilderness. Consequently, decisions about how to manage recreational use of wilderness are complex.

Recent research suggests that computer-based simulation modeling is an effective tool for helping to address the challenges associated with managing visitor use in backcountry and wilderness settings (Daniel & Gimblett, 2000; Gimblett, Richards, & Itami, 2000; Lawson & Manning, 2003a, 2003b; Lawson, Manning, Valliere, & Wang, 2003; Lawson, Mayo-Kiely, & Manning, 2003; van Wagtendonk, 2003; Wang & Manning, 1999). For example, simulation modeling can be used to describe and understand existing visitor use conditions that are inherendy difficult to observe. That is, given current management practices and existing levels of visitor use, where and when is visitor use occurring? By providing managers with detailed information about how visitors are currently using the area, this baseline information can assist managers in identifying "trouble spots" or "bottlenecks," as well as areas that may be capable of accommodating additional use. Simulation modeling can also be used to monitor the condition of "hard to measure" indicator variables (Lawson, Manning, Valliere, & Wang, 2003; Wang & Manning, 1999). For example, how many encounters do backpacking visitors have with other groups per day while hiking? How many nights do visitors camp within sight of other groups? In addition, simulation modeling can be used to test the potential effectiveness of alternative management practices in a manner that is more comprehensive, less costly, and less politically risky than on-theground trial and error (Lawson & Manning, 2003a, 2003b). For example, what effect does a permit quota have on the number of encounters visitors have with other groups while hiking? How would the number of hiking encounters change as a result of redistributing use from heavily used trailheads to less commonly used entry points? These capabilities make computer-based simulation modeling a useful tool for assisting managers in identifying potential recreation-related problems and evaluating the effectiveness and costs to visitors of potential solutions to these problems. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.