Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

The Influence of Site Design and Resource Conditions on Outdoor Recreation Demand: A Mountain Biking Case Study

Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

The Influence of Site Design and Resource Conditions on Outdoor Recreation Demand: A Mountain Biking Case Study

Article excerpt

Outdoor recreation consumers create the demand for managed recreation resources and facilities. Under the economic assumption of rationality, a consumer when making the decision to engage in a particular activity evaluates all the potential recreation sites (Bockstael, Hanemann, & Kling, 1987). Ultimately, the consumer considers the different site characteristics and attributes offered at the alternatives with the final choice being the one that maximizes utility (Hensher, Rose, & Greene, 2005). Resource managers must be aware of how consumers judge the resource conditions of the sites if managers are to ensure users receive the desired on-site recreation experiences. More specifically, resource managers need to be aware of how a site's resource conditions will affect the demand for those sites. While this type of information would be ideal for resource managers and analysts, appropriately measuring and accounting for dynamic site characteristics as well as the behavioral aspects that produce the latent utility is often a difficult task (Ben-Akiva & Lerman, 1985). The difficulties compound further in measuring site conditions when managers are responsible for numerous sites each with their own unique set of resource conditions and amenities (Parsons & Massey, 2003).

This research attempts to overcome these difficulties by examining the influence of two choice variables, trail condition and site layout, on the recreation demand for six mountain biking sites in Research Triangle area of North Carolina. For the purposes of this research, we define mountain biking as the sport of riding durable bikes with special riding gear off-road, usually over rough terrain along narrow trails that wind through forests, mountains, deserts, or fields (Chavez, 1996). The activity has grown rapidly over the past several decades. The most recent figures from the National Survey on Recreation and the Environment reveal that 41 million American participants engaged in mountain biking between 2005 and 2008 (Cordell, Betz, Green, & Mou, 2008).

We utilize a common set of metrics for assessing the trail condition and the site layout in determining if these choice variables influence consumers' choices of the mountain biking sites (Hawes, Candy & Dixon, 2004; Marion & Leung, 2001; White, Waskey, Brodehl & Foti, 2006). The findings from this study have direct implications for the relevance of trail assessment and site monitoring programs. For example, should the data suggest resource degradation has a negative influence on the utility that users derive from sites; it would be prudent for resource managers to focus on improving, or at least maintaining, trail condition. Furthermore, if specific site layouts have a direct influence on the utility derived from the mountain biking sites, we would recommend that resource managers in the future plan to provide trails and other on-site facilities that meet the needs and desires of the current users.

Trail Condition, Site Layout, and Recreation Demand

Much like the demand for many other outdoor recreation activities, users' travel costs to mountain biking sites and the sites' characteristics are likely influences on recreation demand. Previous research attempting to discern the specific trail and the characteristics of mountain biking sites that positively influence recreation demand have been mixed, in regards to both methodology and findings. The majority of research on mountain biking participation relies on the stated preferences of participants instead of the objective land measures in their empirical estimates of trail conditions. For example, Louviere, Anderson, and Louviere (1991) investigated Chicago trail users' responses to pairs of hypothetical bicycle trails that varied with respect to 18 trail choice-related variables. Their analysis found cyclists in Chicago preferred trail layouts that were varied (i.e., both curvilinear and straight), trails allowing different return trips, trails with lengths less than 80 miles, and trails with new pavement and good limestone surfaces. …

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