Addressing Visitor Capacity of Parks and Rivers

By Cole, David; Manning, Robert et al. | Parks & Recreation, March 2005 | Go to article overview

Addressing Visitor Capacity of Parks and Rivers


Cole, David, Manning, Robert, Lime, David, Parks & Recreation


The debate on visitor capacity heats up, as the authors discuss a previous article on the topic.

As outdoor recreation researchers and academicians, each of whom has devoted a career to the issue of visitor capacity, we were interested to read our colleague Glenn Haas' essay in the September 2004 issue of Parks & Recreation. We agree with many of Haas' arguments, notably his suggestions that the National Park Service and other public agencies should give more attention to professional management of visitors, that recent judicial rulings may be a call for such attention, and that the call "is as much a challenge ... to define what constitutes good planning, as it is to addressing visitor capacity."

As Haas suggests, it is imperative to articulate how to conduct visitor management planning well, and commit resources to accomplishing the task. Unfortunately, we believe that some of Haas' opinions and what we consider misinformation creates more confusion than clarity about how to do this.

With the insight gained from decades of research and conceptual thinking, most researchers and practitioners view visitor capacity as more than estimating how many people can use a park or river or, in Haas' words, "the prescribed supply of available recreation opportunities." We are convinced that to address visitor capacity, one must decide what conditions are acceptable, appropriate and desirable and prescribe actions to attain or sustain those conditions. Limiting use is only one of many techniques in the managers' toolbox. Many parks and rivers are best managed within their capacity by influencing the distribution and behavior of visitors. The number of visitors need not be limited and, therefore, estimating a numerical capacity does not contribute to improved management. Even where use limits are needed, estimating a numerical capacity is only a small part of the task of addressing capacity.

The article argues that a numerical visitor capacity is mandated by law. More critically, it states that it is worthwhile to concoct such numbers. We agree that numerical capacities are worthwhile where use levels exceed or are likely to approach capacity within the upcoming planning cycle. On rivers like the Colorado River in Grand Canyon, numerical capacities are critically important. The capacities in place there influence many important attributes, from biophysical conditions on the river to the economic viability of nearby communities.

However, in other places (probably the majority of public lands), use levels are currently only a small fraction of the amount of use that could be sustained. In such places, numerical estimates of the maximum number of people that an area can sustain will not lead to improved management. Moreover, these estimates will be wild guesses, likely to be off by orders of magnitude.

Numerical capacity will vary greatly depending on the entire suite of management actions that are implemented. To achieve a specific standard for acceptable resource impact, the capacity of a trail might be 10 times higher if the trail is paved than if it is not. It will vary with the success of Leave No Trace education programs, the types of use that are allowed, the frequency of maintenance and other variables.

On public lands where use levels are currently low and questions about trail paving and other management options have yet to emerge, planners cannot possibly concoct meaningful capacity estimates. Although we cannot predict how a judge might rule on this issue, we believe concluding that capacity is much higher than current use constitutes "dealing with or discussing the maximum number of people," even though a numerical capacity is not specified. It meets the "plain meaning rule" for the phrase "address . …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Addressing Visitor Capacity of Parks and Rivers
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    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.