The difficulties associated with measuring outdoor recreation use are similar to those with many other scientific data collection efforts. Five examples of these that I found in this weeks reading were : Short term data making it hard to establish trends, dispersed nature of recreation, self registration issues, the cost of these programs, and differing methods used by different agencies. Establishing trends is an extremely important piece of managing recreational use, because having accurate data will help lead to better decisions. If there are a limited amount of trends with carrying accuracy, many management decisions are likely to have some guesswork involved. Outdoor recreation is such a broad and widely used field, that it makes it more difficult to gather data that directly leads to the field as a whole. Especially in my area, where there is such a large amount of different activities, that a strategy must be able to improve the focused activity while not impeding on a different activity in turn. Self registration procedures are difficulty to enforce as well, so there is a constantly varying degree of accuracy as more data is collected. There can be discrepancies in trends if there percent of people who voluntarily register for an activity changes per collection period. The cost of some of these programs is an issue as well. ” Use permits allow collection of extensive and accurate data, but can be costly to administer and may be burdensome to visitors” (Manning, 23). As more people continue to get involved with outdoor recreation that cost is likely to increase as well. It is also important to avoid impeding in the experience of visitors with these programs. The more we impact the experience of visitors, the less natural the experience will feel which in my opinion is the major draw of a lot of these recreation areas. And of course the different methods between agencies is an issue, as data is not easily transferred between different groups. If there was on cohesive plan used, there would be fewer data collection alternatives and likely a fewer amount of times that the visitors experience would need to be altered. All of these issues are likely to continue as more visitors begin to utilize these areas. While it is important to collect data in order to better cater to the desires of the visitors while limiting our impact on the areas, it is also important to not change the feel of the experience for the visitors.
Manning, Robert. Studies in Outdoor Recreation, 3rd ed.: Search and Research for Satisfaction 3rd Edition. Oregon State University Press, 2010.
I appreciate the way this post discussed the usefulness of deriving trends in data. Resource managers need to focus on getting to know the trends at each specific location. At the same time, trying to create generalizations about how to manage various places in the same ways may include quite a bit of guesswork. So, I recommend a middle-ground approach to making conclusions about trends. Keeping strategy location-specific would also ensure that managers are making sure improving one focused activity will not impede on a different one in turn.