Breath of Clarity

Intense Use, Intense Management?- Impacts of Recreational Use

“Intense visitor use requires intense management.”

I agree with the statement. The intense management should not be controversial because it makes it so the intense visitor use can continue. I wrote about this in my paper about the peer-reviewed articles.

In her essay, Jessica DiCicco (2014, 314) acknowledged that, while they offer educational and cultural value, urban woodlands are under intense pressure from human visitors and require restorative management to continue to provide these functions. Since the early 1990s, the program in Prospect Park (Brooklyn, New York) has included removing invasive plants, stabilizing eroding soils, planting native vegetation, and redirecting the flow of visitors through the woodlands with improved trails and fences (DiCicco 2014, 314). Given the constant stresses on urban woodlands, DiCicco (2014, 314) implied that ecosystem management in perpetuity is crucial to maintain a healthy forest in the middle of the city. I found it interesting that DiCicco did not respond to her assertion regarding high quantities of visitor use with ideas about the need to limit visitation. Rather than focusing on preservation, DiCicco outlined a plethora of strategies that Prospect Park managers used and emphasized the need to maintain the tactics overtime. DiCicco redefines environmental stewardship as a commitment to taking measures necessary to sustain visitation despite its impacts on the land. Those who would refute the statement do not understand that the intense management is only being conducted to sustain visitor use. Managers do not have the extra funding in place to take any extra action that is not actually needed just for the purpose of asserting power in governance. Rather, I agree with DiCicco’s viewpoint that managers are simply supporting ecosystems of urban green spaces return to balance while humans are in the process of engaging with it to discover their place in the mix. DiCicco (2014, 325) depicted it beautifully by saying that restoration represents an indefinitely long-term commitment of land, resources, and people. Understanding and implementing that orientation is necessary for success.

The first step is to see natural resource managers as a server of public lands and in agreement with the laws and policies designed to protect citizen rights. The management is not against the visitors, and the management tactics in place are only ever temporarily restrictive in nature. The restricted access is a means to an inclusive end. Approaching the argument with a scientific-based perspective about a given place’s ecosystem would make it easier for the people refuting the statement to understand why intense visitor use does indeed require intense management.


DiCicco, Jessica. 2014. “Long-Term Urban Park Ecological Restoration: A Case Study of Prospect Park, Brooklyn, New York”. Ecological Restoration. 32(3): 314-326.

Comment by Fenton Kay:

Well stated, Mary. How do we go about presenting the science-based perspective to a public that seems largely to misunderstand or not understand the concept of ecology and ecosystems? When many folks, especially urban dwellers, seem to think of ecosystems as either bunkum or somewhere in a galaxy far, far away, what do we say or do to convince them that their local urban forested park is, indeed, an ecosystem?

My Comment:

One approach is to better integrate the concept of ecology and ecosystems into educational curriculum. There needs to be a change in the paradigm of science courses- especially elementary, middle school life science, and high school biology- to focus more on outdoor experiences and a curriculum that connects the sciences to the other disciplines (Goodwin 2016). Experiences that empower students in urban public schools to develop an emotional connection to the natural world is an important component of their ecological identity (Goodwin 2016). Ecological identity connects the understanding of physical systems with how humans in the society interact with the ecosystem, ultimately bringing it to a personal level (Goodwin 2016). Further, ecological identity refers to how people perceive themselves as living and breathing beings connected to the rhythms of the earth, the biogeochemical cycles, the grand and complex diversity of ecological systems (Goodwin 2016). By seeing one’s own self as part of the ecosystem, it would be easier for them to think of a local urban forested park as an ecosystem, too.

Coupling outdoor experiences of unstructured playtime in conjunction with the development of systemic and ecological thinking skills is crucial (Goodwin 2016). Changing the science curriculum to reflect more holistic and systemic thinking by integrating it with humanities and reflective practices is a necessary step to create a population with a highly developed ecological identity (Goodwin 2016). Making this connection is not a one-size-fits-all curriculum solution (Goodwin 2016). For some, it may be a spiritual connection through yoga in gym class, for others it may be a personal connection to one specific city park they went on during field trips (Goodwin 2016). Others may connect through literature and adventure stories, or creation of an art (Goodwin 2016). Therefore, a comprehensive recommendation is to change teaching practices to equip students with the skills and allocate the time to explore, contemplate, connect with and then express that connection through a means that suits their learning style, personality, and values (Goodwin 2016). Creating events for city park visitors that are aligned with the type of school curriculum I am explaining could be an excellent way to support urban dwellers making observations that resonate with them and contribute to their understanding of ecology and place in it.


Goodwin, Timothy. 2016. “Educating for Ecological Literacy”. The American Biology Teacher, 78(4), 287-291. Accessed May 30, 2021.

Comment by Jenny Kelley:

Goodness, you make excellent points. I had a slightly different opinion, opting not necessarily for or against intensive management, but rather moderation. However, your points, especially about the responsibilities of managers as servant leaders, upholders of law and policy, and stewards of the land are really poignant. I think implementing restrictions with effective education programs based on science and outreach targeted to help people understand why restrictions are occurring, most visitors would comply without complaint. Visitors would see the actions/restrictions are not power-based but rather environmentally based. A bit outside of my personal belief in moderate management style, I still believe more restrictive measures should happen on Half Dome. I would even go so far as mandating the type of gear one needs and level of difficulty noted – like a black diamond level ski slope. If we add the environmental damage on Half Dome from high level use, and an education outreach, perhaps the public would respond favorably. I say mandates on appropriate gear because somewhere I read people go in sandals and casual wear. That seems a bit foolish to me frankly.

My Comment:

Thanks for the comment!

The next step is tapping into the motivations that visitors may have to listen to these education programs that are targeted to help people understand why restrictions are occurring.

I also appreciate the emphasis you’re placing on managers being useful for safety purposes. To mandate the type of gear one needs at Half Dome, there would need to be staff designated to check equipment before the visitors enter the black diamond level area. So, there would be costs to increasing safety. However, it would be a proactive way to decrease environmental damage from high use.