Recreation Planning

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Planning Models

Benefits-Based Management/Outcomes-Focused Management (BBM/OFM) > Benefits-based Management, or the newer term Outcomes-focused Management, refers to a planning model that recognizes individuals and communities realize certain benefits from recreation. By manipulating the recreation setting with management inputs (e.g., facilities, services, access), managers can help facilitate desired beneficial outcomes. BBM is characterized as a shift from activity or setting-based management to the outcomes of management actions.

Limits of Acceptable Change (LAC) > Limits of Acceptable Change (LAC) was developed as an alternative to carrying capacity, shifting from answering "how much is too much" to "what are acceptable resource and social conditions." The 9-step LAC process helps managers identify the trade-offs among different alternatives and identify various management actions to achieve desired conditions. LAC was first applied to wilderness planning in the Forest Service, and has since been applied to a variety of recreation planning projects.

Recreation Opportunity Spectrum (ROS) > ROS is based on the premise that a continuum of recreation opportunities exist within a variety of settings, from completely undeveloped (e.g., primitive) to highly developed (e.g., urban). Using three overlapping setting conditions – social, physical, and managerial – managers and planners use ROS to describe existing and desired conditions of recreation settings.

Visitor Experience and Resource Protection (VERP) > Like LAC, the Visitor Experience and Resource Protection (VERP) process uses indicators, standards and monitoring to identify and manage for desired resource and social conditions. VERP was developed specifically for the National Park Service and was designed to fit with their General Management Planning (GMP) process.

Tourism Optimisation Management Model (TOMM) >TOMM was developed for Kangaroo Island in Australia. This process measures tourism impact through a range of indicators on the local community, environment, economy as well as the visitor market, including visitor satisfaction.


A Human Dimensions Framework: Guidelines for Conducting Social Assessments > Bright, Cordell, Hoover and Tarrant, 2003. This paper provides a framework and guidelines for identifying and organizing human dimension information for use in forest planning. It synthesizes concepts from a variety of social science disciplines and connects them with measurable indicators for use in analysis and reporting.

A Technical Guide for Integrating Recreation, Heritage and Wilderness into Land and Resource Management Planning > US Forest Service, 2005

An Assessment of Framework Useful for Public Land Recreation Planning > McCool, Clark and Stankey, 2007. This publication gives a comprehensive overview of recreation planning frameworks including ROS, LAC, VERP, VIM, and BBM.

Best Practices in Recreation Resource Planning: A Resource Guide for Planners > National Association of Recreation Resource Planners, Baas

Capacity Reconsidered: Finding Consensus and Clarifying Differences > Whittaker, Shelby, Manning, Cole, and Haas, 2011

Capital Investment Process for Recreation and FA&O Facilities > US Forest Service

Carrying Capacity as "Informed Judgement": The Values of Science and the Science of Values > Manning and Lawson, 2002

Conflicts on Multiple-Use Trails: Synthesis of the Literature and State of the Practice > The Federal Highway Administration and The National Recreational Trails Advisory Committee, 1994

Customer Diversity and the Future Demand for Outdoor Recreation > US Forest Service, Dwyer, 1994

Effects of Subdivision and Access Restrictions on Private Land Recreation Opportunities > US Forest Service; Cordell, English & Randall, 1993

Human Dimensions in Ecosystem Management: A Concept Paper > US Forest Service, 1994

Local Open Space Planning Guide > New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, 2004

Managing Urban and High-Use Recreation Settings > US Forest Service, Gobster, 1993

Meaningful Measures for Quality Recreation Management > US Forest Service, Jaten & Driver, 1998

Meaningful Measures Workbook > US Forest Service, 1996

National Efforts on Recreation Planning Tools: ROS, GIS, etc. > US Forest Service, Thompson, 2010

Numerical Visitor Capacity: A Guide to Its Use in Wilderness > Cole and Carlson, 2010

Outdoor Recreation Trends and Futures > US Forest Service, Cordell, 2010

Pathways for Play Best Practice Guidelines > Natural Learning Initiative, 2010

Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail Optimal Location Review > US Forest Service, 2011

Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail Optimal Location Review: Vasquez Rocks County Park > US Forest Service, 2005

Proceedings: 1985 National Outdoor Recreation Trends Symposium II >

Recreation and Leisure from an Active Living Perspective: Taking a Second Look at Urban Trail Use Data > Gobster, 2005

Recreation, Heritage and Wilderness Resources Input into Forest Land Management Planning > US Forest Service, 2009

Recreational Carrying Capacity Reconsidered > Wagar, 1974

Social-ecological hotspots mapping: A spatial approach for identifying coupled social-ecological space > Alessa, Kliskey, and Brown, 2008. This paper presents a method for identifying coupled social-ecological hotspots, spatial areas of convergence between high human and ecological values.

The Carrying Capacity of Wild Lands for Recreation > Wagar, 1964

The Recreation Opportunity Spectrum and the Limits of Acceptable Change Planning Systems: A Review of Experiences and Lessons > Stankey, 1999. The author reviews the conceptual frameworks of ROS and LAC and discusses lessons learned in their application in the U.S. and overseas.

Visitor Capacity - A Dilemma of Perspective: When Is Popularity Too Much of a Good Thing? > Haas, 2003

Visitor Capacity on Public Lands and Waters: Making Better Decisions > The Federal Interagency Task Force on Visitor Capacity on Public Lands, 2001

Wilderness Environmental Quality: Search for Social and Ecological Harmony > Frissell and Stankey, 1972

Wilderness Management > Hendee, Stankey, and Lucas, 1978

Wilderness Recreational Carrying Capacity: Are Numbers Necessary? > Washburne, 1982


Park Science is a research and resource management bulletin of the U.S. National Park Service that reports on natural science, social science, and cultural research to translate scientific findings into usable knowledge for park planning and the development of sound management practices for natural resources and visitor enjoyment.

Treesearch is an online system for locating and delivering publications by Research and Development scientists in the US Forest Service.

Society of Outdoor Recreation Professionals (SORP) (formerly NARRP) > The Planning Resources page offers a comprehensive list of recreation planning resources.

Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plans (SCORPs) > Address the demand for and supply of recreation resources (local, state and federal) within a state, identify needs and new opportunities for recreation improvements, and set forth an implementation program to meet the goals identified by its citizens and elected leaders.

USFS Recreation Planning Resource List > Contains informational web links for recreation planning professionals. The links contain a wide range of recreational activities, key planning considerations, theoretical resources, and sources of more specialized information.

Forest Service Accessibility Website > Resources to maximize public lands accessibility while at the same time recognizing and protecting the unique characteristics of the natural setting of outdoor recreation areas and hiker/pedestrian trails.


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