UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Outdoor recreation and the public interest: a study in land-use conflicts Parker, Walter Sandford


As a result of the cumulative interaction of several forces the demand pressures on outdoor recreation space and facilities in North America are increasing rapidly. The forces at work are those of population growth and urbanization, rising levels of per-capita income, leisure and mobility, the use of space-consuming recreational equipment, and the rise of the tourist-recreation industry. The supply, in terms of outdoor space and amenities, with the range of requisite site facilities, is limited, and the necessity of careful planning for recreational land use becomes increasingly apparent. There are conflicts between public and private interests, between various adjacent or simultaneous uses of land for recreation, between the agencies which provide the facilities through which recreation land is used, and between recreation and non-recreation land uses. On the assumption that the forces making for these conflicting pressures will continue, the hypothesis is proposed, that regional planning should provide an optimum balance between public, private-commercial, private-collective and private-individual types of recreation site development. This basically normative approach makes necessary a descriptive survey and evaluation of the four types of agency and their respective effects on the physical, economic, legal-administrative and social background of the region in which they occur. It also requires a consideration of the public interest as a norm within which the goals of outdoor-recreation planning may be established, and an analysis of the optimizing processes which are or might be the methological basis of planning. Two basic approaches to the problem of defining the public interest are exposed: one seeking to define it substantively as a particular state of affairs; the other seeking procedural or operational conditions which will generate it. In the latter case the processes of decision-making are of prior importance in leading toward the public interest, a concept which is itself left undefined in terms of concrete value content. It appears that the conflict-resolving process must be a process of balancing or harmonizing a wide range of values, including those of initiative in decision-making as well as those of concrete results. This balancing of values is called optimizing, since no single value must be maximized at the expense of others when each has a valid claim. The survey and analysis indicate that each of the four agencies for outdoor recreation site development In North America has a valid role to play in providing recreation and other benefits, given planning direction. The public interest in regional land-use planning, therefore, lies in optimizing recreation benefits, which in turn requires an optimum balance between public, private-commercial, private-collective and private individual types of site development. The hypothesis, insofar as it implies that planning can optimize recreation land-use on the regional scale, is not valid, since, although the region seems, prima facie, to be the appropriate unit in scale, there are many publics, and many interests in outdoor recreation which transcend regional limits. A true optimum, therefore, even within a region, is more likely to be achieved by national and even international planning of recreation resources. This limited investigation could be extended by further theoretical analysis and by field research, particularly in the form of attitude and other surveys of the impact of new recreation development on local communities.

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