This was quite the workshop! We had four terrific speakers/panelists and a capacity crowd of over 150 people on March 1. The topic was quite appealing to wide audience.
This workshop was designed to discuss visitor management impacted by many multitudes of visitors, especially in urban areas. Rather like a Big Box store.
This was a solution focused day – practical ideas to help you work toward solutions to the challenges of ‘Big Box Greenspace’. We dedicated the afternoon to a series of facilitate panels where delegates questioned our panel as well as provided thoughts and opinions on solutions.
The main areas discussed were:
Panel Discussion I – Tools for Assessing Visitor Use and Associated Impacts
- How have you/your agency attempted to measure current amount of/type of use in your area?
- Have any of you adopted any formal methodologies for assessing the ecological impacts associated from visitor use?
- Have any of you adopted any formal methodologies for assessing the visitor experience impacts associated from visitor use?
Panel Discussion II – Tools for Managing Visitor Use Impacts
- What strategies have you employed to mitigate the ecological impacts associated with increased visitor use?
- What strategies have you employed to mitigate the visitor experience impacts associated with increased visitor use?
- Have there been any strategies that have been unsuccessful? Why?
Open Discussion – Coming Together
- What is our desired state of our managed lands?
- How do we best coordinate our individual actions to efficiently address these challenges andopportunities?
- How will we monitor progress?
The first talk was on Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park – by Bridget Jones, Head of Visitor Management. This massive park is near much of Scotland’s urban population so there are lots of issues that have been addressed by a multi-pronged approach to visitor management. Unlike most Canadian parks, this park has 15K people living IN it – more like a biosphere reserve so rural development is part of the mandate. One approach to development is to appeal by emphasizing local food production and consumption for visitors. Economically, the impact is 247 pounds sterling (spent by visitors – so that does not count residents). Rowdiness and littering of cheap recreation equipment is a real problem. One memorable quote was (in the Scot accent): “Sun’s oot, taps off”. Great line!
John Haselmayer of Parks Canada told us that ‘the Bruce’ has seen such a massive upswing in peak visitation that they turned more people away than could enter in 2016! Their visitor levels have doubled in just 8 years with the iconic Flowerpot Island jumping by 50% itself. They’ve added more staff and put up electronic signs at the beginning of the long peninsula highway (Highway 6 – its about 1.75 hours drive from the base of the peninsula) plus more e-visitor information in place and planned to try and move visitors to the shoulder seasons.
Kendrick Doll (Ontario Heritage Trust) had a strong message – watch how legal procedures under different management options can complicate public consultation; the unintended consequence of some planning processes mean consultation is not always timely because of legal process constraints. Like John’s example of the Bruce (Peninsula National Park), OHT’s Cheltenham Badlands has a peak visitor congestion issue – here it is during peak fall colour season. The visitors can no longer climb on the exposed badland rocks because of issues with major damage to the protected area – loving it to death, as it wer.
RBG’s own Head of Natural Lands, Tys Theysmeyer, wrapped up the formal talks with a great overview of the choices and decisions that have to be made in managing lands where there are lots of urban visitors. He’s been a major force to help bring back the abutting Cootes Paradise inlet and bay ‘back from the dead’ of pollution from Hamilton and the GTA industrial and sewage pollution. He has to strike a balance in messaging and in programmed ‘natural areas’ the public expects of a botanical garden vs. restoring natural areas. Conflict is not the issue but managing public expectations is still tricky.
The rest of the workshop was in depth discussion with the audience able to chat extensively with the whole panel. This was a rare opportunity to engage with so many experts at once. The last picture in the series is a bit of a shout-out because those are students I teach or supervise at U Waterloo’s School of Environment, Resources and Sustainability.