Recreation : Management : Tools : Education and interpretation

The role education and interpretation in managing recreation

Overcoming obstacles


A Suggested Strategy

The following strategy for communicating with recreational participants is based upon the lessons learnt from the Navigate with Nature project.

Step 1: Identification of key interest groups and messages

This will include those most affected by management decisions.

Step 2: Consultation

This should take place before initial material development and continue during development of material.

Step 3: Identification of most appropriate information media

This may include leaflets, flyers, booklets, web sites, signs etc.

Step 4: Identification of most effective method of distribution

Direct mail out to recreational participants is an ideal method, particularly when carried out with the co-operation of clubs or industry. Distribution through recreation-related shops, information centres, tourist attractions, clubs etc. are other effective methods. Inserts and features in recreational magazines and local newspapers can be a way of targeting participants not affiliated to clubs. The information could also be displayed at local events, whether related to nature conservation or a particular recreational pursuit.

Step 5: Monitoring and evaluation

Uptake rates of material is one key indicator of the extent to which a target audience has been reached. However, follow-up evaluation by questionnaire or through contact with user clubs is essential to understand the participants’ reaction to the material and whether it will have any influence on their behaviour.

Step 6: Project development

The strategy should remain flexible so that the findings of the evaluation stage can be built into the future development of the overall programme.

One of the key aims of the government’s Sustainable Development Strategy (DoE, 1994) is ‘to ensure that leisure activities are a major means of creating awareness of, and appreciation for, the environment’. It is important to stress that for many people, recreational activities are the only means by which they access the natural environment. Leisure activities should therefore be seen as a major opportunity to engage with the public on environmental issues in general and on specific policy issues, such as the Habitats Directive. This will help to engender popular support for the management policies.

Whether the management technique employed at the site is voluntary or regulatory, education and interpretation are a valuable tool in achieving policy goals. Effective awareness raising at a site level can be used to overcome some of the obstacles associated with the acceptance and support of new management schemes. Figure 8.1 illustrates this process.

It is important that the message of ‘if it is not broken, don’t fix it’ is central to communications with end users. If new management measures are required for a site a clear and thorough explanation should be given as to why a particular course of action has been chosen. This should include an explanation of why new methods are required, what they hope to achieve, what the implications are for the end user and, perhaps most importantly, what direct benefits there are for the environment and also the end user.

The effective targeting of educational information is of vital importance. Monitoring an educational programme is also an essential tool to ensure it is providing the required information in an effective format. This is paramount for recreation, given its susceptibility to changes in social, political and economic trends.

Entrenched behaviour can be difficult to change. Participants may feel that where they have been using a location for some time they should not have to change their activity, particularly where they see no obvious evidence of damage. Such views may be entirely understandable and this is where education can play a key role in increasing peoples’ awareness.

Appropriate and well-targeted education is a key step in the effective implementation of any management scheme and is, therefore, a core element in good practice. Often in the planning and budgetary process for management insufficient thought is given to the role of education. As a result limited funds may be available for staff or resources for education. Nonetheless, with creative planning, ingenuity and dedication, marine interpretation and education can be extremely effective in developing public support and understanding of the marine environment and therefore commitment to management schemes.

Overcoming Obstacles











1. Green Boat Campaign, Canada

The Canadian Coast Guards Green Boat Programme is a multi-faceted initiative to educate recreational boaters about reducing their environmental impact. The centrepiece is a boat user guide, Protecting the Aquatic Environment, which has been in circulation for two years. Over 100,000 copies in five editions (including a French version) have been produced and circulated and there are outstanding requests for another 70,000 copies. The key to the program's success has been attributed to the development of numerous formal and informal partnerships with a wide range of parties.

At the very centre of the Canadian Coast Guards approach is the belief that protecting the marine environment is a shared responsibility and that the best way to protect the environment is through a collective effort from all sectors of the boating community. Direction is provided through Recreational Boating Advisory Councils which have been established across the country to advise the Coast Guard on the development of services, policies and strategies for minimising the impact of recreational boating on the marine environment.

The Green Boat programme consists of several components, including publications and a number of initiatives, including the Green Boat Check - a voluntary environmental inspection of craft and the distribution of 'Enviro-kits' - free bilge absorbent pads supplied as part of an Environmental Boaters Kit.


2. The Ride Smart Manual, Rider’s Guide to Personal Watercraft, Canada

‘Ride Smart’ provides personal watercraft users with a user friendly manual containing all the necessary information for undertaking the activity in a safe and responsible manner. The information contained within the booklet was compiled from research, publications, interviews, observations of the craft in use and, most importantly, from co-operation with personal watercraft manufacturers and users.

The manual provides useful information on the craft itself, how to ride it and how to return to shore. It also provides users with information regarding wash and speed restrictions on Canadian waterways.

The manual is produced in a user friendly format with humorous illustrations to promote the core messages contained within the text. In addition, it provides information on personal watercraft training courses and centres.


3. Navigate with Nature

The Navigate with Nature project provides an example of the way in which non-affiliated participants may be targeted. It is a joint initiative of the British Marine Industries Federation (BMIF) and UK CEED and is also sponsored by the DETR, RSPB, Perkins and Marina Developments Ltd. It focuses on reaching recreational boat users through industry. Whether members of clubs or not, most users will at some stage interface with the industry which provides the boats and equipment necessary to take part in recreational boating activities. Interestingly, this has proved a particularly effective way of targeting Personal Watercraft users, from whom the highest proportionate response was received in the Navigate with Nature pilot project.

The project provides user friendly information on issues regarding the use and cleaning and maintenance of recreational craft. Additionally, it seeks to improve user awareness and appreciation for the natural environment by citing important information about the marine environment. Although run at a national level, it is based on a series of site-specific project areas involving locally targeted and distributed information. To date the following areas have been targeted:

  • Poole harbour

  • Chichester harbour

  • The Humber and Tees estuaries

  • West Midlands canal system

  • The Norfolk and Suffolk Broads and Coasts

  • The Thames

  • Essex Estuaries

  • Plymouth Sound

In addition, nationally focused inland and coastal material has been produced for distribution at national boating events and to supplement the demand for information generated through the public relations element of the project. An integral part of the project has been detailed research and monitoring of boat user attitudes in case study areas. This has focused on the attitude of boat users to the environment, their attitude to the Navigate with Nature programme and behavioural changes that it may have inspired. A high proportion of boat users has responded to mailed out questionnaires and their views on the project have helped shape its development.


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