Alterra measures damage to nature caused by outdoor activities
New forms of outdoor recreation, such as gps-walks, camping by footpaths,
‘boots paths’ and ‘forest playgrounds’ do not cause much damage to nature.
Mountain bikers cause damage if they go off the marked paths. Tineke de
Boer and Jaap van Raffe of Alterra studied the effects of nature
Areas of nature in the Netherlands are relatively small, so outdoor
activities tend to be fairly organised affairs. The Dutch forestry
organisation Staatsbosbeheer has set out fourteen routes that walkers can
follow using global positioning system (gps) equipment. According to the
researchers this activity does not damage nature, as the routes have been
laid out in areas that can take being walked over. Staatsbosbeheer expects
that these activities will become more popular in the coming years.
There are 180,000 mountain bikers in the Netherlands, most of whom belong
to one of the 39 clubs, and make use of seventy signposted routes. Bikers
who go off the marked paths can cause damage to nature, and walkers are
often hindered by bikers on the same paths. The researchers suggest laying
out more challenging routes for the mountain bikers, and to increase the
awareness of the code of behaviour agreed upon by both nature organisations
and mountain-bike clubs.
A number of relatively new recreational activities do little damage. ‘Pole
camping’ as it is called in Dutch involves camping with no facilities along
a marked walking path, but relatively few walkers do this so damage is
minimal. ‘Boots paths’ run across marshy areas, making it necessary to wear
rubber boots. As long as these do not go through areas where the nature is
fragile, no harm is done. Forest playgrounds attract large numbers of
visitors and are expensive to set up; the researchers suggest that a
cheaper alternative is to encourage children to build huts just off paths.
See www.staatsbosbeheer.nl for more information.