Recreation Management and Human Valuation, the Fusion of Social and Ecological Sciences

Managers of urban-proximate wildland settings must often strike a careful balance with providing nature-based recreation experiences with the maintenance of ecological integrity. With over 3 million residents within a 30-minute drive of the natural areas of central and coastal Orange County, the demand for recreation experiences is ever present, and increasing. Equally important is the increasing need and desire for the conservation of natural resources and preservation of the rich natural heritage of an iconic area of the California coast. Resource management planning and implementation strategies in natural areas are often more successful when informed by interdisciplinary research that combines both ecological and social science approaches in a location specific manner. We have partnered with national leaders in the field of recreation ecology from Utah State University and Oregon State University to implement a multi-year project designed to address ecological aspects, human benefits and values, and contemporary management approaches tied to recreation within the region. Fourteen management units within the Nature Reserve of Orange County are considered a high priority for assessment and monitoring of recreation use and associated management uses. The majority of units fall under the management of OC Parks, California State Parks, and the Irvine Ranch Conservancy. The project will employ both continuous assessment and sampling approaches to establish baselines conditions. Work is to include field assessment of the location and condition of trails, sites, and other areas of visitor use, determination of the spatial distribution of use, and assessment of visitor attributes and preferences, demographics, motivations, values and judgements of resource and social conditions. Work will be conducted in two distinct phases. The first phase is three years in duration, with social and biophysical field sampling to begin spring 2017.

For more information about the Recreation Management Program, contact Danny Fry (