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The Effects of Road Quality and Other Factors on Water-Based Recreation Demand in Northern Ontario, Canada

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Resource managers are often faced with difficult decisions regarding the management of unpaved roads in forested environments. These decisions are complicated by the lack of information about ways that people use roads for leisure activities such as outdoor recreation. In this study, we assessed how the quality of roads and trails affected the demand for water-based recreation in northern Ontario, Canada. To make this assessment, we tested and controlled for several other factors that might influence this demand. The results from a random-effects, negative binomial regression of traffic counts to water-based settings suggested that demand was higher when road quality to sites was better, sites were in close proximity to human settlements, and large-sized water bodies that held desirable fish species were available. Furthermore, demand was higher when weather was warmer and drier, when people had more leisure time (i.e., weekends, statutory holidays, and summer), when wind speeds were low on large-sized water bodies, and when fuel costs were lower. The relative effect of road quality on counts was strongest of all of these factors. In fact, moving from a trail to a medium- or high-quality road was predicted to increase demand for water-based recreation by more than 200%. By understanding this direct effect of road quality along with the importance of other factors for water-based recreation demand, resource managers can carefully plan all stages of road management (i.e., creation, maintenance, and closure/removal of roads) to either encourage or discourage use.
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Keywords: outdoor recreation; public lands; roads; site choice; traffic counts; trip timing; water

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 August 2011

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