Earth Sciences Report 1978-04

Author(s) Date 1978-12-31

Extensive use of outdoor recreational facilities generally causes these sites to deteriorate within a short time. Perhaps the most obvious undesirable result of recreational use of wilderness is the change in the natural vegetation. Intensive use ultimately reduces plant growth, destroys ground cover, increases soil compaction, and decreases moisture infiltration rates so that surface runoff and soil erosion are increased. In many areas use already exceeds the capabilities of existing or proposed facilities. The solution is to gain control of the situation and direct events, rather than permit events to take their own course. Matching recreational use to the carrying capacity of a region should be a primary objective of resource managers (Bohart, 1968). Areas must be designed for use without undue deterioration of soil, water, and vegetational resources.

Soil is a basic resource and must be considered, regardless of the intended land use. Soils are dynamic, and change as the environment is modified. Intensive recreational use is a severe modification. In developing outdoor recreational areas, the pertinent characteristics of the different soils and sloped need to be recognized. The best approach to erosion control on recreational land is through adequate conservation planning.

The initial phase in planning the use and development of any resource is an inventory of the nature of the resource - its kind, quality, quantity, and distribution (Pluth, 1969). A soil survey not only indicates how much land is available for development, but also how and where different kinds of soil are found in the landscape. Various soils outlined on a map have properties that differ from those of other delineated soils, and different soils have different use capabilities.

A soil survey can be a most useful tool for managers planning a well-designed recreational area. A good design directs users away from areas not suitable for heavy use because of characteristics such as coarse texture, excessive wetness, steep slopes, and fragile vegetation. Compared to a design made without the use of soil information, the design made with the use of a soil survey is more compatible with natural land features; lover initial investment is required; and maintenance required after site development is expected to be reduced (Stevens, 1966), thereby reducing maintenance costs.

Simply mapping the soils is not enough however. Specialists bear a responsibility beyond supplying good data; they should be willing to interpret it and to predict the consequences of various alternative actions (Epp, 1977). The purpose of soil interpretations is to provide people with the best information possible in a form that is directly useful to them.

This report, then, is one of a series describing detailed and semi-detailed soil surveys, which are being conducted in Alberta Provincial Parks and recreational areas. A separate report is being written for each area, and a standard explanatory report which is pertinent to all areas is being prepared. A form of this explanatory report appears in the Introduction to the Kananaskis Lakes Soil Survey Report (Greenlee, 1976).

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Greenlee, G.M. (1979): Soil survey and interpretation for recreational use of an area at the junction of the Notikewin and Peace Rivers; Alberta Research Council, ARC/AGS Earth Sciences Report 1978-04, 56 p.