In the context of leisure, degradation refers to a decline in quality resulting from recreational use. It implies both a change in condition and a judgement that the change is adverse and undesirable. The concept is fundamental to recreation management because maintaining quality is a critical management objective. Much recreation management involves PLANNING for and implementing actions designed to minimize degradation associated with recreation use. Degradation of three types of attributes—environmental quality, experiential quality, and the quality of facilities—commonly occurs in recreation areas. The degree of concern about these three types of degradation varies with the type of recreation area, particularly the extent to which recreation is RESOURCE-BASED RECREATION.
Examples of environmental quality degradation (see IMPACTS, PHYSICAL) include loss of vegetation and exposure of soil resulting from recreational activities, such as TRAMPLING, horse-riding, driving, biking, picnicking, and camping. Such activities also result in soil compaction and accelerated erosion. Recreation can adversely affect animal populations and water quality as well. Concern about the degradation of environmental quality is greatest in places where recreational DEMAND is high and OBJECTIVES stress the protection of natural conditions.
The quality of facilities—such as TRAILS, playing fields, and toilets—can also be degraded. Facilities are designed to be used but they usually require maintenance. Inadequate maintenance can be a common cause of degradation. Degradation can also result if use exceeds the capacity for which the facility was designed, or if the type of use the facility receives is inappropriate. Vandalism also contributes to degradation. Facility degradation is likely to be the primary concern in urban areas and in recreation areas that emphasize SPORT.
Finally, the quality of the recreation experience can be degraded. Direct degradation of the experience...