Welcome to the Balsam Blog, home in the internet world of the Falkland Islands Protected Areas Project.

I'll be using this blog to let people know what I've been up to and to share bits of useful information I pick up along the way. My project is subtitled 'Co-operative management of biological diversity', so that means you. The project will need your knowledge, concerns and hopes for the future to drive it along, so do contribute.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

What do people really want to do in the great outdoors?

Well, it depends who they are. I know that sounds obvious but it's something I've been thinking about a lot in recent weeks.
As I said before, there are plans afoot to invite the public into the Patricia Luxton National Nature Reserve (Chartres). To make sure that the biodiversity values of the site are properly looked after, we need to think about who our visitors are likely to be and what they will want to do when they get there.
I started off with a desk exercise that turned into a sad failure; the census wasn't out yet, the ferry company only have the vaguest idea of who uses the boat. Not to worry; this kind of crude numerical data doesn't give us much of a clue about what visitors needs and motivations might be.
So I tried something else. I roped in a tame West Falkland family and did an accompanied visit to the site, observing and recording what they did as self- chosen activities, and asked them what they thought would make a future visit go with a swing. I'm quite interested in this kind of research, especially with children and families; generally they know what they like, and have plenty to say if you know how to listen.

When I got home, I analysed what I'd seen in the light of a book I've been reading about visitors to museums, 'Identity and the Museum Visitor Experience' by John H Falk.

What kind of visitor are you?

An explorer?  You might visit a place out of curiosity. You value learning but you aren't an expert. You don't want your visit to be too structured.
A facilitator? You are interested in the needs of the other people in your group; you might be a parent or grandparent wanting to share a hobby or enthusiasm.
An experience seeker? You like to collect experiences so you can say you've been there and done that. You seek out the famous and iconic.
  A professional or hobbyist? There aren't many of you out there but you are very influential. You probably know what a brittle bladder fern looks like, and you want to find one
A recharger? You are most interested in soaking up the atmosphere of a place. You might take a book, or a picnic, or a yoga mat.

The truth is, most of us can be most of these depending on who we are with and where we are going. We can also change from one to another within the course of a single visit.

The trick is to make sure that you provide something for everyone if you can.

The message I took away from this visit to Chartres is that the site is lacking the famous and iconic, and the professional fern- seekers are only likely rarely to pass by. That means we need to work a bit harder to make sure that people know this special place is there and to help them to enjoy it to the full once they have decided to visit.

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