“Barring love and war, few enterprises are undertaken with such abandon, or by such diverse individuals, or with so paradoxical a mixture of appetite and altruism, as that group of avocations known as outdoor recreation,” wrote Aldo Leopold, in his essay, “The Conservation Esthetic.”
Outdoor recreation is a sort of religion in the Rocky Mountain West, where huge expanses of public lands protect massive natural spaces. And like religion, there are myriad ways to recreate and the different paths to enlightenment don’t always work great in the same places.
In the Fall 2010 issue of Headwaters Magazine, published by the Colorado Foundation for Water Education, my article, “Colorado’s Culture of Recreation,” explores the state’s recreational habits and how resource managers are planning for the growing number of people — and the shifting demographics — that are heading outdoors.
As an addendum, since this story went to print, the state parks department has been faced with closures and oil and gas development (via the Denver Post) in order to meet budget needs. Appetite and altruism, as Leopold wrote, will both be necessary along with consideration for what we’re protecting and enjoying in our parks, wildernesses, and other natural areas.