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Consider safety and rescue over a natural experience

This is an excerpt from Integrated Risk Management for Leisure Services by Robert Kauffman and Merry Moiseichik.

The Dilemma of Two Bridges

Two bridges in the White Mountains of New Hampshire have a profound impact in terms of user safety and the experience provided. Figure 10.11 depicts a series of stepping stones across a stream. Figure 10.12 depicts a bridge built over the stream by the Forest Service for $50,000. Both photos were taken from locations in close proximity during the low flows of summer. When the water level is low, anyone can easily walk across the stream. In contrast, when the river swells during spring, traversing this same spot can be potentially dangerous, particularly for users who are not trained in crossing rivers.

Consider the wilderness experience that each bridge provides and which is more appropriate. The stepping stones are natural and consistent with providing a wilderness- or backcountry-type experience. The bridge is typical of the frontcountry. From a design perspective, the bridge lacks a rustic nature and real charm and is urban in appearance.

Then juxtapose the experience with safety and rescue concerns. During spring, many hikers and backpackers would need to traverse the swollen stream. If they do not recognize the potential hazard and if they are not trained in how to traverse swollen rivers, they are at risk. This increases mishaps, rescues, and management costs. Without the bridge, numerous rescues and potential fatalities would occur at this site each year.

Hence the dilemma. Should management build the bridge and, in doing so, change or lose the experience provided? At what point do simple management decisions change the experience provided so that the desired experience is lost? Once management begins to manage the experience to reduce search and rescue costs, where do they end? Even marginal returns in terms of safety can be justified.

Learn more about Integrated Risk Management for Leisure Services.

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