Protected Area Risk Communication: Baseline Practices for Outdoor Recreation


  • Garrett Hutson Brock University Recreation and Leisure Studies
  • Ryan Howard Lakehead University Outdoor recreation, parks, and tourism



risk communication, outdoor recreation, social media engagement, signage


This project provided baseline risk communication practices to the Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS) for its consideration in developing new policies and management direction for outdoor recreation. This essay provides a summary of the project with a discussion of the practice recommendations. The CWS manages 54 National Wildlife Areas and 92 Migratory Bird Sanctuaries in Canada. To make protected areas more relevant to Canadians, the Government of Canada launched a federal initiative in 2013 to connect Canadians to nature. This initiative is opening 10 near-urban National Wildlife Areas to Canadians through the provision of infrastructure for the creation of new outdoor recreation opportunities. We provide evidenceinformed recommendations for risk communication gathered from protected area document analysis and a focused review of the literature on risk management, risk communication, and outdoor recreation. Further, we discuss implications for protected area managers. 

Subscribe to JOREL


Bowen, G. (2009). Document analysis as a qualitative research method. Qualitative Research Journal, 9(2), 27–40. doi: 10.3316/QRJ0902027

Cloutier, C. (2000). Legal liability and risk management in adventure tourism. Kamloops, BC: Bhudak Consultants.

Ervin, J., Butler, P., Wilkinson, L., Piper, M., & Watkins, S. (2010). Inspiring support and commitment for protected areas through communication, education and public awareness programs: A quick guide for protected area practitioners. Arlington, VA: Rare Conservation.

Government of Canada. (2014). National Conservation Plan. Retrieved from

Harrop, P. (2012). How is signage used to meet the risk communication needs of land managers and mountain bikers in the UK? (Unpublished master’s dissertation). Leeds Trinity University College, Leeds, England.

Lundgren, R., & McMakin, A., (2013). Risk communication: A handbook for communicating environmental, safety, and health risks. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

Matyas, C., Srinivasan, S., Cahyanto, I., Thapa, B., Pennington-Gray, L., & Villegas, J. (2011). Risk perception and evacuation decisions of Florida tourists under hurricane threats: A stated preference analysis. Natural Hazards, 59, 871–890. doi: 10.1007/s11069-011-9801-0

Moss, J. (2015). Outdoor recreation insurance, risk management, and law. Urbana, IL: Sagamore.

Parks and Recreation Ontario (PRO). (2014). Pathways to recreation: Learning about Ontario’s accessibility standard for the design of public spaces. Retrieved from

Rock, N. (2009). Recreation services: Law and risk management. Toronto, Canada: Edmond Montgomery Publications.






Essays, Practices and Commentaries