Defining, Measuring, Monitoring, and Managing the Sustainability of Parks for Outdoor Recreation


  • Robert Manning
  • William Valliere
  • Laura Anderson
  • Rebecca Stansfield McCown
  • Peter Pettengill
  • Nathan Reigner
  • Steven Lawson
  • Peter Newman
  • Megha Budruk
  • Daniel Laven
  • Jeffrey Hallo
  • Logan Park
  • James Bacon
  • Daniel Abbe
  • Carena van Riper
  • Kelly Goonan


Sustainability, parks, outdoor recreation, management-by-objectives, indicators, standards


Sustainability of parks for outdoor recreation is a long-standing and increasingly urgent issue. Sustainability is an intuitively appealing concept, but it is often seen as so broad that it can be daunting to define and manage in an operational way. The purpose of this paper is to suggest that management-by-objectives frameworks used in contemporary park and outdoor recreation management can be useful in defining, measuring, monitoring, and managing the sustainability of parks for outdoor recreation. The paper presents and describes a generalizable management-by-objectives framework that can be used for this purpose. This framework requires 1) formulating indicators and standards, 2) monitoring indicators, and 3) managing to ensure that standards are maintained. This approach is informed by principles derived from the broad environmental and sustainability literature, including carrying capacity, common property resources, ecosystem management, adaptive management, environmental justice, and ecotourism. Defining, measuring, monitoring, and managing sustainability can be supported by a program of natural and social science research, and this paper offers examples of how research can support formulation of indicators and standards, monitoring and management. Given advances in addressing the sustainability of parks for outdoor recreation—a set of environmental concepts and principles to draw on, an associated management-by-objectives framework, a growing set of research approaches, an array of management practices, and a number of hopeful case studies—application of sustainability to parks and outdoor recreation should move ahead more deliberately.