British Columbia Ministry of Forests


Chapter 9: Recreation Site Management

9.1 Introduction
9.2 History
9.3 Site Planning

9.3.1 Concept Planning
9.3.2 Site Designation
9.3.3 Site Assessment
9.3.4 Site Design

9.4 Site Construction

9.4.1 Principles of Site Construction
9.4.2 Facility Guidelines

9.5 Routine Site Maintenance

9.5.1 Principles of Routine Site Maintenance
9.5.2 Procedures for Routine Site Maintenance

9.6 Site Rehabilitation

9.6.1 Principles of Site Rehabilitation
9.6.2 Procedures for Site Rehabilitation

9.7 Cooperative Projects
9.8 Enforcement
9.9 References


I Rules Concerning the Use of Recreation Sites and Trails
II Campfire Regulations


1 An overview of recreation site management
2 Recreation site concept plan - facility development
3 Base map of proposed development area
4 Site evaluation map
5 Site capability map
6 Overview of vehicle access recreation site
7 Site plan with facility layout
8 Structures associated with recreation facilities
9 Gravel road construction - summer and winter specs
10 Typical loop layout - 30-unit vehicle access site
11 Loop layout details - 30-unit vehicle access site
12 Spur and activity pad details - vehicle access site
13 Day use area, typical layout - vehicle access site
14 Boat launch layout
15 Walk-in tenting campsite in linear and loop layout
16 Loop layout of vehicle access group campsite
17 Trailhead layout and parking area for equestrian or snowmobile use
18 Backcountry campsites on a hiking, equestrian or ATV trail
19 Backcountry campsite with float plane or boat access

9.1 Introduction

The purpose of Ministry of Forests recreation sites is to enable the public to enjoy a recreation experience in a forest setting. The Ministry's objective is to provide safe, sanitary, socially acceptable and environmentally sound facilities and structures (Section 1.4.3).

The MoF is only one of many players in the recreation business (Sec. 1.1). The Ministry's role is to maintain a network of recreation sites in a variety of forest settings as part of its management of recreation use in Provincial Forests. MoF recreation sites should, therefore, complement the programs of other agencies and the private sector by providing recreation opportunities that are not available elsewhere.

The overall image created by MoF recreation sites should be one of good quality rustic sites in natural settings. Facilities (campsites, boat launches, day use areas, etc.) and structures (tables, toilets, signs, etc.) should complement and blend with the natural setting, rather than contrast or overwhelm it.

This chapter focuses on recreation site management and defines the Ministry's role in providing a portion of the spectrum of public recreation opportunities. It establishes the procedures for MoF recreation site management, the most visible and capital-intensive component of the recreation program.

An overview of recreation site management is shown in Figure 1. This figure identifies the phases of recreation site management and the purpose, outputs and responsibilities of each phase.

Section 9.2 sketches the historical development of MoF recreation site management.

Section 9.3 discusses recreation site planning in the context of integrated resource management (IRM) and recreation planning (Chapter 8), and identifies the procedures involved in concept planning and site designation, assessment and design.

Section 9.4 discusses site construction, explains some basic principles and establishes the facility guidelines and structure standards.

Section 9.5 discusses routine site maintenance, outlines its purpose, and establishes the procedures and responsibilities for routine maintenance.

Section 9.6 discusses site rehabilitation, outlines its purpose, and establishes the principles and procedures for site rehabilitation.

Section 9.7 discusses cooperative projects, their role in recreation site management, and establishes procedures and responsibilities for cooperative projects.

Section 9.8 discusses enforcement, outlines the MoF enforcement philosophy, and identifies future steps that could be taken to deal more efficiently and effectively with the issue of enforcement at recreation sites.

Section 9.9 gives a list of cited and supplementary references.

Figure 1: An Overview of Recreation Site Management

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9.2 History

In 1956, the Parks Division of the Ministry of Forests was moved to a newly created Ministry of Recreation and Conservation. For the next approximately 15 years, recreational use of Crown land outside of provincial parks was essentially unmanaged.

As recreation demand grew, rustic facilities and a few amenities were developed by the MoF, primarily in response to sanitation problems.

MoF recreation sites continued to be developed in a reactive manner well into the late 1970s. The objective at that time was to disperse recreational use over many small, rustic, low-key sites. Basically, these sites were used by local residents and the program was not widely publicized. The sites were also intended to be temporary or mobile. That is, if an area in which a recreation site was situated was scheduled to be logged, or if use patterns changed, perhaps due to another lake being stocked with fish, the recreation facility would be moved to another location.

In 1978, the Ministry of Forests Act and the Forest Act established recreation as one of the Ministry's primary resource mandates. Recreation in Provincial Forests began to be managed as a resource as well as an activity. The Ministry's role became one of ensuring that a spectrum of outdoor recreation opportunities was available to the public both then and for the future.

The new goal for recreation site management was to provide a range of recreation sites which harmonized with and complemented the natural settings. The natural settings could range from "rural" at one end of the Recreation Opportunity Spectrum (ROS) to "primitive" at the other end of the ROS spectrum. This new role of providing recreation facilities over the full spectrum of recreation opportunities was further entrenched in 1987, when the Forest Act was amended to recognize wilderness as a distinct resource in Provincial Forests (Chapter 12).

Recently, recreation sites have begun to be developed on a more proactive basis. MoF staff have become facilitators in the development of recreation sites, and many sites have been developed in cooperation with recreation user groups, other government agencies and forest companies.

In addition, the original notion that some recreation sites were temporary or moveable has largely changed. In many instances, the recreation sites have become fixtures in the forest, largely because:

  • use patterns become established
  • recreation features cannot always be duplicated at another location
  • recreation sites represent a capital investment

In order to manage present recreational use in Provincial Forests, two categories of recreation sites have been established.

Vehicle Access Recreation Sites: designed to provide recreational experiences in the Rural and Roaded Resource ROS classes.

Backcountry Recreation Sites: designed to provide recreational experiences in the Primitive and Semi-Primitive ROS classes.

Type of Recreation Site

ROS Classes






Vehicle Access Recreation Site


Backcountry Recreation Site


P = Primitive

SPNM = Semi-primitive, Non-motorized

SPM = Semi-primitive, Motorized

RR = Roaded Resource

R = Rural

The Ministry's role in recreation site management will continue to evolve. Future steps in this evolution might be:

  • further clarification (through a program review) of the Ministry's role in recreation site management in relation to other agencies' roles
  • the use of user-satisfaction surveys to better determine user preferences
  • more formal application of forest landscape management (FLM) principles to recreation site design
  • the development of a separate and definitive recreation facilities and structures handbook

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9.3 Site Planning

Planning for the development and maintenance of recreation opportunities takes place within the broader context of recreation and integrated resource management (IRM) planning (Chapter 8 and Resource Planning Manual). IRM planning provides land and resource management direction for Provincial Forests. It is the primary mechanism through which recreation planning can establish the Ministry's objectives for the Provincial Forest recreation resource. Subsequent to overall land and resource management planning, recreation sites are developed according to the procedures and standards established in this chapter.

Recreation site planning consists of the following four phases:

  • Concept Planning
  • Site Designation
  • Site Assessment
  • Site Design

These phases of site planning, as well as site construction and maintenance, should be carried out using a team approach having a range of expertise. A project leader should coordinate input from the planning phases and be responsible for maintaining a progress development report. Ideally, the team should include:

  • a recreation specialist with knowledge of the user requirements and the local recreation resource, and who is responsible for the concept plan
  • a district resource planner responsible for forest management input
  • an operations individual responsible for site construction and maintenance
  • a landscape architect responsible for the visual aspects of the design

Although one individual may have more than one responsibility, it is important that this range of expertise be involved throughout the project. This approach provides the best possible plan, since considerations for site construction and maintenance will be addressed in conjunction with the planning phase.

Depending on the requirements of the project, specialists from a number of other disciplines may be involved at the site assessment phase. These include pedologists, biologists, engineers, architects, geologists, limnologists, archaeologists and representatives of user groups.

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9.3.1 Concept Planning

Concept planning is the first phase in the development of a recreation site. This is where broad objectives for the recreation site are established and its general characteristics are determined.

The concept plan looks to the pertinent IRM plan(s) for content and direction. User group requirements, ROS class criteria, recreation features inventory information (including landscape features), existing recreation facilities, management requirements and anticipated constraints to site development all contribute to the concept plan. Many of these inputs, such as recreation inventory, recreation demand and forest landscape management, are discussed elsewhere in this manual.

Recreation Opportunity Spectrum Considerations

Use of the Recreation Opportunities Spectrum (ROS) system is important in the development of the recreation site concept plan. It is also used in evaluating existing regional and district recreation site opportunities. The concept plan should identify the particular recreation site development relative to the existing types of recreation opportunities present within the surrounding district. For instance, high priority may be placed on a concept plan for development of a backcountry recreation site in a semi-primitive non-motorized setting if most of the other recreation sites in the district are in roaded resource settings.

The recreation site characteristics as defined by the concept plan should reflect the ROS class and the needs of the anticipated user groups. It would be inappropriate to consider developing a backcountry campsite in a roaded resource or rural setting where heavy day-use from a broad population base constitutes the main user group.

The following ROS setting considerations for recreation site development have been adapted from the Trails Management Handbook produced by the U.S. Forest Service. It is emphasized that these considerations be addressed at a broad overview level consistent with the development of a concept plan.

Social Setting

  • Type of use: the mode of access to and within the site, the mix of user groups and the relationships between on-site activities, particularly motorized and non-motorized.
  • Volume of use: the anticipated numbers of users, the frequency of encounters between user groups, and the impact of volume of use on the physical setting.

Physical Setting

  • Location and overall design of the recreation site, including facilities and structures suitable to the ROS class.
  • Visual management: the visual landscape of the recreation site and the visual impact on the landscape of the site itself.

Management Setting

  • Management of on-site activities and use through regulatory controls, such as signs or barriers. Site location and design are important management considerations.
  • Recreation site stewardship: high quality construction and maintenance shows management concern and helps promote good stewardship on the part of the recreation site user.
  • Compatibility of other resource management activities with the intended type of recreation site. The following may help to minimize potential conflicts:
  • site location and design
  • visual management practices, including adherence to visual quality objectives (VQOs)
  • timing of either the resource management activity or recreational use to avoid peak conflict periods; may involve seasonal use restrictions

Chapter 8 of this manual gives further information on management considerations for other resource activities which may occur in the vicinity of the recreation site.

An example of a concept plan is shown in Figure 2. In this example, the concept plan includes the following elements:

  • a Roaded Resource ROS setting
  • an overnight campsite with approximately 10 vehicle units
  • a walk-in tenting facility
  • an adjacent water feature
  • a boat launch facility
  • a southwest aspect
  • room for future expansion

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9.3.2 Site Designation

Site designation is the legal definition of an area over which a map notation or map reserve applies and the public notification of approval of the map notation or map reserve. Site designation procedures are established in Appendix 5.

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9.3.3 Site Assessment

Site assessment is the on-site evaluation of an area's physical and social elements and the preparation of a site capability map that illustrates the results of the site evaluation. Site assessment is necessary to determine the development capability of a site for visitor impact, comfort, safety and the feasibility of installing facilities and structures.

Site assessment involves three basic stages:

  • pre-field investigation
  • site evaluation
  • interpretations of carrying capacity and limitations to recreation site development

The site capability map resulting from site assessment should show the following:

  • carrying capacity and limitations to recreation site development
  • recreation features, visual features, archaeological sites and any existing recreation facilities and structures

The site capability map is an important tool for making decisions about the site regarding:

  • the planning process
  • site layout
  • the final location
  • future expansion
Pre-Field Investigation

All pertinent resource information available for the area should be gathered, including maps of soils, terrain, vegetation, wildlife and aquatics, and information on climate and archaeological or historic sites. Recreation inventories of features, including landscape and existing facilities as outlined in Chapter 6, also provide valuable input at this stage.

Preliminary investigation will avoid duplication of effort in the field, point out areas of particular concern along the route, and dictate the type and extent of additional information needed in the site evaluation.

Terrain maps will identify surficial materials and may indicate hazardous geologic processes, such as failing slopes. Soil maps include information on soil conditions, indicate areas of organic and poorly drained soils, and identify slope classes. Vegetation and forest cover maps may give an indication of understory density and sensitive vegetation areas. Wildlife maps may indicate areas of potential conflict with humans, such as caribou winter range or bear denning areas.

Pre-field investigation also entails obtaining aerial photos and topographic maps of the area, which will serve as base maps for recording field information and for the development of a site plan. Scales of 1:1 000 to 1:3 000 are most appropriate for detailed site capability mapping. If such scales are not available, 1:50 000 scale maps and air photos may be enlarged.

Air photos and topographic maps, published terrain, soils, vegetation, recreation features, aquatics and wildlife maps, and climatic record information are available from Maps BC, Ministry of Environment, 110-552 Superior Street, Victoria V8V 1X5 (387-1441). Archaeological and historic site information is available from the Archaeology and Outdoor Recreation Branch, Ministry of Municipal Affairs, Recreation and Culture (MARC) at 800 Johnson Street in Victoria. The MoF Drafting Section will provide forest cover maps. Recreation inventory maps are available from district recreation staff.

From pre-field examination of contour maps, air photos and existing resource information, including landscape and recreation features, a preliminary site plan tying into recognized points (such as open areas, creek crossings or rock bluffs) may be plotted on the base map.

Site Evaluation

Site evaluation is an on-the-ground assessment of an area's potential for recreation site development. A site evaluation form (FS 261) has been developed to assist district staff in collecting this information (Appendix 1). The physical and social elements to be examined on-site are described below, along with a brief description of how they influence site development.


Topography heavily influences site development. Although level areas are not free of problems (e.g., they may be poorly drained), development costs and site-use degradation are directly linked to the percentage of slope of the area. Percent slope categories and general guidelines regarding recreation site development are as follows:

Percent Slope Guidelines

Percent Slope



  • Drainage problems may occur
  • Special measures for sewerage system drainage are required
  • Ideal for insect habitat if low and protected


  • Most suitable for road, campsite and building development


  • Marginal suitability for campsite and building development
  • Minor grading required


  • Limitations on development
  • Regrading, stepping or terracing generally required


  • Not feasible; major grading and land alteration required
  • Significant environmental impact

Soils and Drainage

Erosion, compaction, ability to withstand traffic and drainage are soil properties which must be considered in site evaluation. In general, the best locations for recreation sites are gently sloping areas that have deep, well-drained soils of medium to coarse texture.


Mixed stands of vegetation with a fairly open canopy best meet shelter and privacy requirements, have greater resistance to fire and insect damage, and recover more readily from visitor impact than do non-mixed stands.

Uneven-aged stands are most suitable. If there are areas of high timber values adjacent to the site, these areas should be identified and the impact on the site of logging them should be assessed.

Areas of highly sensitive vegetation (such as those containing rare species, alpine areas, bog communities, etc.) are to be avoided.

Native or otherwise already established plant materials are recommended for revegetating and permanent plantings. Natural settings should be imitated as much as possible.


An open tree canopy (overstory) allows for good sunlight penetration.

East, west and south slopes receive direct sun. South slopes are drier, more exposed and frequently warmer.

North slopes are shady and hold moisture.

Low areas tend to be humid and collect cold air, smoke and mist.

Water Supply / Waterbodies

Water systems are not provided by the Forest Service at recreation sites. However, planners should consider availability, quality and access to a water supply. Sites are to be located near water bodies.

All waterbodies (rivers, streams, lakes, the ocean) are to be reviewed to determine their potential as a potable water source, recreation feature or hazard. Possible drinking water sources should be tested for quality. Safe access points to the water feature should be identified.


All hazards within the development area shall be considered. The following is a list of possible hazards:

  • steep drop-offs
  • cliffs
  • avalanche areas
  • bear habitat areas
  • strong water currents
  • unstable banks
  • snags and leaning trees

Through proper site location, site design and management policies, hazards at recreation sites can be greatly reduced.

Natural Features

The location of the site within easy travelling distances to such natural features as caves, waterfalls, views and other natural attractions will enhance the popularity of the development.

Some areas may be high in archaeological resources. In these areas, the Archeology and Outdoor Recreation Branch (MARC) should be contacted to ensure that the site development will not have an impact on any sensitive or protected areas.


The visual quality of the landscape should be assessed in terms of views toward and away from the site, unique features, and so on. Wherever possible, sites of high aesthetic value should be given preference.

Impact on Future Resource Development

The selection of a site may be influenced by resource development now and in the future. Wherever possible, determine future resource development activities for the area and assess the possible lifetime of the recreation site. It may not be economical to develop a particular site if future resource development will have a negative impact on its recreational usefulness.

Elevation, Annual Precipitation, Biogeoclimatic Zone Reference

These considerations are important in analysing the suitability of the site for development. Climate, length of season, durability of the vegetation and soils and other such factors, each have an individual effect on the site and may influence the overall evaluation of the project.


The suitability of safe and efficient access must be examined, whether it is by boat, float plane, ATV, foot, horse, bicycle or motorized on/off-road vehicle.

Potential Recreation Activities

The potential recreation activities that might take place at the recreation site should be determined. Sites with a greater potential for a variety of recreation activities may be more popular than those with a potential for just a few.

Present Public Use on Site/Anticipated Use

To fully analyze a site's recreation potential, existing and anticipated use must be considered. To assess existing use patterns, a study of the users and uses may be required, including interviews and user surveys. This is particularly applicable to high-use areas where significant funds are to be spent. Refer to Chapter 7 Recreation Analysis.

ROS Classification

ROS (Recreation Opportunities Spectrum) classes as mapped on the Recreation Inventory will assist with the above evaluation. However, each recreation site must be considered individually to ensure that the appropriate ROS class has been correctly applied to the area. Refer to Chapter 6 Recreation Inventory.

Visual Quality Objectives (VQOs)

Landscape management is an integral part of recreation site management (Chapter 11). A Forest Service recreation site should be planned, designed, constructed and maintained to meet a specified visual quality objective.

Visual quality refers to the character, condition or "quality" of a scenic landscape or other visual resource and how it is perceived, preferred or "valued" by the public.

Visual Quality Objectives define, describe or attempt to measure for each situation the notion of "a level of acceptable landscape alteration" (Chapter 11, Addendum I).

Preservation: Minimal alterations which enhance the natural wildland are allowed.

Retention: Management activities or alterations must not be visually evident.

Partial Retention: Management activities or alterations must be visually subordinate to the characteristic landscape.

Modification: Alterations may dominate the original characteristic landscape.

Maximum Modification: Alterations may be out of scale or show detail quite different from natural occurrences.

Enhancement: Management activities or alterations may increase the visual values of a particular landscape.

Rehabilitation: Management activities or alterations may restore a landscape that has received impacts from approved forest practices.

Degree of Degradation

The degree of environmental degradation is a clear indication of existing use patterns for the site. User impact on the site and the degree and scope of reclamation activity required to repair the site must be reviewed in conjunction with the previous items of slopes, soils, drainage, vegetation, elevation, precipitation and all other biogeoclimatic factors.

Limiting Factors

The combination of all of the above factors in the evaluation process will define the limiting factors of the site, as well as highlight areas of potential development.

Interpretations of Carrying Capacity and Limitations to Development

Recognition of the site's limitations to a specific type of development and use allows the design team to make informed decisions about layout and design. It also enables them to estimate the necessary construction and maintenance costs.

Carrying capacity may be defined as the amount of use an area can sustain without undue environmental degradation. It is the physical and biological carrying capacity of the landscape, as identified by soils, terrain, topography, vegetation, wildlife and climate factors, along with the level of development and the type and intensity of use that determines the overall impact on the environment. As the environmental conditions within a site change, the carrying capacity also changes. For example, areas within a site where use is concentrated, such as group camping and picnic sites, will show a greater environmental impact than will areas where walk-in camping is the normal use pattern.

Indications of Excessive Impact

Site design, construction and maintenance must proceed according to the defined carrying capacity and anticipated use so as not to exceed the desired level of impact. Recreational use exceeds this level of impact when:

  • environmental alteration occurs to a degree that is unacceptable to management and user requirements
  • an inconvenience or safety hazard exists for the user
  • an excessive cost is incurred in maintaining the quality of the site for a specified use

Site Development Questions

The following questions should be answered prior to site development:

  • What levels of development and use are desired?
  • What will be the extent of detrimental environmental impact?
  • Is this level of impact acceptable?

Alternative Solutions

These questions are best answered with thorough knowledge of the current site conditions in the proposed development area. If the anticipated level of impact is not acceptable, apply one or more of the following alternative solutions:

  • Change the site location to a less sensitive area.
  • Carrying capacity limitations may be overcome by using construction measures necessary to minimize degradation, including surfacing, drainage control measures and barriers
  • The amount or type of use may be altered. Attempts to limit the number of people may be made or a walk-in camping facility, rather than a vehicle access facility, may be developed.

Identifying Carrying Capacity Limitations

Carrying capacity classes may be derived from interpretation of the resource inventory information on the physical and biological characteristics of the area. Soil or terrain map units may be used as the base units for developing a site capability map. The soil or terrain map units may be combined or subdivided depending on the type of limitations present within the unit.

An area of sensitive vegetation or wildlife conflict, such as an osprey rookery site, may cause a soil unit to be subdivided. Conversely, the same limitations and carrying capacity class may occur in two or three adjacent soil map units, in which case they would be combined into a single unit. The site capability map units should identify the class designation and the types of limitations present within that unit.

A three-class system - development, restricted and preserved areas - may be used to designate the site's development capability. These class designations are based on the number and severity of the physical and biological limitations to site development. The following table explains the basic characteristics of the three carrying capacity classes.

Carrying Capacity Classes

Development Areas

Restricted Areas

Preserved Areas

  • can incorporate site uses
  • may be enhanced by development
  • are suitable for particular uses and should be developed with care so as not to detract from their inherent qualities
  • are aesthetically valuable in their present state and/or are too fragile for development
  • should be relatively flat with porous, well-drained soils
  • examples include beaches and promontories which suit a particular use but which should not be alienated by development of roads, vehicle units or other facilities
  • an example is a riparian edge, which at most might be skirted by a trail


Figures 3, 4 and 5 illustrate how a site capability map is developed. This mapping exercise is the final step in site assessment. The procedures for preparing a site capability map are described as follows:

  • On a 1:1 000 to 1:3 000 scale map or enlarged air photo, map the site's designated boundaries and the approximate contour lines at 2- or 3-metre elevation intervals (Figure 3).
  • On a transparent overlay, specify all the information collected on the Site Evaluation form (FS 261) (Figure 4).
  • Referring to the Site Evaluation form and the descriptions of the physical and social elements and their influence on site development, subdivide the site into polygons according to the three carrying capacity classes on a separate transparent overlay. The aim of this delineation is to be able to develop, preserve and enhance the site's attractions and capabilities (Figure 5).

The degree to which the pre-field, site evaluation and interpretation phases are carried out is dependent on the type and importance of the recreation site in question. For example, if a recreation site in a roaded resource setting of exceptional scenic interest and recreation feature value were developed with an anticipated moderately high use, then the site evaluation and consequent design considerations would demand significant time and effort. In comparison, a small backcountry recreation site in a semi-primitive non-motorized setting may not entail the same degree of site evaluation and design considerations.

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9.3.4 Site Design

Site design is the process of integrating the objectives described in the concept plan (Section 9.3.1) with the site capability map prepared in the site assessment phase (Section 9.3.3). The output of the site design phase is a site plan.

Site plans are to be prepared for each recreation site. Site plans show the detailed layout and location of all roads, trails, facilities and structures. The site plan is used to guide the construction of the site to ensure that the objectives for the site are met. An integral part of the site plan is a cost estimate.

Principles of Site Design

A number of basic principles for site planning have been established to assist staff in understanding the relationship of various facilities within a recreation site. It must be understood, however, that each recreation site is unique and that the principles discussed below may not always be appropriate.

Figure 6 is an illustration of a recreation site with motorized access in a roaded resource or rural ROS class setting. It graphically identifies layout considerations and relationships between facilities.

1 Day Use Area

As illustrated in Figure 6, the day use area is usually the first facility off the main road. Placing the day use area here reduces the traffic flow past the overnight camping area and allows closure of the overnight area and continued use of the day use area during shoulder and winter seasons.

2 Boat Launch

Figure 6 also shows the boat launch facility located between the day use and overnight areas. A boat launch often acts as a common facility used by both day and overnight users.

3 Overnight Camping Area

As shown in Figure 6, the overnight camping area is typically in the center of the recreation site and partly set back from the feature resource (in this case the lake) to allow for a common area along the water frontage. The most common and practical design for overnight vehicle access campgrounds is a one-way loop road. Loop road circulation is to the right. Each loop should be designed to accommodate approximately 15 vehicle units, where double units count as two units. Double units represent approximately 30% of the total number of units. Campsite units should be laid out to obtain the best orientation for views, sunlight, prevailing winds, vegetation, noise and insects. Circulation paths within campsites should be as short as possible. Service nodes (firewood corrals, garbage bins, toilets, etc.) should be concentrated to shorten runs, and located adjacent to roads and intersections to limit site disruption.

4 Walk-in Tenting

Figure 6 shows a walk-in tenting facility adjacent to but not part of the overnight campground.

5 Group Campground

As shown, the group campground is most often separated from the other facilities and does not necessarily have to be located near or adjacent to the feature resources.

6 Water Access Point

As Figure 6 illustrates, the water access point is an independent facility that provides day use and overnight opportunities. It may function as a trailhead to remote campsites having only water access.

7 Trailhead

As shown in Figure 6, trailheads are also independent facilities. They may be used for day or overnight use, but generally function as the start and end points for a trail system.

8 Backcountry Campsites

Backcountry campsites are the other type of overnight camping facility managed by the Forest Service. They are a component of a trail or water route system and are designed to localize the impact of camping in the backcountry. Backcountry campsites should be located at strategic intervals along the trail. The distance between facilities will depend on the mode of access and the difficulty of the trail's terrain. Backcountry facilities are much smaller than motorized access campsites; usually 6 units, as opposed to 15 or more units. There are also fewer structures in a backcountry campsite. Native materials should be used for campsites and trails in the backcountry.

Procedures for Site Design

Site plans will be prepared according to the following procedures:

  • Using the concept plan (Figure 2) (which states the objectives for the site) and the site capability map (Figure 5) (which documents the results of the site evaluation), explore various facility placement and relationship options. Individual taste, intuitiveness and inspiration should be allowed full expression when exploring options.
  • Choose the option which best "fits" the characteristics and requirements of the site. This option will satisfy the management objectives for the site and will provide the desired recreation experiences for the users.
  • Prepare an overlay for the site capability map (Figure 7) which contains the following:
  • the location of all proposed facilities and structures, showing the existing facilities and structures to be maintained or eliminated (Figure 7 identifies the standard legend and symbols for site plans.)
  • Forest Service standards related to facilities and structures, including a list of structures
  • signing requirements, including a sign list
  • vegetation to be thinned or removed and new planting specifications
  • proposed earthworks for beaches, boat launches, roads and parking lots, with cross-sectional details where necessary
  • typical facility layout details
  • special site construction details
  • location and orientation of cabins or shelters, if any
  • treatment of road edges
  • surface material requirements
  • Cost estimates are an intrinsic component of the planning phase. General estimates are presented at the concept plan phase, while detailed estimates are presented with the final plan package.
  • Preliminary cost estimates of various site layout alternatives are an important decision-making factor in choosing the final site design. Structural requirements are costly and are of prime concern in the planning phase of site development.
  • Final cost estimates reflect construction specifications, quantity estimates of work items and projected maintenance and operation costs. The Recreation Cost Breakdown sheet, form FS 912, may be used in the cost estimate procedure. This form is shown in Appendix 2. Budgeting procedures and submissions are outlined in Chapter 4 of this manual.

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9.4 Site Construction

Site construction is the implementation of the site plan which has been developed through site planning (Section 9.3).

No new site construction or rehabilitation should take place until:

  • an Integrated Resource Management plan has been prepared
  • a concept plan for the site has been prepared
  • site designation procedures have been initiated or completed
  • a site assessment has occurred
  • a site plan has been prepared
  • the site is included as a project in the district's approved PMP

It is important that site construction be done carefully and in accordance with the site plan. Well-constructed sites ensure user safety and environmental protection and, ideally, should blend into the surrounding landscape. Depending on the complexity of the terrain and use levels, well-designed and -constructed sites may require less maintenance.

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Principles of Site Construction

Site construction involves basic procedures related to site layout, right-of-way clearing, construction of roads, camping pads and other facilities, building and placement of structures and landscaping. Each of these procedures has certain principles to be considered, depending on the specifications presented in the site plan.

Site Layout

Laying out the site on the ground with flagging tape is the first step in site construction. It helps to visualize the site plan before construction begins and allows modifications of the plan to be made before it is too late.

All roads, camping pads and other facilities should be marked with brightly coloured flagging tape. The entire site should be travelled at least once in both directions. Some sections may require plan changes or modifications, depending on site-specific field conditions.

Right-of-way Clearing

This work consists of clearing, grubbing, trimming and removing timber and brush within the defined clearing limits of the roads, camping pads and other facilities.

The clearing limits will vary, depending on the type of recreation site. Windfalls that interfere with the site should be removed. Dangerous trees and snags which are likely to fall should be felled.

The following is a list of tips to consider during the right-of-way clearing phase:

  • Leave all vegetation, including overstory and undergrowth, unless specifically marked for removal.
  • Leave all natural barriers of vegetation, rock and earth, unless otherwise noted in the site plan.
  • Clear vegetation informally, rather than in a straight line.
  • Employ hand-clearing methods in advance of machine work wherever possible.
Construction of Roads, Camping Pads and Other Facilities

The next step in site development is the construction of roads, camping pads and other facilities. This work consists of gravelling, compacting and grading the roads, camping pads and other facilities. Construction methods for the specific types of facilities are discussed in further detail in section 9.4.2.

The following is a list of tips to consider when constructing roads, camping pads and other facilities:

  • Use the smallest machinery practical to accomplish the work.
  • Utilize natural openings wherever possible for access, parking and camping spaces.
  • Ensure that natural drainage is accommodated in construction.
  • Use gravel or other surfacing material as necessary to harden the site to use.
  • Heavy use areas will be more complex to achieve completion. These will need higher development to prevent soil erosion and water pollution, and to allow for vegetation drainage, etc.
Building and Placement of Structures

Detailed drawings of the standard structures associated with recreation sites are included in Appendix 2. Building materials may be obtained on-site, may be purchased, or may consist of a combination of both. Clearing and road construction phases should recognize and preserve usable building materials. If additional logs are required, trees should be taken from locations where stumps will not be noticeable from the site. When logs are used for construction, the bark should be removed to facilitate drying. Figure 8 identifies the structures that may be associated with the various recreation facilities.

Note: Field staff should ensure that the use of decay-retardants or any other chemical substance used will not adversely affect any water bodies, groundwater or plant and animal species.

In most instances, building and placement of structures will be faster if structures are prefabricated in the off-season and transported to the site for installation. Dimension lumber or timber may also be pressure-treated or soaked with decay-retardants. These will last longer than untreated logs or timber.

The following is a list of tips to consider during the building and placement of structures phase:

  • All structures are to appear as rustic and natural as possible to complement the natural scene.
  • Backcountry structures should be as simple as possible while fulfilling the needs of users.

All construction debris should be disposed of on-site or removed from the area. Stumps and such may be buried. Trees not used for building structures may be bucked and piled for firewood. Small branches and saplings should be lopped and scattered. Debris should not be placed so that it may fall into lakes or streams or impede either natural or constructed drainage facilities, or where it is an eyesore (e.g., along roadsides).

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9.4.2 Facility Guidelines

Construction methods for recreation sites may vary between regions, districts and individual sites, depending on local environmental conditions and user requirements. For these reasons, it is important to adopt a flexible approach to the topic of facility guidelines.

Construction guidelines have been developed, however, for the following facilities associated with recreation sites:

Vehicle Access Recreation Sites

  • roads
  • overnight campground - typical layouts
  • overnight campground - loop details
  • overnight campground - spur and activity pad details
  • day use areas
  • boat launches
  • walk-in tenting areas
  • group campgrounds
  • trailheads

Backcountry Recreation Sites

  • backcountry campsites

These facility guidelines are:


There may be both one-way and two-way roads in Forest Service recreation sites, depending on use (e.g., vehicle-access campground: 2-way entrance road and 1-way loop road). Figure 9 illustrates the specifications for summer and winter roads.

Roadbed and clearing widths vary, but acceptable construction methods remain the same for both one- and two-way roads.

Alignment shall be curvilinear to ensure smoothly flowing lines.

Horizontal and vertical lines-of-sight must be maintained.

All intersections should be perpendicular and allowance made for waiting vehicles.

Road bed/carriage way (gravelled surface):

  • one-way: 5 metres
  • two-way: 8 metres

Clearing widths depend on the required backslope:

  • (maximum) 2.1 backslope requires a 1.5-metre cleared area
  • (preferred) 3.1 backslope requires a 2-metre cleared area

Road grades depend on the season of use:

  • 7% maximum for winter use
  • 10% maximum for summer use

A buffer zone of approximately 1 metre beyond the clearing width is required in which all trees over 150 mm caliper shall be removed to prevent deadfall.

Shrubbery and smaller vegetation may remain.

Ditches shall be formed in the clear area, 1.5 to 2 metres in width, depending on the required backslope and with a pronounced U-swale. Ditches are not required on one-way vehicle access campground roads.

Culverts are to be located and installed as required after the road subgrade is prepared (see Engineering Manual).

The roadbed shall be cleared, grubbed and stripped of topsoil unless the organic layer is deeper than 100 cm. In this case, fill material would then be compacted into the organic layer.

The subgrade shall consist of a suitable fill of pit run gravel mechanically compacted in 15 cm lifts.

The base course shall be a 15 cm lift of 2 cm washed gravel crowned on a 2% slope.

All parking lot areas, campsite spurs and activity pads shall follow the same construction standards as outlined for roads.

Gravel borrow pits used for road construction shall be located far enough off the main road to be suitably screened and have a curved access road to prevent clear visual access.

All gravel pits are to be rehabilitated to provide wildlife habitat and to be visually attractive.

Vehicle Access Overnight Campground Typical Layouts

Vehicle access campgrounds provide camping opportunities accessible by 2- or 4-wheel-drive vehicles. Figure 10 illustrates a typical layout for a vehicle access campground. Maximum campground size is 45 units comprised of loops in multiples of fifteen (15-, 30- and 45-unit loops) where double units are counted as 2 singles. The campground should be located adjacent to a recognized resource (usually water oriented), thereby providing a beach or waterfront area.

Environmental impact on the site and adjacent resource shall be minimized through:

  • a thorough site-selection process and review (to determine the most desirable and least environmentally sensitive site)
  • establishing minimum setbacks (see loop details)
  • adjustment of road and spur locations, taking into consideration terrain and vegetation conditions
  • selective clearing of sites (i.e., specimen vegetation to be maintained where possible)
  • strict facility and construction standards
  • controlled user access to the resource (see typical layout)

The size of the campground shall be determined by:

  • recreation objectives developed through higher level plans and established in the concept plan
  • suitability of the resource to user demand (i.e., depending on the quality and geographic proximity to population centres and major road access)
  • capability of the site to support intensive camping activity (determined through the site assessment process)

The size of the loop road is determined by:

  • size and dimensions of the selected site
  • location of the resource and main access road to the site (i.e., if the site is shallow and long, running parallel to the resource, then 15-unit loops would be planned)

Double units should represent approximately 30% of the total number of units (i.e., 15-unit loop: 2 doubles (4-units); 30-unit loop: 5 doubles (10 units).

Lockable gates at the entrance to each loop will allow independent opening or closing, as use warrants. Selected loops may be locked during low-use and off-season periods to help reduce vandalism and operation and maintenance costs.

Vehicle Access Overnight Campground Loop Details

Figure 11 shows a schematic layout for a vehicle access campground (15-, 30- and 45-unit loops). The rectangular alignment is shown to give clear indications of the dimensions and required number of units and facilities. The setbacks, separation distances and turning radii are critical, but the one-way road layout can be a more curved layout (as shown above in typical layout) to take advantage of existing site conditions, such as natural clearings and slopes (however, in steep or terraced sites, roads should parallel the slopes).

The required service structures are as indicated in the facility and structures checklist (Figure 8). All service structures are located on the outside of the loop at the spacings indicated.

Once the loop road alignment has been determined (i.e., length of road), the total number of units should not vary by more than plus or minus 2 units (i.e., a 15-unit loop may contain 13 to 17 units).

Loop road circulation is one-way to the right.

Spurs on the outside of the loop are constructed at a 45 to 60 degree angle to the loop road (optimum angle 45 degrees). Spurs on the inside of loop, however, are built at a 60 degree angle only, to prevent the activity pad from being too close to the road (see spur and activity pad details).

Motorized Access Overnight Campground Spur and Activity Pad Details

Figure 12 illustrates the details and specifications for campsite spurs and activity pads. All spurs are back-in campsites, 4 metres wide, 18-22 metres long and occur at intervals of 30 metres (on center).

Spur locations can vary (not less than 30 m separation) to avoid specific site conditions (e.g., unique vegetation, environmentally sensitive areas such as mosses and lichens) and low areas (which may require an unusual amount of fill).

Vegetation is to be left in the median of all double-unit campsites.

Spurs must be on a 60 degree angle on the inside of the loop and can be on a 45-60 degree angle on the outside of the loop.

A maximum 5% slope is allowed on spurs (see typical profile).

Double-unit campsites occur:

  • on outside edge of loops only (increased noise from higher density double sites dissipates or radiates away from campground)
  • as far from resource as possible (to encourage use of the farthest removed or least desirable sites)

Each campsite will consist of a:

  • parking area
  • fire ring
  • 3 m from nearest tree
  • downwind (prevailing winds) from likely tent location
  • see Appendix 2 Recreation Structure Standards
  • table - (see Appendix 2 Recreation Structure standards)
  • barriers
  • rock or timber
  • to act as a separation from vehicles and provide additional seating
  • see Appendix 2 Recreation Structure standards
  • tent pad
  • no additional tent pad is provided separately from the activity pad
  • walk-in tenting campsites (see walk-in tenting) can be provided adjacent to but separate from the vehicle access campground loop as warrants

Activity pads shall be a minimum 6 m x 6 m and a maximum 8 m x 8 m (to be determined by site conditions and use). Double-unit activity pads have 1 fire ring.

Spurs and activity pads shall follow the same construction standards as outlined for roads.

Day Use Areas

Day use areas shall be resource oriented and must be associated with a special feature, such as a waterfall, rapids, scenic view, river, stream, lake or ocean. Day use areas shall be planned and developed for swimming, bathing, picnicking, scenic viewing and other day use activities. Figure 13 shows an example layout of a day use area.

Total parking required is determined by anticipated demand to a minimum of 10 units. The total number of picnic sites should be approximately 50% of the number of parking units. All sites will be 8 metres in diameter with 1 fire ring and 1 table. Sites should be cleared, grubbed and surfaced with a minimum 100 mm of coarse sand and/or screenings (depending on local supply). A central service node for every 10 units of parking is required. Each service node should include an outhouse, firewood corral, garbage container and visitor information.

Careful, selective clearing of all picnic sites to allow adequate screening from the parking area is required. Individual picnic sites should be separated by a minimum of 15 metres.

Day use areas developed for sunbathing and swimming should have a minimum of 3 linear metres of beach area for each unit of parking and a swimming area associated with the beach area. A boat launch may also be associated with this type of day use area.

Boat Launches

There are two types of boat launch facilities: a boat launch ramp designed for loading and unloading trailered power boats, and a boat launch area for loading and unloading small boats by hand. Boat launch facilities should be located adjacent to but separate from overnight campgrounds and day use areas. Note: there should be no direct vehicle access from the boat launch to the overnight campground or day use areas. A day use area may be developed where no other day use area has been developed in the campground.

Site criteria for a boat launch facility include:

  • shelter from prevailing winds and strong currents
  • a sufficient depth of water, even during periods when water levels are low
  • ample separation between the boat launch ramp (trailered power boats) and the swimming area
  • slope at water entry to be less than 10% for by-hand boat launch areas, and between 10% and 15% for trailered boat launch ramps

Access to a river should be located where there is a safe eddy.

Boat launch facilities shall follow the same construction standards as outlined for roads.

Figure 14 illustrates a layout for a boat launch ramp and parking area. In this example, the ramp may or may not be attached to the parking area, depending on site conditions. The attached layout is preferred because the distance from the parking area to the launch area is not too long.

Layouts and dimensions of vehicle turn-arounds are critical. A 30-metre minimum setback from the edge of turn-arounds to high water level is preferred. However, the detached ramp turn-around may have insufficient backshore area to meet that standard, in which case a 30-metre minimum setback to the centre point of the turn-around is allowed.

The total parking area required shall be determined by anticipated demand.

See boat launch ramp and pad sheet for construction standards and details (Appendix 2 Recreation Structure Standards).

A boat beaching area (1.5 m x number of parking stalls) shall be developed adjacent to the launch; docks may be provided.

Ramp gradient shall be 10% to 15% (trailered boat launching).

Figure 14 also shows a design for a by-hand boat launch area. In this example, the minimum setback of the turn-around to the high water level of the water resource is 30 metres.

The total parking area required is determined by anticipated demand.

Vehicle access to this boat launch shall be limited to a double back-in spur (8 metres wide by 10 metres deep) extending from the vehicle turn-around towards the resource. Vehicle barriers (preferably rocks) restrict further access to the resource.

Remaining pedestrian access to the resource, beyond the back-in spur, should be restricted to a 4-metre trail.

A boat beaching area shall be developed adjacent to the launch; docks may be provided.

Walk-in Tenting Areas

Walk-in tenting facilities should be designed for tenting use where the mode of access is by foot or mountain bike. User demand will determine if this facility is required at a vehicle access campground. The layout should provide privacy through a minimum 30-metre separation between campsites, spaced on opposite sides of a 2.5-metre-wide trail.

The campsites and trails shall be cleared, grubbed and surfaced with a minimum 100 mm lift of coarse sand and/or screenings.

All sites shall be 8 metres in diameter with one table and one fire ring.

Maximum distance from the furthest site to the service node shall be 200 metres, limiting the number of campsites for each service node to 20.

Generally, walk-in tenting facilities shall be located adjacent to a resource.

Site characteristics determine the type of campground planned.

Figure 15 (bottom) illustrates a walk-in campground with a linear layout. This design is used if the site has a steep or terraced backshore. This layout has more impact on the shoreline area (bank or beach) since movement to the resource is spread out. Also, movement past the campsites closer to the service node is increased with only one lateral trail, in comparison to two in the loop layout.

Figure 15 (top) also illustrates a walk-in campground with a loop layout. The loop layout provides a single controlled access point to the resource and reduces impact on the shoreline to a confined area.

This layout is preferred on sites with minor undulation and a reasonably level backshore.

The information kiosk shall be located as a common focus near the firewood corral and shall include a plan of the walk-in tenting layout.

A suitable potable water source within 400 metres will be required. Bear-proof caches for food storage will be required in areas of high or potentially high incidence of conflict between humans and wildlife.

Group Campgrounds

Group campground facilities shall be designed to accommodate organized groups. Groups campsites may serve as a winter staging area (e.g., x-country skiing, snowmobiles) with modifications to the parking lot (see trailhead plan).

A group camping facility is not necessarily resource oriented and usually requires an adjacent level cleared area (minimum 0.8 hectares) to be developed as an open playing field.

The layout can be adjusted to suit the site conditions and location of the resource and clearing. A natural clearing is preferred.

Where natural clearings are not available, the playing field should be cleared, grubbed, stripped of topsoil if regrading is required, regraded to an optimum 2% slope, the topsoil replaced to a depth of 100 mm and seeded to a standard playground mix.

Figure 16 illustrates two group campsite layouts: a walk-in campsite and a vehicle access campsite. Both types of group campsites are designed to accommodate approximately 30 people.

In locations near a resource, such as a lake, a 50-metre setback from the closest campsite is desirable.

Where the playing field abuts a turn-around area, barriers to restrict vehicles but encourage pedestrian movement are necessary. Rocks and sub posts (see site marker detail) are preferred, but wooden rail barriers (see barriers details) may also be used.

Parking shall be designed and sized so that each group of 5 stalls can be used for bus parking.

The campground shall be booked on a reservation basis.

The entrance gate should be locked when the group campground is not being used in order to help reduce vandalism and operations and maintenance costs.

A potable water source will be required.


Trailhead facilities shall be designed to provide a base or staging area for associated trail or water route systems. A trailhead may be used for day use or overnight use, depending on the length of the trail or water route.

Parking areas at trailheads shall follow the same construction standards as outlined for roads. Total parking area required is related to anticipated demand and total trail length. A general rule of thumb is 1.5 parking units per one kilometre of trail, with a minimum of 10 units.

Parking facilities used in the winter months must be designed to deal with snow and should be cleared 2 metres beyond the edge of the parking area to allow for snow removal.

Loading and unloading ramp structures should be provided at trailheads for equestrian, ATV and snowmobile users. Trailheads associated with water routes require a ramp or by-hand boat launch facility. Parking areas at trailheads for equestrian, ATV, snowmobile and boat users should be designed for manoeuverability of trailers.

All trailheads should contain a standard service node consisting of outhouse and garbage structures. At the start of the trail or water route system, an information kiosk should be placed to serve as a common focus and to supply trail information.

Trailheads for cross-country skiers or snowmobile and ATV users should have an open level area for warm-up purposes or to stage competitive events.

Special structures may be required at trailheads and may include the following:

  • horse corrals for equestrian users
  • a shelter
  • boat beaching area

Figure 17 illustrates a typical trailhead facility.

Backcountry Campsites

Backcountry campsites are a component of a trail or water route system and provide enroute camping facilities within the semi-primitive classes of the ROS. They should be located at strategic intervals along the trail or water route and shall be designed to localize the impacts associated with backcountry use.

Backcountry campsites shall be smaller and less developed than vehicle access recreation sites. They usually contain six units, as opposed to 15 or more units for vehicle access campsites. There are fewer structures associated with backcountry campsites. Where possible, structures should be made of native materials to ensure that the campsite blends with the natural environment as much as possible.

Backcountry recreation sites should be located adjacent to a potable water resource (lake, river or stream). Individual campsites should be separated by a minimum of 30 metres to maintain privacy and a backcountry experience. Campsites should be approximately 8 metres in diameter and should optimize natural openings and potential views. Grubbing and surfacing campsites with coarse sand or gravel may be necessary if high-use levels are anticipated.

A single pit toilet should be located on the main trail to mark the campsite location. Structures at individual campsites shall consist of a fire ring and a structure for food storage.

Figures 18 and 19 illustrate 2 types of backcountry campsites.

Special facility and specific area requirements may be necessary, depending on the types of users. For instance, an equestrian backcountry campsite must be located in close proximity to natural grazing areas. A general rule of thumb is a minimum of 4 hectares of suitable grazing area within 1 kilometre of the campsite. Individual campsites should also include one hitching rail per equestrian site.

At backcountry campsites where the mode of access is primarily by float plane or boat, the site location must be suitable for float plane and/or boat access.

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9.5 Routine Site Maintenance

Routine site maintenance is the regular servicing of recreation sites to maintain facilities and structures in a safe, sanitary, socially acceptable and environmentally sound condition.

As a minimum, routine site maintenance shall consist of an annual site inspection and any follow-up actions (further visits or services) that may be necessary to maintain safe, sanitary, socially acceptable and environmentally sound conditions in accordance with the type of environment and the level of use of a site. Refer to Section 3.2, Policy II-REC-004.

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Principles of Routine Site

The key principles associated with routine site maintenance are as follows:

  • Routine site maintenance is normally the number-one operational priority.
  • Routine site maintenance is a management tool to:
  • positively influence user behaviour
  • prevent wear and tear on facilities and structures
  • reduce liability to the Crown
  • project a favourable public image of the MoF

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Procedures for Routine
Site Maintenance

Routine site maintenance consists of an annual site inspection and project servicing.

Annual site inspection

An annual site inspection is mandatory. The annual site inspection form (FS 1057) should be used by district staff to collect site information (Appendix 1). The site inspection should be done by district staff at the beginning of the operating season. Any structures which require engineering design for construction (e.g., cabins, shelters, bridges) should be inspected by qualified engineering staff. Suspected hazard trees should also be evaluated.

Project Servicing

Regular visits by district maintenance personnel to recreation sites during the use period are necessary to meet at least minimum maintenance objectives. Maintenance frequency will depend on the amount and type of public use. As a guideline, multi-visits per week may be required for exceptionally high-use sites. Once-weekly visits may be necessary for moderate-use sites. A monthly visit or even once every several months may be adequate for the remote and low-use sites. If work is to be contracted, see procedures in Appendix 3 (Contract Administration) for standard clauses.

A Recreation Site Use Survey and Maintenance Record form FS 172 (Appendix 1 Forms) is to be completed at each maintenance visit.

If maintenance personnel find that major repair or rehabilitation work is required, district recreation staff are to be notified. Appropriate action should be taken as soon as practical. However, where the deficiency involves public safety, immediate remedial action must be taken.

Through personal contact, maintenance personnel should encourage public support, cooperation and respect for a site. Courtesy and a neat appearance are mandatory.

Drawstring litter bags and/or a recreation brochure may be handed individually to on-site, on-trail visitors during maintenance visits.

Maintenance Checklist:


  • Keep path to door clear.
  • Provide coat hook, extra roll of toilet paper, and door latch and handle.
  • Sweep floor, stem and seat with disinfectant detergent.
  • Add decomposer chemicals to pit as required.
  • Add deodorizer chemicals and/or disinfectant detergent as required.
  • Remove any hazards.
  • Repair or replace all damaged components.

Fire Rings

  • Ensure that locations are maintained hazard-free and conform to campfire regulations.
  • Ensure that all abandoned fires are extinguished.
  • Remove undesirable and non-standard fire rings from sites and re-establish ground for grass seeding.
  • Remove non-combustible materials, glass, and significant residual ashes or charcoal from fire rings and from the site.

Litter Barrels

  • Empty barrels and replace liners as required.
  • Repair or replaced damaged barrels and barrel lids as required.
  • Spray deodorizer chemicals into new liners.


  • Repair or replace any defaced, damaged, warped or loose components.
  • Remove hazardous splinters and nails.


  • Ensure that all appropriate signs are in place and in good repair.
  • Replace damaged signs as required.
  • Remove unauthorized and unnecessary signs.

Registration Boxes

  • Repair or replace boxes as required.
  • Ensure that each box has an adequate supply of self-registration forms and a pencil.
  • Collect completed self-registration forms regularly and deliver to district office.

Traffic Counters

  • Ensure that traffic counters function properly and report any defects.
  • Record the count at each maintenance visit.


  • Ensure that barriers are in the proper location and in a good state of repair.


  • Provide firewood if deemed necessary.

Other structures

  • Ensure that bridges, wharves, etc. are in a good state of repair.

Site Environment

  • Rake site, cut grass and pick up litter, broken glass, etc., as required.
  • Remove all signs from trees.
  • Remove hazardous materials (broken glass, tin cans, etc) from beach and foreshore.
  • Buck-up windfalls.
  • Remove brush and fireproof the developed portion of the site as required without compromising vegetative buffers.

Access spur to site from forest access road

  • Keep drainage ditches open.
  • Fill potholes.
  • Prune vegetation or remove brush to ensure good line-of-sight visibility, particularly at spur entry onto main access road.

Post-season clean-up

  • Remove and store facilities as required.
  • Complete year-end inspection reports.
  • Post site as user-maintained after maintenance contract expires.
  • Repaint facilities as required.
  • Pump out and/or relocate pit privies as required.

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9.6 Site Rehabilitation

Rehabilitation is the refurbishing of an existing site by upgrading its facilities and structures to meet minimum standards of safety, sanitation, social acceptability and environmental soundness. Site rehabilitation is to be considered in the same way as the development of a new facility. The design and implementation options are covered in the previous sections.

Sites requiring rehabilitation will be identified from the regular maintenance reports and will be confirmed by the initiation and completion of a Site Evaluation (FS 261) form.

Rehabilitation will not normally be required if routine maintenance has been regularly done, except where sites have been subjected to extensive vandalism, natural disaster, or extended periods of extremely heavy use.

If regular routine maintenance is neglected, rehabilitation work will eventually become inevitable.

Rehabilitation should normally occur in the off-season, with the site or a portion of it posted as being "closed" while operations are occurring.

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Principles of Site Rehabilitation

The main principle of site rehabilitation is to restore or develop a site to a condition consistent with the objectives set for the site. Prior to major site rehabilitation being undertaken, a full assessment of the demands, capabilities, opportunities and limitations of the site must be completed. Return to Section 9.3 of this chapter for a description of site assessment. This process will ensure that all opportunities for the site are examined and that the most efficient application of capital funds is utilized.

Timely rehabilitation is the least costly maintenance strategy. Rehabilitation is also a necessary tool for reducing liability risks and maintaining a favourable public image.

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Procedures for Site Rehabilitation

The procedures for site rehabilitation recognize three primary considerations of recreation sites: soils, vegetation and structures.


  • Surface heavy-use areas (particularly internal site trails) with bark or wood chips, sawdust or gravel.
  • Outline trail boundaries with stones to help prevent indiscriminate widening and wandering through a site; a light gravel surfacing may also achieve the same objective.
  • Designate the spot (outline, sign) for any damaging but necessary activity, such as digging for worms.
  • Cultivate hard-packed areas, being careful to avoid tree roots; seed and water for recovery. Place barriers and signs to keep traffic off seeded areas.
  • If major water erosion occurs, divert or correct the problem areas at source (which my be outside the site) or consider site relocation. Recontour eroded areas (perhaps into a series of benches) with follow-up treatments as above.


  • Remove all signs from trees.
  • Prune broken and sharp branches for public safety, and prune all conifer trees in areas where campfires will be lit to at least 3 metres above the ground. Paint pruning and other tree scars with proper dressing to promote healing and inhibit infection.
  • Remove dangerous hazard trees.
  • Use native plants (shrubs and trees) for site repair rather than exotic ones for aesthetic reasons and because of their higher survival factor. Willow planted next to water can provide sticks for hot dog roasting.
  • Watering alone may achieve recovery of ground vegetation; cultivating, seeding (grass, clover) and fertilizing, if necessary, will further assist regeneration of ground cover.
  • When grass-seeding, avoid the introduction of new grasses. Choose a low-growing, drought and traffic-resistant variety with a proven track record and which is native to the area.
  • During rehabilitation, regeneration of on-site forest stands should be assessed. Are they regenerating? If so, is regeneration adequately protected? If not, regeneration should be facilitated by planting trees in buffer zones or by planting trees in judiciously placed clumps, thereby creating buffers.
  • If a site cannot be reforested or revegetated gradually and damage to existing vegetation is severe, consider closing the site and logging it.


  • Damaged structures should be repaired. If replacement is required, decide whether or not the particular facility should be placed at a different location. If repeated vandalism occurs, remove totally and consider site closure or abandonment.
  • Remove any facilities erected by users, such as toilets, tables, benches, chairs, game-hanging beam, clotheslines and signs. If considered necessary, replace with formal Forest Service facility or structure.
  • If whittling or carving is a problem, erect and sign a whittling post.
  • Toilets should be relocated when the pit becomes full; however, if toilets have extremely heavy use, pumping out may be more practical than relocation.

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9.7 Cooperative Projects

Cooperative projects for site development, rehabilitation and maintenance are beneficial for both the Ministry and the cooperating group or organization. Benefits may be both short term (cost savings) and long term.

Long term benefits for the MoF include educating the public in integrated resource management and reducing overall costs. The cooperating group benefits by gaining an understanding of IRM and the knowledge that its efforts help maintain and protect the area of interest. These cooperative efforts help instill a protective, stewardship attitude toward the recreation site, thus increasing the enjoyment of using the site. They also contribute to lowering the costs of maintaining it.

Although cooperative projects can take considerable time and effort to initiate and supervise, they often reduce site damage and increase public understanding and trust in the Ministry's IRM mandate.

Site signs should acknowledge any cooperative aspects, as set out in Appendix 6. However, reference to the cooperating group should not dominate the site or alienate other potential users.

It is strongly recommended that cooperative groups be registered societies so that many members can contribute and have sustained long term input. An agreement between the MoF and the group should be developed, including what is expected of each party and the conditions which will nullify the agreement.

For further information on opportunities for cooperative projects, refer to Appendix 4 Non-Ministry Funding.

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9.8 Enforcement

Because of the inherent difficulties and costs associated with regulatory enforcement, and because of the lack of statutory authority, staff and staff skills necessary for efficient and cost-effective enforcement, the Ministry of Forests has adopted an informal position which discourages prosecution. Instead, the MoF attempts a public relations style of enforcement.

This practice is evident on all recreation brochures, where messages pertaining to forest etiquette and rules concerning the use of recreation sites and trails are included to educate the public. Many other non-Ministry brochures reinforce the same message, (for example, the Outdoor Recreation Council's brochure: "A code of ethics for the enjoyment of outdoor BC").

Other public relations enforcement programs include rewards and programs to encourage people to observe, record and report incidents of vandalism. Examples include the Council of Forest Industries' $5000 reward for information regarding vandalism to logging equipment, the South Island Crime Prevention Task Force, the Community/Police Patrol and the Wilderness Watch Committee of local fish and wildlife clubs.

While a public relations approach to administering site and trail regulations seems appropriate as a general rule, there are exceptions which require more aggressive action. Most notably these would include incidents involving disorderly conduct, serious vandalism and threats to public safety and property. In such cases, staff will have to depend on local law enforcement agencies for support and on their own abilities to record the information necessary for successful prosecution.

The rules and regulations for recreation use management have been included for your information in Addenda I and II at the end of this chapter.

It is an offence to contravene the regulations concerning the use of recreation sites and trails. A person convicted of an offence is liable to a fine of not more than $2000 or to imprisonment for not more than 6 months, or both (Section 4, Offence Act).

Lacking comprehensive enforcement training, staff or contractors encountering potentially dangerous situations should be clearly instructed not to take any action that may jeopardize their own safety or the safety of others at the recreation site. Any infractions involving drugs, alcohol, firearms and rowdyism automatically fall into this category and should be referred immediately to the police for action.

The MoF role in enforcement will undoubtedly change to address the increasing amount of unacceptable behaviours among some of the public while using recreation sites. Future changes in enforcement policy and procedures might be:

  • revisions to the Forest Act and regulations to provide greater powers to a Forest Officer (e.g., issuance of tickets)
  • revisions to Memoranda of Agreement with other ministries regarding enforcement of regulations
  • thorough review and implementation of enforcement programs developed and practiced by other agencies involved in recreation, such as the Campground Host (Ministry of Parks) and Forest Guardian programs
  • development of agreements with user groups and private organizations to assist with enforcement of regulations

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9.9 References

Cited References

Ministry of Forests Act

Forest Act

Forest Amendment (Wilderness) Act 1987

MoF Resource Planning Manual

US Forest Service Trails Management Handbook

MoF Engineering Manual

MoF Policy Manual

Offence Act

BC Regulation 405/81

BC Regulation 553/78

Supplementary References

Ministry of Parks Campground Host Program (brochure)

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Addendum I 

Rules Concerning the Use of
Recreation Sites and Trails

Basic Rules

1. No person shall:

  • discharge a firearm on or onto the developed portion of a recreation site
  • place or use any vehicle or equipment on a recreation site or a trail in a manner that impedes or inhibits the use or enjoyment of the recreation site or trail by another person
  • unless he has written permission of a Forest Service officer, occupy or leave recreation equipment on a recreation site or trail for more than 14 consecutive days
  • after being requested to stop by another person, continue to make any noise or permit an animal that he has brought on a recreational site or trail to continue to make a noise that is incompatible with the intended use or enjoyment of the recreational site or trail by another person
  • continue making a noise on a recreational site or trail after being ordered to cease doing so by a Forest Service officer
  • unless authorized by a Forest Service officer, erect a sign or structure on a recreation site or trail
  • subject to sub-section (2), deposit garbage on a recreation site or trail
  • deposit fish or game offal, entrails, hides or bones on a recreation site or trail
  • take a dog onto a recreation site or trail unless the dog is at all times on a leash or otherwise under the control of the owner or the person who brought it onto the recreation site or trail
  • do anything that endangers the safety of a person, damages property on, or is detrimental to the appearance of a recreation site or trail
Garbage Receptacles

2. A person using a recreation site or trail may deposit garbage accumulated while on the recreation site or trail only in a garbage receptacle provided by the Ministry of Forests.

BC Reg 405/81

These rules concerning the use of recreation sites and trails are by order of B.C. Regulation 405/81 and may be enforced by a Forest Service officer. A person who contravenes these rules commits an offence and should be reported to the nearest B.C. Forest Service office or the RCMP.

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Addendum II 

Campfire Regulation


1. This regulation does not apply to stoves using gasoline, propane or briquets, nor to permanent campsite fireplaces.

Conditions for Campfires

2. A person who lights, fuels or makes use of a fire for cooking or for warmth shall observe the following conditions:

  • The fire must be at least three metres from any log, stump, snag or standing trees.
  • The fire must be at least 15 metres from any slash or other inflammable debris or from a wooden structure.
  • A pail containing not less than eight litres of water or a shovel shall be kept near the fire at all times.
  • All inflammable material shall be removed down to mineral soil for not less than one metre in every direction from the perimeter of the fire.
  • The fire must not be more than one metre in diameter nor one metre in height.
  • The fire must be completely extinguished before leaving so that the ashes and any unburned material are no longer warm when touched.
Strong Winds

3. A person shall not light, fuel or make use of a fire where there is wind strong enough to cause sparks or other burning material to land in any combustible material in the vicinity.

BC Reg 553/78

These rules on campfire safety are by order of B.C. Regulation 553/78 and will be enforced by a Forest Service officer. A person who contravenes these rules commits an offence.