Managed Access

Image credits: Mike Stevens, Unsplash

Managed access to urban greenspaces can reduce harmful human-wildlife interactions and human and pet disturbance. The following section highlights strategies for controlling access to sensitive habitat, while maintaining views and awe-inspiring greenspace experiences.

Biodiversity role:

Limiting access to sensitive habitat reduces human and dog disturbance of plants and wildlife. Reduced disturbance can enhance habitat value and allow more species to readily use these spaces.

Human health role:

Managed access can reduce human-animal conflicts and support visitor enjoyment and experience of awe without impacting habitat quality.

Key tensions and tradeoffs:

Access restrictions for habitat protection can create controversy. Such restrictions may disproportionately impact historically disinvested neighborhoods, due to their lower overall greenspace access. Poorly placed fences can interfere with wildlife movement and create barriers, while concentrated uses can impact habitat quality in places where humans are moving freely.

Create greenspace zones

Design distinct zones based on human use and habitat sensitivity. Highly sensitive areas can have restricted access. Moderate sensitivity areas can allow limited access or limit certain activities, such as dog walking. High use areas can be sited away from sensitive habitat.

Incorporate natural barriers

Fences can block animal movement and make users feel as if they are not in a natural environment, reducing the awe-inspiring experience of nature. Use streams, ditches, steep grades, and screening vegetation as natural barriers to dissuade human access while allowing animal movement.

Minimize fencing and other barriers to connectivity

Minimize barriers to allow wildlife to access greenspaces and move through the urban landscape more freely.

Use wildlife friendly fencing

Wood and rope fencing less than 4 ft high with a 4-6 inch gap along the bottom allow for animal movement, avoid blocking views, and have been found to be successful at limiting human and dog disturbance to habitat. In aquatic settings, buoys and ropes can be used to designate sensitive habitat areas.

Make paths well-defined and interesting

Create paths that offer varied and interesting experiences while discouraging users from leaving designated areas and paths on informal trails. Avoid placement of trails through sensitive areas.

Place benches strategically

Avoid benches in areas with high habitat value to lower disturbance. Benches and tables should be directed inwards to avoid facing city noise, or situated to provide views.

Design entry points far from sensitive habitat

Human use decreases with distance from entry points, so place parking and staging areas away from sensitive habitat to reduce public access to these areas.

Provide educational

Educational and interpretive signage can educate users on the location and value of habitat as well as consequences of the user's actions. Signage can vary from labeling plant species, educational information on species and habitat, to language such as “no access protected wildlife area.”

Use lighting to guide use

Limit lighting in sensitive habitat zones to discourage use at night while lowering lighting impact on wildlife.

Create areas for viewing scenery and wildlife

Observation points create predictability of human presence for wildlife, while optimizing views for visitors. Often, wildlife disturbance is associated with users’ desire to take pictures; supporting managed access to views and photo opportunities discourages users from leaving designated areas.

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