KWRRI Research Reports


The purpose of this study was to find a way to evaluate the esthetic and recreational potential of small streams and their watersheds. Research was limited to naturalistic streams with drainage areas under 100 square miles and located within 25 miles of a city. A methodology, based on some previous work of the U.S. Soil Conservation Service and the principles or concepts of terrain analysis, land use planning, value Judgment philosophy and the economics of outdoor recreation, was developed and applied in detail to two streams (Boone and Jessamine Creeks) near Lexington, Kentucky.

Evaluations were made of the streams' potential for camping (primitive, transient and group), fishing, picnicking, a trail system (hiking, horseback riding, bicycling and auto tour routes), esthetic enjoyment (sightseeing, nature walks and walking for pleasure) and the establishment of natural, scenic and historic areas, Limited applications were also made to two other watersheds and to selected recreation sites on Boone and Jessamine Creeks. Extensions of these case studies resulted in procedures for estimating: visitation to a developed site, future participation demand generated by an urban area and the proportion of that demand that would be satisfied at a specific site, and the economic benefits that would accrue if the sites were developed.

Conclusions reached were: (1) Esthetic and recreational values can be identified, inventoried and used to evaluate a watershed's development potential. (2) The methodology yielded fairly accurate evaluations for most of the recreational activities considered. (3) The case studies revealed that many small stream areas possess medium to high potential for camping, fishing, picnicking, trail system development and some forms of esthetic enjoyment. (4) Visitation estimates were judged to be only approximate due to lack of relevant data on similar existing recreation areas. Estimates of participation demand, acreage requirements and annual benefits were somewhat more reliable.

Suggestions for further research include: (1) Additional applications of the evaluation methodology to streams in other Kentucky urban areas and in states having climatic, topographic and socio-economic conditions different from Kentucky's and (2) A feasibility study of the use of a psychometrics approach to determine personal preferences about outdoor recreation and the preservation of natural areas.

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Funding Information

"Esthetic and Recreational Potential of Small Naturalistic Streams Near Urban Areas" (OWRR Project No. A-010-KY) was sponsored by the University of Kentucky Water Resources Institute and supported by funds provided by the United States Department of the Interior, Office of Water Resources Research, as authorized under the Water Resources Research Act of 1964.