If the bay is slightly bigger all round, the notional spaces within it do not need to be marked, and if the parking is looser than in urban areas this does not normally matter.

Designing the parking area into the setting is usually best done on the ground. The general alignment of the access road should be laid out to minimize cut and fill and to wind gently amongst the landform and/or trees. Parking bays should, as far as possible, be located in hollows or other places where only minor excavation is needed, such as on the slopes above the road. This ensures that the cars are always nestled in amongst the landscape, thus reducing their visibility and impact. Using the cut material to build up bays on the slope below the road should be avoided unless mounds can also be created to give some screening. The cut material should be taken off site, or used to make mounds that reduce the visibility of vehicles further and prevent them from driving onto other

(a) British and European parking dimensions for the more generous scale needed in the countryside, for right-angled parking and two-way traffic. (b) The same dimension takes up more space with en echelon parking for one-way traffic. (c) American dimensions are actually smaller than British ones, despite the generally larger car size. It would be sensible to adopt the British/European variety, with its roomier sizes and less formal result. (d) A parallel parking bay with dimensions for American long vehicles such as trailer-towing cars. (e) European dimensions for coach parking and other long vehicles. Once again these are more generous than the American sizes. f) Dimensions for parking for people with disabilities.

This diagram shows how to use the contours to minimize cut and fill. The bays either push up into hollows and concavities or extend down onto spurs or convexities.

parts of the site (see below).

One circumstance where parking in prominent areas is acceptable is to give a view to people who cannot reach a proper viewpoint, perhaps through age or disability. In this case earth mounding or planting can be used to reduce the intrusion of the vehicle. When designing the car park amongst trees it will be necessary to remove some trees and keep others. Any disturbance to the site and creation of gaps in the canopy may cause problems of wind damage later on. Thus trees to be kept should be of stable, well-rooted species, and should be in locations where root damage or alteration of the water-table will be at a minimum. A good tree canopy over the parking area is ideal in many situations, as it keeps the cars screened from views into the site and gives shade in hot weather. The choice of trees to be kept and the location of bays in relation to those trees should aim to maximize shade at all times of the day but especially at or shortly after noon in summer when the sun is usually at its hottest. Shady trees also reduce glare or reflection from cars, which might otherwise increase their impact and intrusiveness. Any dead, decayed or diseased trees should also be removed before construction so as to reduce the risks of falling timber or branches during construction and subsequent use.

Parking for visitors with disabilities

The layout of the parking area, bay markings and location of facilities should take account of the needs of visitors with disabilities. Usually a number of bays should be reserved for their use, located as near as possible to the main features, the toilets, access to other areas and so on. People with disabilities need more space around their vehicle for moving equipment like wheel chairs in and out, for transferring themselves to wheelchairs from car seats, and for slower movement generally. Kerbs should be flat, surfaces firm, smooth and level and gaps in barriers sufficiently wide to allow wheelchairs through them comfortably. Signs showing the standard disabled symbol should be placed at the centre point of each bay to signal to other users that the parking is reserved for users with disabilities only, and to show drivers of cars permitted to use this parking where the bays are if no surface marking has been provided.

Urban materials and finishes used in a wild setting: sealed surface, white lines and light-coloured concrete barriers. 'Big Four', Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, Washington, USA.

Surfacing materials

There are two main options available: sealed (paved) or unsealed (unpaved) surfaces. The choice depends on the following factors.

The expected wear and tear and thus the maintenance cost

Unsealed surfaces are cheap to install and maintain if this needs to be done only infrequently. Sealed surfaces are expensive to lay but need little maintenance. Unsealed surfaces can be made with locally won material, which is frequently cheaper.


Natural materials, especially those from the site or nearby, can reduce impact and blend into the landscape. Used for unsealed surfaces they also present a coarser texture than sealed surfaces and so tend to fit better into the wider landscape. Sealed surfaces such as bituminous macadam or asphalt are darker in colour, usually black, and very fine in texture. However, this can be ameliorated by using a spray-and-chip top layer (tar spray with spread and rolled chippings) of local material. The same technique can also be used on an unsealed surface in order to improve wear and tear. This is the kind of surface finish commonly used on rural roads in many places. The spray-and-chip finish can be added to the access road but not the parking bays, where wear is less. The slight difference in texture and colour then helps to delineate the two areas.


In hotter, dry areas dust from unsealed surfaces can be a serious problem all through the summer. Any vehicle travelling even at slow speeds tends to throw up dust, which is very uncomfortable when breathed in or deposited on skin or clothing. In other places a very wet climate may result in frequent potholing on unsealed areas with much reduced surface quality. Snow clearance in winter may be necessary, and unsealed surfaces are more easily damaged by snow ploughs than smoother, sealed ones.

Distance from sources of material

Stone, tarmac and asphalt are expensive to transport over long distances. When budgets for recreation provision are limited it makes sense to use locally won materials where these are cheaper and suitable for the degree of wear and tear expected.

Unsealed surfaces can be subject to heavy wear and tear, erosion, potholing and puddles unless regularly maintained. 'Sheepwash', North York Moors National Park, England.

Expected degree of use

In remote, lightly used locations the lower wear and tear expected will favour unsealed surfaces; the converse will apply at popular, heavily used areas. This also applies at short-stay facilities, where the turnover of visitors means that the surfaces are likely to be heavily used by vehicles.


If the ROS is being followed then the remoter, wilder areas will favour unsealed surfaces, whereas in the more urban settings sealed finishes will be more acceptable. It may also be appropriate to use unsealed surfaces near urban areas to emphasize the more relaxed, rural or wild setting and atmosphere being created.


Surfacing must include proper attention to drainage. Sealed surfaces produce more runoff, which has to be channelled away. Expensive pipe drains can be entertained only on large developments. Laying the surface to gradients allowing run-off into french drains (rubble-filled ditches), into open ditches or over the surface of nearby areas may be acceptable instead. Care must be taken to avoid drainage water flowing directly into streams, as the silt and pollutants (oil, fuel, and exhaust particles) could be harmful to aquatic life.

Diagram showing how snow storage can be designed into the car park layout together with the meltwater drainage.

Unsealed surfaces also need to be kept drained, although water may percolate through them to a greater degree. Good gradients across the area are needed, but areas to be drained should be broken into sections to avoid the danger of erosion, particularly during heavy rainstorms. Unsealed surfaces can be prone to washout. Excess water in the structure of the road weakens it and can make it more prone to structural failure under heavy loads such as fully laden coaches.


The car park construction will normally include a certain amount of excavation, which should be done in stages. For example, turf should be stripped and stored, followed by topsoil removal and storage, and then subsoil should be excavated to a depth to create the road and parking bays with the appropriate gradients for drainage. Roots, wood and other organic material must be removed. The rocky base material for the car park can then be laid out and rolled to a sufficient depth for the strength required. Hard rock, crushed and angular in form to include all sizes down from 50 mm (2 in.) to dust should be used. Then the surfacing is added, either the sealed paving or unsealed material, which will be similar to the base. Lastly, the preserved topsoil and turf can be used to cover excavated surfaces and to tidy up the road and bay edges. Zones where no traffic or materials storage is permitted should be fenced off. Care will be necessary in the vicinity of trees to be retained on site. Soil should not be built up around the bases of trees. The drainage should not seriously affect the degree of water received by the trees or alter the water table.

Excess excavated material can be used to make mounds (see 'Vehicle control' below), spread over areas to be grass seeded, or taken off site to be disposed of in an approved way.

Vehicle control

In many areas the landform and open nature of the site are such that there is nothing to stop vehicles from being driven off the road or parking areas and into other areas. This is usually undesirable because it poses dangers to pedestrians, and causes damage to soil and vegetation. Access into the hinterland may cause all manner of problems. Visitors with four-wheel drive vehicles and motorcycles are often tempted to go beyond the car park, while ordinary cars may well be parked off the surfaced areas during busy periods. Where the natural terrain does not prevent such access, control devices are needed. All need openings sufficient to allow wheelchairs, prams and baby buggies through. Few will restrict motorcycles, but all will restrict cars and most all-terrain vehicles.

The following types are most commonly used.

(a) A plan and section of a poorly designed earth barrier. It is too symmetrical and angular in form. (b) A better-designed barrier, asymmetric, rounded and blended into the local contours. It also allows a way through into a picnic area beyond.

Earth mounds

These can be constructed from spare excavated material. They need to be steeply graded on the side facing the parking spaces, and should be graded into the landform on the other side unless they are intended to resemble hedgebanks or similar rural features. The steepness and height are essential to prevent four-wheel drive vehicles from climbing over them. In confined areas the face nearest the parking can be constructed of timber or stone revetment. Trapezoidal-section mounds should be avoided as these look too engineered. The mounds can be sown, planted or turfed with appropriate vegetation. If they are of a height similar to that of the bonnet/hood of the cars the mounds will help to screen them from views back to the car park. Trees can also be planted, which will hide the cars further and provide some shade and shelter. The gentler slope of the mound can also be used as informal seating.


In areas where rocks are commonly found, either as individual elements or as outcropping, they can be used to make very suitable barriers. Large rocks can be dug into the ground so that they look fixed and are difficult to shift. They need to be big enough so that high-chassis vehicles cannot attempt to drive over them and so that any cars that accidentally bump into them do so with their bumper and not their sump! Rocks look better placed at irregular distances apart rather than in equally spaced rows. If some of the rocks have flatter tops they can make informal seats.

Log barriers

Simple, stout barriers constructed from thick, straight logs placed on two short, upright posts of similar dimensions and set fairly deeply into the ground are quite effective. Varying the length and direction of barrier sections enables them to be aligned in different ways to follow the outside edges of the parking areas. Solid debarked logs should be used, sufficiently thick to be both physically and visually strong. The wood can be left to weather or can be stained to blend into the landscape, although the logs do need

(a) Poor design of rock barriers: too even in size and spacing, parallel with the bay edge and sitting on the ground. (b) Here the rocks vary in size, spacing and alignment and are partly sunk into the ground.

(a) Poor design of rock barriers: too even in size and spacing, parallel with the bay edge and sitting on the ground. (b) Here the rocks vary in size, spacing and alignment and are partly sunk into the ground.

Horizontal log barriers of large size laid close to the ground are effective and fit into this wooded landscape of large trees.

This diagram shows how to lay out and construct log barriers. Their height should match that of most car bumpers.

to remain visible. They should be set at car bumper height, which also makes it difficult to lift a motorcycle over them. If vandalism is a problem the logs can be protected against chainsaws with a wire inlaid along their length on at least two sides.

Log posts

Stout wooden posts can be set into the ground at suitable intervals following the edge of the parking areas. They should be of large diameter, set fairly deeply into the ground for strength and slightly angled at the top to permit water to run off. Spaced at slightly irregular intervals they look especially good in forested settings. Their height should be slightly above that of the average bumper.

Log posts set into the ground work well, especially in wooded settings. Near Hilversum, Holland.

This diagram shows the layout of log posts. Their spacing is important in order to prevent small vehicles from slipping in between them.

This diagram shows the layout of log posts. Their spacing is important in order to prevent small vehicles from slipping in between them.


A hedge planted on a low mound is not so physically strong but is an attractive and effective screen, which can save space. A wire or post-and-rail fence can be used while the hedge is becoming established. Once the hedge is established it should be a suitable barrier in more rural settings.


These can be very effective as screens and physical barriers. Drystone construction is traditional in many rural landscapes, while mortared stone is appropriate in more urban settings or near buildings or other structures. Local stone which weathers usually fits the setting admirably.


Post-and-rail or other traditional constructions can also be used. They may not prevent determined people from breaking through them, nor are they so visually useful. They are best in rural settings where such forms are appropriate and robustness is not required.

Hedges used as a barrier. Their structure is important: (a) A tapered section is easier to maintain and keep dense at the bottom. (b) Square shapes are difficult to trim properly at the top. (c) Poorly trimmed hedges lose their lower branches to become thin and transparent. (d) A hedge on an earth mound is both physically and visually more effective.

Hedges used as a barrier. Their structure is important: (a) A tapered section is easier to maintain and keep dense at the bottom. (b) Square shapes are difficult to trim properly at the top. (c) Poorly trimmed hedges lose their lower branches to become thin and transparent. (d) A hedge on an earth mound is both physically and visually more effective.

A drystone wall makes an effective barrier in areas where they are traditional.

They are easily repaired, and will last a long time if left undisturbed.

A drystone wall makes an effective barrier in areas where they are traditional.

They are easily repaired, and will last a long time if left undisturbed.

Vertical board-on-board fencing provides a visual screen where this is needed. It will usually be appropriate to use a range of these barrier types on many sites. The sight of one type of barrier used extensively can be overpowering. Rocks in mounds, mounds with posts in between, barriers alternating with posts and so on all give variety. Also, the choice should reflect the setting. Mounds and rocks are more appropriate to wilder, more open settings; posts to forests; and log barriers, walls or fences to rural or urban situations.

Vehicle management

Most car parks require some form of vehicle management signing, particularly the larger ones. Drivers need to be informed if one-way systems operate, when rights of way vary, and where special areas for coaches, trailer-towing vehicles and people with disabilities are designated. As the general rule is to keep signs to an absolute minimum, the site layout should be analysed at the design stage in terms of the driver's requirements, and a schedule of signs should be proposed showing their positions and messages. Siting of signs should ensure that they will not be obscured by other vehicles.

The signs should use standard symbols in standard colours so far as possible. Where text is necessary it should be expressed in positive terms ('Please do not park along the road edges'). As the scale of the landscape and road areas is usually smaller and the speed of vehicles slower, the signs can be smaller than those needed on public highways. Sign structures should be as unobtrusive as possible, being of a simple yet robust construction and materials. Slabs of wood or stone set vertically into the ground and routed or sandblasted with the symbol, which is painted in the appropriate colour, are one type. Plastic, wood or metal symbols fixed to wood or stone are another.

Low-level signs will work in car-only areas, but signs may need to be taller where higher vehicles such as coaches use the site. Vegetation should be kept trimmed around signs, and damaged signs should be quickly repaired or replaced.

Marking of parking spaces should not be necessary unless long ones are needed, or pull-through spaces in an area car park are provided. Surface markings are not easy to provide in car parks with unsealed surfaces, but stone setts, can be used if required. Horizontal barriers can also be used as indicators. In some area layouts, marking may be unnecessary if people follow the habit of parking around the edges first and then using the middle area. Car parks with sealed surfaces can be marked with white or yellow lines, but these appear urban and should be avoided if possible, especially if continuous lines are used. Pull-through spaces can be signalled by island beds of trees or shrubs, which help to direct traffic flows.

Wooden fences can be used as barriers: (a) A simple post-and-rail construction works well. (b) This version is mortised for a stronger finish. This is a traditional form of construction in some places. (c) The zigzag fence is a traditional type in North America. (d) A vertical board-on-board fence makes a visual screen, perhaps more appropriate in urban fringe areas.

Wooden fences can be used as barriers: (a) A simple post-and-rail construction works well. (b) This version is mortised for a stronger finish. This is a traditional form of construction in some places. (c) The zigzag fence is a traditional type in North America. (d) A vertical board-on-board fence makes a visual screen, perhaps more appropriate in urban fringe areas.

Payment for parking

If the site operator intends to collect money from visitors as a means of payment for parking or for general use of the area, the method and arrangement of payment collection has to be fitted into the design. There are several basic methods.

Payment at the entrance to the site

This can be by means of a manned kiosk, such as are commonly found in US national and state parks. The entrance layout is split into two lanes—an entrance and an exit—so that all can pass the payment window on their way in. In large sites where there is a steady use all year round it may be worth manning the kiosk all the time. In other instances manning it at busy times only, and using a machine for all other occasions, ensures economical collection.

A ticket-vending machine can supplement the entrance kiosk in low-use periods or be the sole means of payment collection. The level of honesty may vary between 20 and 70%, depending on the location. Local, frequent visitors may object to paying every time they visit 'their' site. Honesty can be increased if there is a 'pay and display' policy on car windows, with some attempt to control it by issuing reminders to those who do not comply. Too heavy-handed an approach may be counter-productive and reduce the loyalty of visitors, who may feel victimized. It all depends on the circumstances and the way the whole site is managed.

Any signs at the entrance must make it clear whether payment is expected, how much it is and whether there is a limitation on coins accepted by machines. The use of entrance payment can be coupled with the management of visitor numbers. In many sites the capacity of parking, picnicking, the risk of wear and tear or of overloading toilet facilities at busy periods might suggest that the entrance should be controlled to prevent site degradation and overcrowding to the detriment of the visitors' experience. Numbers of vehicles entering or exiting can be monitored visually or automatically and notices saying 'Site full' posted as required. This prevents frustration; people refused access can try elsewhere without the annoyance of driving fruitlessly looking for parking or waiting for someone else to leave, with all the stress and site circulation problems that this can cause.

Payment within the site

This is common in many places where a pay-and-display machine is located in a central place, or in large sites where several machines can be distributed. Honesty ratings may be low unless they are controlled, but the operating costs of such machines can also be low.

A diagram to show how a vehicle-signing layout should be prepared. At each place where a sign is needed the exact information is worked out in the correct orientation. This plan is given to sign makers and to those responsible for installing and maintaining the signs.

While payment might seem desirable in order to help pay for the maintenance of the site, there are several issues that need to be addressed. First, ticket machines have to be emptied regularly, especially in locations where theft is known to occur. This requires staff to carry out collection and ticket replenishment. Second, there is the cost of checking on levels of payment compliance, and the difficulty that most operators might have in enforcing a fine or seeking payment of the parking fee. Even where rangers are law enforcement officers, as they are in some national parks, the adverse reaction from visitors caused by attempts to extract payment can outweigh the benefits. Third, the machines have to be maintained and kept in working order. The extent of this depends on the choice of machine.

Electrically operated ticket machines need power on site, from mains, battery or solar power. If this is possible they could be the better choice as they can print out a ticket with time and date recorded, which may be useful for management purposes. They also take a range of coin sizes, and can be calibrated for different lengths of period per payment level.

Mechanically operated machines will work on sites without electricity, relying on the action of the coins falling and the push of a button to activate the dispenser. One rate of payment based on a single coin or combination of coins gives out a set ticket. This means that one payment is made whatever the duration of the visit, thus deterring short-term visitors from paying. The machine is easier to maintain, as it is robust and has no complicated timers to adjust.

Safety and security at the car park

In many areas people using car parks in quiet, wild places are anxious about leaving their cars. This is paradoxical, because it might be expected that getting away to the outdoors and would involve fewer concerns about risks of theft or vandalism to property than in the city. Sadly, places where a number of cars are parked with owners absent can be a lure to thieves in many areas, especially in Britain and Europe. It takes only a few seconds to break into a car and steal the radio or any property lying on seats. In such car parks, people come and go at different times and are normally strangers to one another; someone casually opening a door and entering a car or taking something from it would hardly attract attention even if there were other people on the site. It might be thought that cars spread around in well-screened countryside car parks might increase the risk, as fewer people would be able to see the cars or the presence of thieves. Therefore it could be prudent to incorporate the following precautions into designs of those areas where the risk of car theft is considered to be significant.

- Cluster more cars into bays and keep the bays closer to one another. This increases the turnover of parking in any one place and therefore the numbers of people visiting the parking area.

- Keep the parking visible from picnic areas. Many people prefer to move only a short distance from their cars so that they can keep them in sight. Often this is partly anxiety about security as well as about getting lost; the car becomes a landmark for them.

- Place warning signs to remind people to lock their cars and to put their property in the boot/trunk or to carry it with them.

- Management of the area can also reduce the risk, perhaps through the use of rangers to maintain a presence, which reassures visitors and deters would-be thieves. It is also important to liaise with the police for warnings, for advice, and to ensure that the thefts that do occur are reported.

1 An area of hot springs at Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, USA. The attractive nature of these features contrasts with their vulnerability. In order to allow people close to the vents, paths and walkways have been laid. These protect both the site and visitors, but unfortunately detract from the quality of the setting and the sense of wildness. This conflict is the main challenge facing recreation designers in the outdoors.

2 The waterfalls at Yosemite National Park, California, USA. This is where it all began. The unsurpassing beauty of the place convinced John Muir that it should be protected as a place where people might get close to nature just as he had done. Nowadays the main threat to it is from too many people. In recent years the number of visitors has been restricted by the park authorities to avoid overloading the facilities.

3 A scene showing visitors to the New Forest in Hampshire, England during the 1960s. Unrestricted access by car to many parts of the forest resulted in site damage, danger to people, litter and pollution. After planning and design, access was controlled, and facilities were installed that now allow visitors to enjoy the forest without seriously damaging it.

4 Visitors to Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada enjoy the scenery. Even at a small lay-by or turnout along the parkway they need parking that is safe to drive in and out of and is clearly laid out. An interpretative structure and a bear-proof litter bin have been provided. The use of forms, materials, colours and the position of artefacts in relation to the scene can blend in or detract from it. Here the mountains dominate the scene, but the interpretative structure and the litter bin are not designed together or positioned to reduce their impact. Thus they detract from the foreground of the scene.

5 A more recent example from Germany uses natural stone, gravel and weathered rough sawn timber, which work together and fit their surroundings. Simplicity and good attention to the detail of construction make this a timeless solution.

6 A collection of leaflets from various sources giving information about places to visit. They also promote their location. Some oversell their area, leading to an anticlimax when the destination fails to live up to its promise.

7 A point along one of the roads to Killarney in County Kerry,

Ireland. As the road climbs, it reaches a summit, and the view of the Killarney lakes suddenly appears, giving a sense that a threshold has been crossed. The anticipation of arrival increases from here onwards.

8 The threshold sign at the start of the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia, USA, is a simple structure that relys on the silhouette of the landscape for impact, rather than the words. The name of the facility is more dominant than that of the organization. The siting of the sign against a simple backdrop of vegetation maintains its high impact.

9 A good example of an entrance to a forest recreation area at

Glenmore Forest Park, Scotland. The layout is clear and simple. The sign is of subdued colour, relying on symbols to convey much of the information. The foreground landscape is uncluttered and well maintained. The only feature to spoil the scene is a pothole in the road surface, probably caused by cars stopping and starting as they leave. Such wear and tear should be repaired as quickly as possible.

10 This information sign uses a simple, minimal structure with durable, laminated panels capable of presenting photographs, text and maps in a crisp finish. Blue Ridge Parkway, Virginia, USA.

11 An informally laid out car park in a woodland setting, where the cars are parked in bays separated by clumps of trees and shrubs. The natural crushed stone surfacing completes the contrast between this and a typical urban layout.

12 Forested car parks like this one help to provide shade for most of the day. This is important in sunny and hot summers, when cars can heat up severely if parked in the sun. The shade also reduces glare from surfacing. 'Head of the Metolius', Deschutes National Forest, Oregon, USA.

13 A well-designed earth barrier prevents cars from straying off the car park, and partly screens them in the open setting. Beechenhurst, Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire, England.

14 A bold sign reminding people to lock their cars and take care of their valuables. Amsterdamse Bos, Holland.

15 A toilet building at a highway rest stop in the north of Norway. The wooden building positioned by some trees and a rock is stained dull grey in colour and blends in well with the wild, remote landscape.

16 A large toilet building with over-hanging pyramidal roof of sawn timber construction. The large skylights give good illumination to the interior. Cannop Ponds, Forest of Dean, England.

17 This Swedish example is an excellent composting toilet. The sawn log construction is sturdy. It uses traditional overlapping boards for the roof. Windows in the gable give adequate light and privacy.

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