In the discussion of scientific instruments and measuring devices, there are two major categories: active sensors and passive sensors. Active sensors use some kind of directed energy, whether that be light waves, sound waves or kinetic means to measure properties about an item. Passive sensors do not emit any energy, but measure the observed item's own emitted energy, again, light waves, sound waves or kinetic means to measure properties of that item.
Some types of instruments can be in either passive or active types. Microscopes can be passively viewing or, like an electron microscope, they can actively view. Sonar on ships and submarines can do the same, passively listening for other vessels or sending out a “ping” to listen for the echo.
But when talking about active or passive recreational uses, what is being referred to? How can one activity be referred to as “active use” and a seemingly similar activity be referred to as “passive use”. How does this understanding of active and passive recreational use affect mountain biking in urban areas?
The first thing that must be understood is that there is not a nationally accepted or a federal definition for active and passive recreation uses. This means for your local city or area, there might be some slight differences.
Here is the definition (in whole) from a legal dictionary about what is passive use:
A passive recreation area is generally an undeveloped space or environmentally sensitive area that requires minimal development. Entities such as a parks department may maintain passive recreation areas for the health and well-being of the public and for the preservation of wildlife and the environment. The quality of the environment and "naturalness" of an area is the focus of the recreational experience in a passive recreation area.
As you can see, there is squish in this definition. In fact, it uses a broad definition that one community has to illustrate exactly how large that passive recreational use umbrella could get. It doesn’t mean every community has a definition that broad, it just means that definitions can be that broad.
Generally, however, these are considered the 3 main tests of a recreational use to determine if it is passive or active:
It should become clear that what makes an activity active or passive isn’t so much the activity itself, but two major factors together: 1) infrastructure, that construction impacts and 2) the impacts of that activity post-construction. Going back to the 3 main tests of a recreational use, we see this see-saw between, and the balancing of, the infrastructure and usage impacts. When we start applying that to the items in the table above, we can see how impacts at the time of construction for an active or passive use might be the same, but as time passes, the low impact of the passive use prevents further impacts, thereby allowing the total impacts to be relatively low.
Simple comparison of infrastructure
Let’s discuss the infrastructure for two uses (we will get to activities later), side by side, to see how this plays out with real uses than might occur in an urban area. The first use will be a football field and the second will be trail system. At this point, let’s not define who will use that trail as that gets into activities, let’s assume it’s a multi-use trail.
Clearly, there are some places where it’s no contest, the trail has much lower impacts than the football field. Yet, in other areas, it’s not so clear. Where the trail makes up for its initial construction impacts is its low long-term impacts. Even then, it will never be 100% free of impacts, that is, until humans stop using the trail and it is fully reclaimed.
This is where it gets interesting
Obviously, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that a trail system would have less impact than a football field. Yet, what about the different uses that could occur on that trail? Are all activities on that trail thereby passive? And how does this effect mountain biking?
That will be the discussion in Part 2.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.