A father coaches his daughter at a ski resort in Beijing's Changping district on Dec 8, 2018. [Photo by PAN ZHIWANG/FOR CHINA DAILY]China will consider regulations on outdoor recreation as it builds and manages national parks, as the parks have become hot destinations for the growing population of sports enthusiasts, experts said at a forum in Shanghai.
The forum, the First International Conference on National Parks and Outdoor Recreation, hosted recently by the Shanghai University of Sport, brought together around 200 experts and scholars from around the world for discussions on sustainable development of national parks and outdoor recreation.
"China has just begun the construction of national parks and has much to learn from its international counterparts, especially in the management of outdoor recreational activities," said Dong Erwei, a professor at the university. He is also director of the China International Center for Leisure and Tourism Research.
China is actively promoting the construction of national parks. Since the launch of its first pilot national park in June 2017－Sanjiangyuan in Qinghai province－the country has established nine pilot parks, with more to come, to form a nationwide layout by 2020.
As China explores how to run national parks, the country faces challenges such as relocating people who live within the boundaries of the pilot parks, according to Jin Peihua, vice-president of Zhejiang A&F University.
Challenges common to all national parks will need to be addressed, Jin said, such as protecting the environment while fulfilling people's demand for outdoor recreation.
According to a report on the outdoor recreation market released by the China Outdoor Brand Alliance, sales of professional outdoor brands surged to 19 billion yuan ($2.75 billion) in 2017 from 100 million yuan in 2000 and 7 billion yuan in 2010. The market is expected to reach 22.6 billion yuan by 2020.
David Lange, a former top conservation official with the US Fish and Wildlife Service, said, "Hiking, camping and mountain climbing are visitors' favorite activities."
However, despite the fact that the United States has a long history of operating national parks－the country set up its first one, Yellowstone National Park, in 1872－Lange said that "seeking solutions to balance environmental protection with such activities has been a problem for over 100 years".
He said it has been mandatory for any natural park in the United States to have a monitoring system installed to regularly check and restrict the number of people allowed to occupy a site at certain times of the year.
Jasmine Cardozo, a professor at Ponta Grossa State University in Brazil, said that because recreational activities in natural areas may be frowned upon by the public, less than 1 percent of the land in some parks is for recreational use, with the bulk of it for research or other activities.
According to Cardozo, Brazil has many options for trails across different parts of its parks to limit crowds and protect the environment.
Dong said Japan's categorization of its national parks serves as a good reference for China. He said natural parks in Japan are marked for a few purposes only－mountain climbing, tourism, nature preservation and research. Dong said that such clear markings make the management of outdoor recreation and protection of the environment easier.
"In the short term we need to regulate outdoor recreation, but in the long run we need to cultivate professionals," Dong said. "Sports universities should take the lead in outdoor recreation research and collaborate with other disciplines."