- Safety concerns (not knowing who's out there and where they are)
- Quality of facilities (neglect, vandalism, overuse vs. overly restrictive access)
- Quality of habitat (concerns about overuse, no funds for restoration/management)
- Concerns about other users' ethics & restraint
- Higher likelihood of getting ticketed for a minor infraction, i.e. trailer lights, PFDs
- Above factors make it difficult to plan an outting based on changing weather conditions (tides, winds, cold fronts, offshore winds, high flows, etc)
- Accept it and plow through
- Accept it and find away around that issue
The first option really applies to things like facility quality/access quality and the likelihood of having a friendly encounter with a Conservation Officer. The second is really what I'd like to focus on - how can we plan public land outings based on variable conditions, unknown or high user pressure, safety concerns, and poor habitat (or the perception by other users that poor habitat exists)?
Get smart. That's the answer. First - and this could be a post unto itself - find out if your planned activity is expressly allowed, expressly prohibited, or something inbetween. I've surfed, fished, and hunted in many public places where the land manager had never conceived of seeing a surfer, angler, or hunter. Admittedly, I've had mixed results ranging from outstanding to debacle to pure rage. Many instances of the latter two types could have been avoided by a quick call ahead to confirm (or convince) that my activity is allowable. At this point, you should know what's legal and where the "gray area" is.....and whether you want to tread there. It gets easier after this point.
Do some additional research on the properties in which you have an interest - one of my key questions is always "Can I get public access to a sweet looking area where other people will be too lazy to go?" Successfully answering this question often eliminates the "safety" and "habitat quality" issues.
For instance, does accessing a public hunting area require you to wait out the tide to boat under a low road bridge? That's promising.
What about a public beach with miles of shoreline but only one parking lot? You got something against walking?
What about a county park where nobody fishes because you have to have an extra County fishing license for $5. Or because it costs $5 to get into the park. I guarantee you that such a place will have better fishing than the public spot with free access. My brother found that out for himself last year by paying $12/hour for a county boat rental. $25 got him the best 2 hours of fishing he had all summer.
All in all, folks, I'm talking about work. This is radically different than the way that outdoorsfolk usually consider public land, which is, "Hey we show up, load our guns/cameras/rods/etc in the parking lot, and walk down that well-signed gravel path into the field/water, right?"
Nope. At least not here on the east coast. Don't get me wrong - people - thousands of them - do just that. But do you really think that the best surfing, fishing, or hunting is in the first/closest spot to the parking lot/boat ramp, and always on saturdays? Apparently, many of us do!
If you want a high quality experience on public land, you'll need to put in some time before you ever show up, and you need to be prepared to go where others dare not........to walk 3 miles down the beach, kayak upstream .75 miles to a duck hole everyone ignores, or to stalk 2 miles into a public property to find the perfect fallow field surrounded by giant oak trees.
In Part III, we'll talk about amplifying your efforts by going when others don't. See ya then!