Open Journal of Forestry
2012. Vol.2, No.3, 167-173
Published Online July 2012 in SciRes (
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. 167
Rapid Appraisal of User Stakeholders for Forest Recreation Area
Planning: The Little Molas Case
John P. Titre1, Allan S. Mills CF2, Mark F. Mallaney3
1U.S.D.A. Forest Service, Fort Collins, USA
2L. Douglas Wilder S ch ool o f Go ve rnment and Public Affairs Virginia,
Commonwealth University, Richmond, USA
3Department of Anthropology, University of Colorado at Boulder, Boulder, USA
Received April 15th, 2012; revised May 19th, 2012; accepted June 10th, 2012
Public forest recreation area planning is often confronted by conflicting stakeholder views of what actions
are most appropriate for improving outdoor recreation areas. Contemporary users of an outdoor recreation
area are often inadequately represented in these planning decisions, due to the high cost and time required
for user surveys that have traditionally been used to represent these stakeholders. A case example of the
application of an alternative research method termed rapid appraisal (RA) is described. Data collected us-
ing rapid appraisal was used to help resolve disagreements on future planning and development options
for the Little Molas Recreation Area (LMRA). The entire RA process was completed in one month’s time,
with results which provided a reliable stakeholder supplement to working group recommendations to the
Forest Service for their proposed LMRA redevelopment plan.
Keywords: Recreation Planning; Outdoor Recreation; Forest Recreation; Rapid Appraisal
Rapid Appraisal (RA) integrates several qualitative research
methods. It is designed to help empower decision makers
through the discovery and understanding of local knowledge
from dialog with local populations. The process of RA data
collection from forest recreation area users is less costly and
time consuming than using standard survey instruments. It em-
ploys participant observation and in-depth, context-rich inter-
views, as well as ancillary information, to small and carefully
selected samples of users. The objective is to gather the widest
possible understanding of the situation from these data in a
relatively short period of time (Carruthers & Chambers, 1981;
Kumar, 1993; Chambers, 1994; Beebe, 1995). Because of re-
duced budgets for forest planning and management, rapid as-
sessment methods such as this are being used more and more
within the fields of forest recreation and natural resources
management. RA meets the need for quick and low-cost data
collection in today’s forest planning environment, while satis-
fying criteria for sound science to support decisions with data
that are reliable, valid, and applicable.
This paper documents the case of a rapid appraisal (RA)
study conducted to resolve major disagreements on future plan-
ning and development options for the Little Molas Recreation
Area (LMRA) on the San Juan National Forest in Southwestern
Colorado. It aimed at identifying the activities, perceptions,
meanings, values, attitudes, and beliefs that outdoor recreation
users had for LMRA. This information was collected in an
efficient and timely manner using the rapid appraisal process.
Study Site and User Stakeholders
The LMRA is situated on Little Molas Lake, at a sub-alpine
altitude of just over 10,000 feet. The area is mostly forested, but
contains some meadowlands east of the lake. It has a large
campground, and all of the campsites, day use, and overnight
parking spots within the Little Molas area are free of charge to
users. Little Molas Recreation Areas is situated next to the
well-traveled Colorado Trail highway, mid-way between the
communities of Silverton and Durango, Colorado. A diverse
group of stakeholders who are users of this outdoor recreation
area exists in these communities. There is year-round recrea-
tional use of LMRA, where outdoor activities range from
backpacking to snowmobiling.
Little Molas had only one pit toilet, unimproved gravel roads,
no designated camping sites with picnic tables, few fire grates,
and only minimal signage. As such it provided opportunities for
motorized primitive camping. An increase in recreation use
from a variety of groups led to resource degradation, including
soil erosion and compaction, which alerted managers to the
need for some action to prevent continuing harm.
Framing the Issue: Future Desired
Conditions for LMRA
Many of these user stakeholders agreed with the Forest Ser-
vice that environmental damages, including soil erosion and
soil compaction, needed to be remedied. However, beyond this
general agreement, the various stakeholder groups have his-
torically disagreed with the Forest Service’s proposed plans to
slow or stop damages to the resource.
From December 2003 to April 2004 the Forest Service fa-
cilitated a collaborative effort in the form of a Working Group
(WG), for the purpose of forging a consensus on a plan for
LMRA. Public meetings were held in the towns of Silverton
and Durango, and the Working Group compiled a report for the
Forest Service outlining recommendations resulting from these
meetings. However, this collaborative process failed to include
participants from Little Molas Recreation Area itself, the users
of LMRA. As a result of the report, a dilemma emerged be-
tween the Forest Service’s plan to upgrade LMRA and some
stakeholders from these two communities who forwarded vari-
ous scenarios for making only minor improvements, and who
raised the issue of whether or not to implement proposed camp-
ing fees.
The Columbine Ranger District had, for some time, been
dealing with issues surrounding plans to make modifications to
LMRA. The outcry from concerned citizens was the result of an
original 2003 Forest Service plan to renovate Little Molas and
make various improvements to the campground. This plan in-
cluded a roadside parking lot, primarily for winter use, a pota-
ble water system, and improvements to the access road includ-
ing gravel and grading. Designated fee campsites were also
proposed to replace free and disbursed camping options.
Among the concerned citizens who objected to this were mem-
bers of well organized and vocal constituencies, including the
Western Slope No-Fee Coalition and the Backcountry Snow
Sports Alliance. However, less vocal individuals and outdoor
recreation groups using LMRA were not heard from at this time.
Some of them came from other parts of the country (and the
world), and some were local backpackers, birdwatchers, pic-
nickers and campers who did not have the time or desire to
attend and speak out at formal public meetings.
Rapid Appraisal of Little Molas Users
A rapid appraisal study was designed to give voice to as
many of stakeholders without a voice as possible at Little
Molas, and to do so within a short time frame and at low-cost.
It was especially designed to capture the viewpoints of those
who participated in recreational activities at Little Molas, but
who would not come forward during the public comment pe-
riod for the proposed 2003 plan or participate in a working
A common challenge for this type of research is how to
combine relevance and rigor. This challenge has been met by
recent developments in the methodologies of action research,
community based research, and rapid appraisal (RA) within the
social sciences (van Willigen, 2002). The RA research approach
implemented at LMRA used strategies and procedures origi-
nally set forth by applied anthropologist James Beebe in his
1995 article, Basic Concepts and Techniques of Rapid Ap-
praisal. RA at LMRA used Beebe’s concepts as a framework
for data collection, as well as the writings of many other pro-
minent rapid appraisal methodologists (Belshaw, 1981; Car-
ruthers & Chambers, 1981; van Willigen, 1991; Ch ambers, 1994;
Utarini, Winkvist et al., 2001; van Willigen, 2002).
RA has become a prominent and efficient mechanism of re-
search in the applied fields of Anthropology and Sociology
over the past two decades (Carruthers & Chambers, 1981; Ku-
mar, 1993; Chambers, 1994; Beebe, 1995). RA differs a great
deal from traditional survey research techniques adopted by
social science in that it is designed to provide real time infor-
mation to people on the ground quickly. For the present study
“people on the ground” refers to LMRA users as well as Forest
Service personnel and other participants in the Working Group.
Following Beebe (1995: p. 42), “rapid appraisal allows a
team of two or more individuals, usually representing different
academic disciplines, to produce qualitative results for deci-
sions about... the design and implementation of applied activi-
ties.” For Little Molas, preliminary decisions for the design and
implementation of future conditions at Little Molas formed the
goal of the study. The purpose was to assist the Columbine
District Ranger in making informed decisions about changes for
this recreation area.
Three central concepts of the RA methodology help to ensure
that the RA research process meets sufficiently rigorous meth-
odological standards: 1) a system perspective; 2) triangulation
of data collection; and 3) iteration of data collection and analy-
sis (Beebe 1995). These three aspects of the methodology form
a conceptual foundation that allows this research technique to
be both flexible and rigorous, thus meeting two key demands of
the increasingly volatile postmodern world.
A System Perspective
A system perspective is defined by elements that logically
belong together and make up a whole that has its own qualities
and characteristics. “A systems perspective initially considers
all aspects of a local situation, but quickly moves toward the
definition of a model that focuses on only the most important
elements and their relationships to each other” (Beebe, 1995: p.
44). Furthermore, it provides a systems-based means of struc-
turing a debate, rather than a recipe for guaranteed efficient
achievement. RA methodology made possible an ‘inside view”
of the Little Molas Recreation Area, and produced an insight
for managers based on place-specific information. The research
objective was to understand the aspects of the place that did or
did not make it attractive, special, and/or meaningful to the
outdoor recreation participants. This network of participants
who visit the place, Forest Service personnel involved in plan-
ning for the area, and anyone else involved in the situation un-
der examination formed the system for the RA analysis.
This system perspective allows an RA researcher to under-
stand the holistic context of the situation under investigation
while narrowing in on the “guts” of the people, places, and
management relationships. A research project that involves a
system perspective begins by recording as many elements of
the system as possible through participant observation and in-
formal conversation. It then quickly moves towards identifying
the most important elements of the system relevant to the ob-
jectives of the project. In the case of LMRA, those elements
were identified as being temporal changes in the place (past,
present, and future or desired changes), activity types, use his-
tories, meanings of the place, attraction to the place, fees, and
facilities. All of these elements were examined and analyzed
according to the larger picture of resource damages and poten-
tial change at Little Molas.
Triangulation of Data Collection
Triangulation is the use of multiple data collection tech-
niques. This helps to ensure reliability of results through the
convergence of similar findings from each of the different
methods employed. The four qualitative sources of primary
data listed below were employed for this study. Through ap-
plying a sequential series of data collection methods that in-
cluded participant observation, semi-structured interviews, key
informant interviews, and ancillary working group observations,
the soundness of the data could be demonstrated by conver-
gence of the different types of data.
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
1) Participant observation;
2) Semi-structured interviews;
3) Key informant interviews;
4) Working group/ancillary observations.
Participant Observation. This was the first qualitative meth-
od employed at Little Molas. It requires the researcher to par-
ticipate in activities with the recreation participants at the study
site. To do this, the researchers camped out for two days at
LMRA and walked the entire area making behavioral maps to
learn about travel patterns and generally becoming familiar
with the location. Informal conversations occurred with indi-
viduals in the course of observing behavior. The site recreation
users viewed the researchers as just other recreationists enjoy-
ing the setting. This is the first step in a sequence of escalating
depth and detail giving the researchers greater understanding
and confidence in reaching deeper into conversations about the
issues. The participant observations from Little Molas recrea-
tion area were recorded in a project notebook. This same note-
book was kept throughout the project and was used for itera-
tions, crosschecking, note taking, and any other recording that
was important to the project.
Semi-Structured Intervie ws. This was the second qualitative
method employed at LMRA. For rapid appraisal, 20 to 25
semi-structured interviews are generally conducted with recrea-
tion users who are selected to represent the diversity of users
present at the study site. Many of the participants in the
semi-structured phase were found at campsites where they were
actively engaged in cooking, chatting, unpacking, building fires
and many other things that you expect to see when entering a
campsite. Only one interviewee was interviewed at their camp-
site. Others were contacted en route to the trails that cut across
the campground. All of these folks had driven into the area or
had some sort of vehicle with them. The majority of the camp-
ers were set up in tents; however a few had hauled in trailers or
pop-up tent campers.
Nineteen semi-structured interviews were found to be suffi-
cient at LMRA; saturation being achieved at this point when
very little new information was found to be added with each
additional interview. Each of the semi-structured interviews
was conducted using an interview “guide” created by the re-
search team between the initial phase of participant observation
above and the beginning of semi-structured interviewing. The
interview guide is not static, like a standard survey question-
naire; it was subject to change and refinement as new informa-
tion was discovered through the interviewing process. The
semi-structured interviews took between four and twenty min-
utes each, depending upon the length of the dialog.
Key Informant Interviews. This was the third qualitative
method employed at LMRA. Key informant interviews were
conducted after the initial process of semi-structured interviews
had begun. A key informant is someone who is considered
knowledgeable relative to the research problem. In the case of
LMRA snowball sampling was used in the nearby communities
of Silverton and Durango to identify possible key informants.
The key informants identified were approached and asked if
they were interested in participating in the research process;
meeting times and places where then set up for where the key
informant interviews were conducted. All but one of the key
informant interviews were voice recorded and are on file with
the San Juan National Forest. To protect privacy, the names of
the key informants were never recorded. Key informants
proved to be rich repositories of knowledge. Their responses
helped the researchers to confirm the data previously collected
using participant observation and semi-structured interviews,
while also providing additional new information.
Six key informant interviews were conducted. The group of
key informants was comprised of a backcountry dog sled and
snow skiing guide, a hardware store owner and member of the
Silverton planning commission, the owner of a horseback out-
fitter, a mountain bike store and motorcycle shop owner, a
small jewelry store owner with a heavy interest in cross country
skiing, and the manager of the Durangelers fly fishing shop
who has fished at the lake for years. These interviews were
conducted in a variety of settings from a coffee shop and a res-
taurant to the homes and stores of the participants. Most key
informant interviews lasted about thirty minutes and most
closely resembled friendly conversations.
Throughout the course of data collection for this project we
rigorously searched out diverse people to speak with. These
participants ranged in age from 23 to 78 years old, were equal
in their representation of males to females, and held various
occupations from students and registered nurses to retirees and
small business owners. A combined total of 25 people partici-
pated in both the semi-structured and key informant interview
processes and their recreation interests at Little Molas were
wide in scope. Their recreation activities included camping, day
hiking, enjoying nature, bait fishing, mountain biking, horse-
back riding, backpacking, birding, picnicking, four wheeling,
mountaineering, snowmobiling, cross country skiing, dog sled-
ding, fly fishing, snowshoeing, mushroom gathering, mineral
hunting, and star gazing. This wide range of outdoor activities
in which the participants took part covers most of the major
types of use at Little Molas Recreation Area.
Working Group Observations. This was the fourth and final
source of qualitative data. A working group collaborative proc-
ess took place over several months at meetings that lasted
around two hours each. There were four meetings of the work-
ing group between January and March 2004. All working group
information was obtained from a Forest Service employee who
helped in administrating the process. Notes from each meeting,
including the town meetings at Durango and Silverton, vote
counts, and the final report were included in this data set. All
documents from the working were kept together in a file and
treated as though they were interview transcripts. Researchers
used the working group as a sort of think tank to gain feedback
about possible actions and adjustments that may come about as
a result of the study. The working group participants made
recommendations, but they also provided review of the infor-
mation collected through semi-structured and key informant
Some related data were also collected for the RA research
effort from secondary sources. These included the Durango
Herald, the Silverton City Archives, and online sources. All of
this information was kept on file and used to build a perspective
of the situation, events, and major players at Little Molas over
Employing all of these essential qualitative methods results
in triangulation of findings, where convergence of similar in-
formation from different methods of data collection provides
confidence in the reliability of the findings. Interpretation of
reliable results can then be used by planners and managers to
make informed decisions in places where the wrong choice
could lead to a lawsuit and the loss of substantial amounts of
time and money.
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. 169
Iteration of Data Collection
Iteration refers to frequent pauses in data collection that al-
low the researchers to discuss and analyze information in order
to ensure that study objectives are being met, and to sometimes
generate new research questions. The small sample size in RA
makes it imperative that those involved in data collection con-
tinually review the content and substance of the interviews by
stopping frequently to interpret data (Beebe, 1995). During
these pauses, the team of investigators creates matrices outlin-
ing typologies of participants. These matrices insure that the
study is contacting diverse groups of people who have different
interests in the place under examination. Iteration further allows
researchers to continually analyze and discuss what has been
learned from the dialog throughout the RA process.
After seven of the 19 Little Molas semi-structured interviews
had been conducted at Little Molas, the researchers created an
iteration matrix to reflect on the data. The iteration matrix con-
sisted of representative lists identifying the key characteristics
of participants. This information was coupled with participant
observations during the next iteration allowing the researcher to
seek out different types of participants who had been previously
missed. This crosschecking methodology helped the study gain
depth and validity by providing purposeful diversity within the
data pool (Chambers, 1994; Beebe, 1995). Semi-structured in-
terviews from Little Molas Lake were recorded in iteration
phases. In the first phase, interviews 1-7 were written out by
hand in the project notebook. In the next phase, interviews 8-19
were recorded on an Olympus DS-330 Digital Voice Re-
corder and then transcribed into the notebook. All semi-struc-
tured interviews and iteration matrices were converted into a
digital text document for analysis. Key informant interviews
were also recorded on the Digital Voice Recorder, but were not
transcribed into a notebook or a digital document.
Bracketing and Int erpr etation of the Da ta
After data collection, the RA process at Little Molas moved
on to an analysis phase known as bracketing and interpretation.
Bracketing refers to the identification, classification, and
grouping of emergent themes that were interpreted using an
hermeneutic technique for analysis (Guba, 1989). This herme-
neutic, or meaning making, process brings yet another element
of rigor into the RA research project. Cyclical processes of
analysis and review form the principle mechanism of a herme-
neutic method for interpretation. In our process this was em-
ployed after all of the interview transcripts had been created
and printed out in one volume.
First, the researchers read through the transcripts many times
to become familiar with the content and to reflect on the con-
text of the interviews. After these careful and close readings
were completed the text was divided up into complete thoughts
or “meaning units” (Patterson and Williams 2004 unpublished).
Each meaning unit was then classified into a subject bracket
that allowed going deeper into the information for each guided
objective. The final subject brackets analyzed and interpreted
were temporal changes (past, present, and future or desired),
activity types, use histories, meanings, attractions, fees, and
facilities (often times very similar to the temporal change
These meaning units, once placed within their subject brack-
ets, were analyzed for contextual meaning and marked with
themes. Thus, for each subject bracket we were able to desig-
nate the emergent themes from the three interview processes
and the working group information. Each of these interpreta-
tions and themes were then illustrated in the construction sec-
tion which followed. By exposing the narratives and their themes,
it was possible to gain perspectives into Little Molas Recreation
Area from the viewpoints of the RA study participants and what
they desire for LMRA in the future. These results were then
cross-checked this with the information from the Forest Service
working group/ancillary observations. Support for some of the
working group recommendations emerged from these other
data sources, giving voice to many more stakeholders than
would have been possible with the working group collaborative
process alone.
Limitations of the Research
Because RA deals with a relatively low number of partici-
pants it is likely that those interviews comprising the RA sam-
ples will not be wholly representative of all the LMRA user
stakeholders. This becomes less important when it is under-
stood that the RA process is purposive in that it looks for diver-
sity over time within the interview pool. It is admittedly diffi-
cult to say when and if you have covered all of the bases (so to
speak) with an RA study, however it is possible to identify
obvious cut-off points (saturation) in data collection. The rigor
and purposive nature of the interviewing techniques leads to a
fair and reliable understanding of the trends in perceptions,
values, attitudes, and beliefs that are so important to outdoor
recreation area planning.
Another important limitation of RA could be the short time
period in which it is conducted. On one hand, the rapid comple-
tion of the Little Molas study in four weeks time made it inex-
pensive. However, the RA data collection was conducted dur-
ing the month of August, when tourism was at its peak. Thus, a
traditional survey researcher used to drawing representative
random samples might conclude that results of this RA study
pertain only to August. In response, the authors feel that, due to
the nature of the purposive sampling used in rapid appriasal,
RA studies conducted at other times during the year and using
the same sampling techniques and triangulations would likely
result in similar conclusi on s, themes, and emergent narratives.
Study Results
Results showed that most semi-structured interview partici-
pants who were contacted within the Little Molas campground
were there to get away from the towns where they live and to
have a nice outdoor experience, often with friends or family.
Through participant observation, it appeared as though the
LMRA participants were generally content and happy with their
surroundings and many of them expressed feelings of happiness
directly attributed to the area. The researchers were never re-
fused an interview and each of the interviewees was kind and
seemed interested in the process.
Constructed Ac co unt s of Little Molas Lake
Results of the semi-structured interviews are presented as
“constructed accounts” of LMRA. These accounts demonstrate
when a particular developmental recommendation from the
working groups should be viewed as supported, or otherwise.
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
Diversity of LMRA Activities Participation
Results of semi-structured interviewing demonstrate that Lit-
tle Molas offers a wide range of opportunities for recreational
activities. Many of these activities were associated with Little
Molas Lake. Interviewees was asked to discuss their primary
activities, as well as those activities in which they would par-
ticipate on a ‘typical’ day there. Their “primary” activities, in
order of how often they were mentioned, were: Camping, hik-
ing, enjoying nature, fishing, mountain biking, horseback riding,
birding, relaxing, and eating. Their “routine” activities were, in
order: hiking, fishing, eating, relaxing, camping, observing
nature, mountaineering, biking, four wheeling, and horseback
riding. Both the lists of primary and routine activities are evi-
dence of diversity in activities participation at Little Molas.
Place Attachment
The semi-structured interview participants evidenced varying
levels of Little Molas use over time. Six of the nineteen
semi-structured interviewees were making their first visit to the
area, while thirteen of them were returning. One 39-year-old
male respondent from California had never been to Colorado
before his visit to Little Molas Lake, and he found out about it
by speaking with locals in Durango. He mentioned that the
place was special to him because it marks the first spot where
he camped in the Rocky Mountains, which had moved him with
the vistas and beautiful scenery. This gentleman was traveling
with his extended family members visiting from Mexico. He
compared the area to some spots in Washington State and the
high country of Yosemite National Park, but pointed out that he
had to pay at those areas and he liked the fact that there was no
fee at LMRA saying, “leave it just as it is.” He also told us that
he “wouldn’t mind paying 5, 10, or even 15 dollars” to stay at
Little Molas but that “when you pay to camp somewhere you
tend to be less respectful of the area because it’s almost like
they are lending the land to you, here (LMRA) you have to take
care of it more.”
Willingness to Pay Fees
Only three of the 19 semi-structured interview participants
said that they would return to the area if a fee were collected for
camping or day use. Three others said that they might “be ok”
with fees. Eight other people who responded to this question
said that they were totally opposed to fees and that they should
not be imposed at Little Molas Recreation Area. One 45 year-
old woman from Bayfield, Colorado said that she had “really
mixed feelings about fees, um, I’m a heavy user of recreational
areas and I do know that it takes money to maintain them so I
don’t totally object to fees. I would want to know that they
were being used in a way to leave things be rather than sort of
building it up more.” This was a very common sentiment with
the participants. Another 52-year-old woman from Durango
said that she would be “perfectly willing to pay a fee and if we
were paying a fee they should use it to keep areas like this more
like this, as opposed to putting in major roads, and even just to
buy more land.” This is a simple theme on fee use that is re-
peated over and over again in the transcripts from the semi-
structured interviews. While a few were philosophically op-
posed to fees on public lands, the vast majority of the folks
simply fear fees because they are perceived to come hand in
hand with facilities and development.
The people at Little Molas come to get away from the or-
ganization of their everyday lives, saying things like “it’s natu-
ral. That’s the reason I come up here. I don’t like established
campgrounds.” One 41-year-old mother from Durango said that
“if they made it into a campground where everybody had their
units” it would ruin her experience there. She followed up this
statement with that very same theme of fees and development
saying, “I don’t have a problem paying a little bit of a fee or
something, but still I just don’t (like established campgrounds).
That’s how I grew up and I come up here to get away from
people.” Another lifelong Durango resident put it more simply
by saying, “This is my home, and I won’t pay to camp in my
Non-Development Preferences
The most common responses to questions about desired
changes in the area also indicated a theme of non-development.
One 58-year-old man from Sioux Falls, South Dakota replied,
“The nice thing is that it stays pretty much the same.” He also
told the interviewers not to “pave the road. Keeping it in a
natural state is really important to us. Of course, we live in a
motor home. If we want a motor home park we can go find it.
Don’t let this develop into some kind of commercial area.” It
was clear that participants did not want Little Molas to become
a developed recreation area. The things people named as attrac-
tive elements for LMRA further support the theme of preserv-
ing the natural character of the place. These named attraction
factors sorted into three categories. The first category has to do
with natural factors that attract people to the area. The second
category relates to the man-made aspects of LMRA, such as
roads and facilities. The third category is for responses that
include both natural and man-made factors. It is interesting that,
in most cases, people were attracted to Little Molas because of
the natural factors. When their attraction to the area was related
to humans it was almost always pertaining to the lack of people
and their influences on the natural character of the area. With
respect to man-made attractions, a gentleman from South Da-
kota said that for him the Colorado trail was the main attraction.
Another 40-year-old man from West Virginia commented on
the “nice, clean facilities.” Responses that fall into the natural
category were most commonly relating to the beauty of the area
and the scenery; others mentioned the fresh air and the quiet
solitude. Responses that fell into the category of both natural
and human elements commented on the beauty as well as the
lack of people. Others mentioned natural beauty and the fact
that there was no fee as attractive.
Facilities Preferences
Seven of the 19 participants were in favor of upgrading the
restroom facilities, two would like to see the road improved,
and nine people thought that the current facilities were suffi-
cient for the campground. There were no responses calling for
major overhauls of the facilities. A woman from Bayfield said,
“Well, I know that there’ve been plans to kind of do more, um;
Building up the campgrounds and stuff like that would defi-
nitely spoil it for me.” In light of some of the resource damage
at the area, people generally desire a fix that is less visible and
does not promote increased use at Little Molas. A woman from
Durango remarked, “I had read that there were places where
they were concerned about erosion and it might be good if they
made it real obvious, places where you shouldn’t drive and
shouldn’t park and stuff.” Going on she said that she would
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. 171
recommend the use of natural barriers, like logs or big rocks, to
achieve this end.
Key Informant Interview Consistency Check
The key-informant interviews allowed for construction of a
consistency check with the above results from transcripts of the
semi-structured interviews. Key-informant interviews produced
evidence of diversity in activities participation. One or more
key informants participated in: backcountry skiing, dog sled-
ding, snowmobile riding, backpacking, fly fishing, horseback
riding, mountain biking, motorcycling, camping, mushrooming,
wildlife viewing, day hiking and exploring, photography, wild-
flower viewing, hunting, and trail running. The key informants
were very knowledgeable about the area and use it frequently,
thus their responses to similar prompts will either show reli-
ability of the information through consistencies, or they will
rebuke the findings of the semi-structured interviews.
Of the six key informants involved in the research, one was
in favor of development at Little Molas Lake as a form of miti-
gation. “At a place like Little Molas it used to be an accom-
plishment to get there, you know? The road wasn’t that good,
Our pickups weren’t that good, Our snowmobiles weren’t that
good. If we could even get there we thought, ‘Yeah! We did
pretty good’. Now we can go farther. We push the envelope and
at a place like Little Molas we need to set the artificial bounda-
ries more aggressively to say this is where you park and this is
where you camp instead of saying well, go have a good time.”
To this older gentleman, protection of the riparian zone was his
central theme. “Ruts in the riparian zone or trash in the creek
would spoil it. The area around the water is kind of sacred.” He
would like to see camping kept out of the riparian zone and
some signage to put social pressure on people who don’t follow
the rules.
Two other informants, one male and one female, were at-
tracted to the area by the great winter skiing opportunities and
the Colorado trail in the summer. Their comments were consis-
tent with the willingness-to-paytheme which was detected with
semi-structured interviews. These two were completely op-
posed to fees, but also felt that fixing erosion damage was cru-
cial. The woman said, “I think that if you start charging fees it
changes everything. A lot of people get into hiking and back-
packing because once you have all the gear it’s something that
you can do for free.” She went on to say that, “To curb erosion
it could just be like a park and walk-in type of camping. So
people park somewhere designated and then and then walk a
little way to the camp… if that’s a big deal then you can just go
pay $16 (at a developed campground) across the street at Mo-
las.” One man was quoted as saying, “Well, there are plenty of
opportunities in the area for people who want that RV or big
trailer camping. I think it’s important to keep Little Molas Lake
like it is, because it’s not taking that experience away from
people because there’s other opportunities close to Little Mo-
Once again, we saw the non-development theme of Little
Molas as a natural area that needs to be protected from both
erosion and emerging development detected within the semi-
stuctured interviews, as also very apparent among these key
informants.. Another man, a fly fisherman from Durango said,
“it should stay primitive. Right across the street you can go to
Big Molas and hook your RV up and do it all. Clean up the lake
but don’t change a thing otherwise.” He cited erosion problems
as the cause of lake damages. “It used to be a deep lake 25
years ago all the way around. Now you’ve got sediment flow
that’s diminishing the amount of water and biomass.” His
comments also showed consistency with the call for bathroom
improvements, detected in some of the structured interviews, as
a desired change. “I think the bathroom could be enhanced
because of the use it gets in the summer. One of the better ven-
tilated ones… that would be something that I would not be
opposed to.” However, his main point was “trying to pin-point
erosion and making attempts to stabilize it.”
A woman with tribal roots from Silverton had discovered the
area in the 1970s hiking and exploring. She said, “The wonder-
ful thing is that it’s so natural and beautiful. The accessibility is
great. You can get the wilderness experience without going too
far or paying.” This comment again shows an element of con-
sistency (and saturation) with the place attachment semi-struc-
tured results. She recommended limiting the numbers of camp-
sites to avoid overuse problems that she has witnessed around
the lake. She also said, “I think the toilet facilities are really
important to maintain, and even improve, in order to keep the
area clean.” She told the interviewers, “This is my life, this is
really important to me. What’s nice there is that you can really
get to a nice natural place. In the tribe that I’m from our church
is a lake on top of a mountain, and you find that out there. Most
people here are happy to share the area with people from the
cities, but often times they need to be educated about the impact
they have.”
There were some obvious thematic consistencies in the data
from both semi-structured and key-informant interview sets. In
general, both of those data sets demonstrated that people pro-
mote ideas that will protect the area from future damages. All
participants shared the desire to maintain the natural character
of LMRA. One related theme was the perception of unchecked
development as damaging. Every participant at the Little Molas
recreation area saw a need to fix erosion and stop the driving of
motorized vehicles beyond designated roads. The most com-
mon recommendations for solving this problem called for des-
ignated parking areas, and natural roadblocks to keep people
within acceptable use zones. A call for upgraded restroom fa-
cilities was another common theme. Two other common themes
were keeping the area free of fees and free of excess fire ring
control. The comparison of constructions from the semi-struc-
tured process and from the key informants shows the theme of
protection without excessive development. In general, it can be
concluded that further development is perceived to be poten-
tially just as destructive as current resource damages. Only a
small minority of users would like to the see the area turned
into a more developed camping area. This indicates that, from
the point of view of LMRA users, that planning option should
be dropped, especially since the option of developed camping is
available at another campground nearby. The recommended
course of action is to keep the Little Molas recreation area
primitive, while attempting to solve resource damage problems
with the least visible impacts.
The recommendations of the working group were similar to
the recommendations that emerged from the two interview
processes. Both groups of interview participants felt similarly
to the working group about the issues at Little Molas recreation
area on a number of recommendations. The recommendations
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. 173
of the working group showed evidence of consistency with the
desires of the semi-structured and key-informant participants in
the RA process. The working group proposed rehabilitating the
damaged resources. They proposed keeping the existing unde-
veloped and natural character of Little Molas, to accommodate
a variety of users interested in a less developed recreational
experience, and to keep Little Molas a non-fee camping area.
All of these themes were emergent from the narratives of both
the semi-structured interviews and the key informant interviews.
These consistencies found through triangulation of data collec-
tion methods are evidence that these opinions and desires rep-
resent the majority of user stakeholders who both value and
recreate at Little Molas. Results from all of the triangulated RA
data collection methods pointed toward a course of action that
can be followed and implemented easily and economically by
the Forest Service. The central lesson learned from the stake-
holders is that no one wants to see the Little Molas recreation
area destroyed; not by careless campers causing unchecked
erosion and resource damage or by management through de-
Beebe, J. (1995). Basic concepts and techniques of rapid appraisal.
Human Organization, 54, 42-51.
Belshaw, D. (1981). A theoretical framework for data-economizing
appraisal procedures, with applications to rural development plan-
ning. Bulletin, 2, 12-22.
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (1989). Com-
munity forestry: Rapid appraisal of tree and land tenure. Rome:
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
Carruthers, I., & R. Chambers (1981). Rapid appraisal for rural devel-
opment. Agricu l t u r al A d m i n i s tr a t i o n , 8 , 407-422.
Chambers, R. (1994). The origins and practice of participatory rural
appraisal. World Development, 2 2, 953-969.
Costello, P. J. M. (2003). Action research. London: Continuum.
Guba, E. G., & Lincoln, Y. S. (1989). Fourth generation evaluation.
Newbury Park, CA: Sage.
Jason, L. (2004). Participatory community research: Theories and meth-
ods in action. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
Kumar, K. (1993). Rapid appraisal methods. Washington DC: World
National Research Counsel (NRC) (1986). The special problem of cu-
mulative effects. Ecological knowledge and problem solving: Con-
cepts are case studies. Washington DC: National Academy Press.
Patterson, M. E., & Williams, D. R. (2004). An Interpretive paradigm
for collecting and analyzing data: Principles, methods, and case ex-
amples. Unpublished Report , 12-49.
Stringer, E. T. (1999). Action research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Pub-
USDA Forest Service (2003). Model of a forest plan. Volume 1, No-
vember 2003. Ft. Collins, CO: USDA.
USDA Forest Service (2003). Building a forest plan. Volume 2, No-
vember 2003. Ft. Collins, CO: USDA.
USDA Forest Service (2003). The adaptive planning process. Volume
3, March 2003. Ft. Co llins, CO: USDA.
Utarini, A. et al. (2001). Appraising studies in health using Rapid As-
sessment Procedures (RAP): Eleven critical criteria. Human Organi-
zation, 60, 390-400.
van Willigen, J. (2002). Applied anthropology an introduction. West-
port, CT: Bergin & Garvey.
van Willigen, J., & Finan, T. L. (Eds.) (1991). Soundings: Rapid and
reliable research methods for practicing anthropologists. Arlington,
VA: American Anthropological Association.
Wilkins, L., Swatman, P., & Castelman, T. (2004). Faster, Richer, bet-
ter: Rapid appraisal techniques for the study of IS implementation in
virtual communities. Th e Qualitative Report, 9, 161-175.