Access and Recreation Officer

The Job and What's Involved

Forest TrailAccess and recreation officers are responsible for managing public access, often in a defined geographical area or along a defined route (such as a National Trail).

Part of their work may include undertaking access surveys (monitoring use, damage and obstructions on public rights of way, sites and the wider access network). They may negotiate improvements and apply enforcement action where necessary. They may also be required to carry out remedial maintenance or develop programme's of work for colleagues or contractors. There may be times when strong negotiation skills are required to resolve conflict and meet the needs both of users of a right of way and of landowners.

Many access and recreation officers advise visitors about safe and responsible access to the countryside, lead guided walks and help to develop self-guided trails and related publications. Others may focus specifically on the legal definition of public access, processing formal changes to the network, researching alignments and status of routes, and maintaining a definitive map (which acts as a legal record of the public's right of way).

The tasks vary and can include:

  • Ensuring that all aspects of work are fully co-ordinated within the public rights of way network.
  • Surveying paths and undertaking maintenance work.
  • Organising and supervising tasks for maintenance contractors.
  • Preparing specifications for works to be completed.
  • Carrying out site visits.
  • Negotiating with land managers and a wide range of access user and other interest groups.
  • Implementing enforcement action when necessary.
  • Ensuring that any necessary permissions are granted for work to be completed.
  • Researching public records in order to find out about the alignment, use and status of a particular route.
  • Processing legal orders to update the definitive map, including related consultations.
  • Planning, leading and assessing volunteer work.
  • Planning, delivering and evaluating environmental projects, including the development of trails and access routes for a range of users.
  • Assisting groups to develop plans for collective action and contributing to these as necessary.
  • Developing strategies for raising awareness and increasing access.
  • Using database and mapping software to develop or improve digital information management and its availability to the public.

Access and recreation officers typically work a standard full-time week. However, the hours may vary, and weekend or bank holiday work can be required. There may be part-time, voluntary, self-employed and consultancy opportunities available.

Regardless of the season, work can be inside or outdoors in all weathers. Depending on the area covered, there may be a significant amount of traveling between different sites. A driving licence is therefore an essential requirement for many positions.

Officers are likely to be provided with protective clothing, tools and equipment required to undertake the job.

Starting salaries may be around £16,000 a year. With experience, officers may earn around £25,000 to £30,000 a year.

Officers in senior positions may earn in excess of £35,000.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

The amount of people working in this area is expected to grow as there is an increasing emphasis on promoting and raising awareness of access. Opportunities can be found in urban and rural areas throughout the UK. However, competition for paid work is intense and experience is essential.

Jobs can be found with local authority countryside services or highways departments, National Park Authorities and in National Trail management. Charitable trusts, such as The Woodland Trust and The National Trust have paid and voluntary positions. There are also jobs within some access organisations, private companies, land management organisations (e.g. the National Farmers' Union) and legal or consultancy firms.

Vacancies are advertised directly through the local or national press and on company web sites. There are also a number of countryside careers web sites that list job vacancies.

Education and Training

Many employers require a degree for entry into this career along with relevant countryside and access management experience.

There is a wide range of degree subjects relevant to conservation work, such as countryside and conservation management, environmental conservation and countryside recreation and tourism.

Sheffield Hallam University has developed a distance-learning Masters degree in public rights of way and countryside access management. This is offered in partnership with Institute of Public Rights of Way and Access Management (IPROW) and developed specifically for managers working in this area or those intending to enter the profession.

Work experience, including volunteering, is seen as being of considerable importance. Organisations such as the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers (BTCV) can provide further information.

The Diploma in environmental and land-based studies may be an advantageous qualification to have achieved prior to entry into further or higher education.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

IPROW offers its own training courses at all levels from introductory days to specialist subjects at an advanced level, as does the Rights of Way Law Review. BTCV and National Park Study centres also offer courses. Contact the organisations directly for more information.

It is essential to maintain an accurate and up-to-date knowledge of Public Rights of Way and access legislation.

There are also a range of courses available that provide useful skills for physical jobs in maintenance of rights of way, including controlling vegetation, building bridges, erecting gates, making steps and laying pitching. Check with local agricultural colleges for more information.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

Access and recreation officers should:

  • Have good interpersonal skills and be strong negotiators.
  • Have strong communication skills, both written and oral.
  • Be able to work under pressure.
  • Be able to prioritise.
  • Have initiative and self motivation.
  • Understand the legal basis of countryside access and recreation.
  • Be prepared to work outside in all conditions.
  • Be able to follow health and safety practices and procedures.
  • Be able to work alone or in a team.
  • Have good problem-solving skills.
  • Have project management skills and be able to maintain accurate records.
  • Have good ICT skills.

Your Long Term Prospects

With experience and relevant qualifications it is possible to progress to management or more senior positions. The career structure will vary depending on the size of the organisation. It may be necessary to seek opportunities with an alternative employer in order to progress.

Self-employed contract work, both on a practical and consultancy basis may also available.

There is also the possibility of specialising in an area of the work, such as definitive maps or enforcement. Opportunities will vary depending on the organisation.

Get Further Information

British Trust for Conservation Volunteers (BTCV),
Sedum House, Mallard Way, Doncaster DN4 8DB
Tel: 01302 388883
Website: www.btcv.org

The Byways and Bridleways Trust,
PO Box 117, Newcastle upon Tyne NE3 5YT
Website: www.bbtrust.org.uk

Countryside Management Association (CMA),
Writtle College, Lordship Road, Writtle, Chelmsford, Essex CM1 3RR
Tel: 01245 424116
Website: www.countrysidemanagement.org.uk

Institute of Public Rights of Way and Access Management (IPROW),
PO Box 78, Skipton BD23 4UP
Tel: 0700 078 2318
Website: www.iprow.co.uk

Landex. Land-based Colleges aspiring to excellence
Website: www.landex.org.uk

Lantra, Lantra House, Stoneleigh Park, Coventry, Warwickshire CV8 2LG
Tel: 0845 707 8007
Websites: www.lantra.co.uk www.lantracoursefinder.co.uk and www.afuturein.com

The National Trust, PO Box 39, Warrington WA5 7WD
Tel: 0844 800 1895
Website: www.nationaltrust.org.uk

Sheffield Hallam University, Howard Street, Sheffield S1 1WB
Tel: 0114 225 5555
Website: www.shu.ac.uk

The Woodland Trust, Autumn Park,
Dysart Road, Grantham, Lincolnshire NG31 6LL
Tel: 01476 581111
Website: www.woodlandtrust.org.uk

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