Botero, C., Pereira, C., Anfuso, A., Cervantes, O., Williams, A.T., Pranzini, E., Silva, C.P. 2014. Recreational parameters as an assessment tool for beach In: Green, A.N. and Cooper, J.A.G. (eds.), Proceedings 13th International Coastal Symposium (Durban, South Africa), Journal of Coastal Research, Special Issue No. 70, pp. 556–562 ISSN 0749-0208.
Beach quality can be understood according to uses established for this coastal system, the most common being tourism, fishing and conservation. This is especially true with regards to tourism, where quality is frequently measured with respect to two major areas: environmental and recreational. In 2002, an environmental quality index for tourist beaches was developed in Colombia, called ICAPTU (Índice de Calidad Ambiental en Playas Turísticas). ICAPTU had four indicators and eleven parameters, mainly focused in environmental aspects. In 2010, a research project started with the objective of updating ICAPTU with a more comprehensive scope, dividing environmental quality into three indicators: sanitary, eco-systemic and recreational. This research paper presents the progress on the design of five parameters considered in the newer version of ICAPTU, all related to recreational issues: a. Coastal Scenery, focused on an assessment tool tested in Europe, USA and Australia; b. Safety and security, measured from risk perception and real risk; c. Urbanization, related to ecosystem resilience to infrastructure on the shore; d. Zoning, understood as a spatial organization of beach activities; e. Environmental behaviour, assessed from a test focused on common attitudes of tourists when they visit the beach. These five parameters were used on-field techniques as a method for acquiring information. Several instruments were designed based on surveys, checklists and interpretation sheets. Every tool was applied and tested on Colombian beaches located in four Departments: La Guajira, Magdalena, Atlántico and Bolivar. Geospatial technologies are also explored as resources for improving the evaluation of beach environmental quality. Finally, this work concluded that beach quality can be assessed by recreational parameters, scientifically designed, supporting decision making of coastal zone management.