Ask the Expert: Improving Access
Winter provides the perfect opportunity to evaluate access, one of the most practical yet overlooked aspects of sound property management, according to Bill Benton and Robert Chandler, founders of Evolved Outdoors. Their company advises land-intensive recreational businesses such as Bill Dance Signature Lakes and Deer Creek Lodge on how to maximize stewardship, quality of experience, value acceleration, and return on investment.
What’s a good approach for landowners looking to maximize a property’s value?
Too often, land management is split into two distinct camps. On the one hand you’ll have the biology and wildlife camp, which can be all about stewardship. Then there’s the financial camp, which is driven by the real estate market and sales value. A competent landowner needs to adopt an overall philosophy that combines the two to maximum effect.
Give us an example.
Consider access. Most landowners are guilty of simply using whatever roads are on the property they purchased. They do little to no analysis on how the roads run, and why they run the way they do.
What’s wrong with that?
There’s an emotional element to access that translates to value. When you pull onto a property, you want the “Wow!” factor, one that adds to the financial and aesthetic value of your land.
So how do you balance these two approaches?
From a stewardship perspective, roads should allow for wildlife sanctuaries, corridors, and viewing areas. Although you want convenient access to hunting, you also need to maintain contiguous blocks of excellent habitat. Poorly planned roads can degrade habitat, cause erosion, and create the potential for unwanted disturbance.
Why is this time of year a good time to consider access?
Winter allows you the opportunity to view your property without leaf obstruction. You can see the lay of the land in ways you can’t during the growing season. This is the best time to consider ways that access improvements can enhance both the ecological and financial value of your property. You may want to lay out roads to improve the visibility of lakes and ponds or consider separate routes for regular property maintenance and hunting. Access should be controlled to minimize excess or public traffic and to maximize a sense of exclusivity.
What about stewardship? What role does that play?
Always consider natural drainage by working with Mother Nature to minimize erosion. Remember, stewardship equals value, and well-designed access is an important part of that equation.
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