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Nature in the city : an exploration of urban park planning in response to contemporary relationships… VanSiri, Gae 1997

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N A T U R E IN T H E CITY: An e x p l o r a t i o n of urban park p l a n n i n g i n response contemporary•relationships  to  w i t h the n a t u r a l , environment  by Gae VanSiri  B . S c , Acadia University, 1978 M.Ed., The University of Calgary, 1988  A THESIS SUBMITTED IN P A R T I A L F U L F I L M E N T OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF  DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY in THE F A C U L T Y OF G R A D U A T E STUDIES SCHOOL OF C O M M U N I T Y A N D REGIONAL P L A N N I N G  We accept this thesis as conforming to the required standard  THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH C O L U M B I A August 1997  © G a e VanSiri, 1997  In presenting this thesis in partial fulfilment  of the requirements for an advanced  degree at the University of British Columbia, I agree that the Library shall make it freely available for reference and study. I further agree that permission for extensive copying of this thesis for scholarly purposes may be granted by the head of my department  or  by his or  her  representatives.  It  is understood that  copying or  publication of this thesis for financial gain shall not be allowed without my written permission.  Department of;  ScW4  ( x ) H 4 H i a H 6 l % ^ ^  The University of British Columbia Vancouver, Canada  DE-6  (2/88)  l  a  n  K  ABSTRACT Nature in the City: An exploration of urban park planning in response to contemporary relationships with the natural environment  One of the fundamental roles that urban parks play is to serve as a reflection of public sentiment concerning relationships with nature. Within a shared social context, each person comes to her or his own understanding of an agreeable way to interact with the urban natural environment. The construction of this understanding is dynamic. It occurs as an ongoing process of internalization of culturally determined ethical perspectives and of reflection on experiences created through individual circumstance. Differences in this understanding shape different expectations for what is an appropriate way to relate to urban nature.  Addressing the array of simultaneously occurring expectations the public hasfor experiencing nature in the city is an-ongoing project in the planning and design of urban parks. This study makes a significant contribution to the challenges facing park planning in North America by documenting public ideas about the purpose, intent and use of urban natural area park land. It suggests a model for understanding the various relationships people have with the natural environment. The study suggests, as well, that the romanticized view of wilderness is profoundly influential in shaping urban nature. These concerns are explored within the general theoretical context of ideas about nature and creating meaning from experiences, and through analysis of results of a public survey conducted in Calgary, Alberta.  The model developed in this study presents a psychographic profile of four basic modes of interacting with nature and explains how these relationships are reflected in expectations for the provision of urban nature experiences. The Consumer, Adventurer, Steward and Guardian all are oriented differently toward the planning, care and management of urban natural area park land. Together they form a composite outlook on the urban natural environment that can best be described as cautious consumption. The study raises the possibility that subsequent research could work to explore shared expectations among the various orientations, especially concerning whether to leave more park land in a natural state or to continue to provide the traditional variety of park types in urban communities. It stresses the need to broaden planning goals to attend to sociocultural, biophysical, and psychological aspects of urban natural area parks. ii  TABLE OF CONTENTS ABSTRACT  ii  LIST OF T A B L E S  viii  LIST OF FIGURES  ix  ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS  .  xi  PART I: INTRODUCTION CHAPTER 1: Scope of the Study 1.1  Purpose and Objectives  1  1.2  Organization of the Dissertation  3  1.3  Overview of the Research Process  5  1.3.1  Rationale  5  1.3.2  Assumptions.  11 Experience Takes Place Within a Social Context  1.4  Individuals Create Meaning Interactions Reflect a Sense of Self Past Experiences Influence Future Engagements with the Environment The Calgary Context ..'  12 12 14 15 17  C H A P T E R 2: Dimensions of Park Planning . .,.  25  2.1  Overview  25  2.2  The Pressure on Urban Parks  2.3  2.4  ,  2.2.1  Questioning the Value of Urban Park Land  2.2.2  Identifying the Function of Urban Parks  2.2.3  Assessing the Benefit of Urban Parks  25 25 . 27 28  The Social Construction of Park Images and Meaning  30  2.3.1  Negotiating Relationships with the Urban Natural Environment  30  2.3.2  Producing Landscape Images  31  2.3.3  Creating Meaning in Urban Nature  t  33  The Need for Urban Parks  35  2.4.1  35  Legal Rationalization of Urban Parks iii  2.5  2.4.2 Psychological Rationalization of Urban Parks  38  Summary  41  PART IT. T H E CONCEPT OF N A T U R E CHAPTER 3: Culture, Meaning, and the Idea of Nature 3.1  Introduction  43  3.2  Interpreting the Nature Experience  45  3.2.1  Social Context  45  3.2.2  Private Purpose  48  3.2.3  Social Meaning  52  3.3  3.4  3.5  The Idea of Nature  57  3.3.1  Nature as Process: Defining Reality  57  3.3.2  Nature as Object: Dualistic Legacy  62  3.3.3  Nature as Obligation: Stewardship Impulse  66  3.3.4  Summary  69  The Wilderness as Process/Product of N/nature  70  3.4.1  Transforming the Wilderness Idea  71  3.4.2  Layering the Meaning of Wilderness  73  3.4.3  Contemporary Views on the Wilderness  75  Conclusion  80  PART HI: N A T U R E IN THE CITY - S U R V E Y RESULTS CHAPTER 4: Survey Background and Methodology  84  4.1  Introduction  84  4.1.1  84  4.2  Background  Study Method  88  4.2.1  Focus Group Interviews  88  4.2.2  Self-Administered Mail Questionnaire  91  4.2.3  Survey Sample  95  4.2.4 Data Processing  97  iv  C H A P T E R 5: A Review of Respondent Characteristics and Opinions  98  5.1  Introduction  98  5.2  Demographics  98  5.2.1  Age  98  5.2.2  Gender  100  5.2.3  Ethnic Heritage  102  5.2.4  Education and Income  103  5.2.5  Household and Residency  104  5.2.6  Geographic Community  105  5.2.7  Demographic Summary  108  5.3  5.4  5.5  Behaviours  110  5.3.1  Last Natural Area Visited  110  5.3.2  Frequency of Use of Urban Natural Area Park Land  112  Public Opinion  114  5.4.1  Strategies for Preserving Natural Area Park Land  115  5.4.2  Priority of Funding for Natural Area Park Land  117  5.4.3  Benefits of Urban Nature  119  5.4.4  Basic Viewpoint on Urban Nature  123  5.4.5  Conflicts Over the Use of Natural Area Park Land  125  5.4.6  Referendum-Style Question  128  Summary  130  CHAPTER 6: Nature in the City: A Review of Public Sentiment  132  6.1  Introduction  132  6.2  Describing the Urban Nature Experience  132  6.3  Analysis of Meaning: "For me, nature in the city is . . ."  139  6.3.1  Theme 1: Restorative Powers of Urban Nature  140  6.3.2  Theme 2: Awareness of Wildlife in the City  142  6.3.3  Theme 3: Providing a Balance in City Living  146  6.3.4 Theme 4: Enjoying Outdoor Recreation Settings  v  148  6.3.5 6.4  Theme 5: Focus on Family Time  Summary  151 155  PART IV: DIMENSIONS OF THE U R B A N N A T U R E EXPERIENCE C H A P T E R 7: Ethical Perspectives on Urban Nature  158  7.1  Introduction  158  7.2  Interaction with the Urban Natural Environment  159  7.2.1  Preservation Strategies  162  7.2.2  The Integration of Human and Environment Interests  165  7.2.2.i Integration of Interests: Gender Differences  166  Summary  168  7.2.3 7.3  Intentions to Relate to Urban Nature  169  7.3.1  175  Intentions, Ethics and Expectations for Urban Natural Areas  CHAPTER 8: Past Experience with the Urban Natural Environment  178  8.1  Introduction  178  8.2  Interpreting Meaning in the Urban Nature Experience  180  8.3  Benefits of the Urban Nature Experience  190  8.4  Affinity for Urban Nature  199  8.4.1  Attributes of the Categories  199  8.4.2  Affinity Profiles  201  8.4.3  Notes on Gender and Affinity  203  8.5  Summary  205  C H A P T E R 9: Social Context and Views on Nature  206  9.1  Introduction  206  9.2  Grid/Group Model  206  9.3  Views on the Natural Environment  208  9.4  Eco-affect Modes and Psychographic Type  212  9.5  Conclusion  221  vi  PART V : CONCLUSION C H A P T E R 10: Reflections on Planning the Urban Naturescape . . . .  225  10.1  Introduction  225  10.1.1 Park Planning Process  225  10.1.2 A n Overview of Significant Findings  227  Re-defining the Urban Nature Experience  229  10.2.1 Re-orienting Expectations  229  10.2.2 Re-forming Representations  236  10.2.3 Reconciling Relationships  , 242  10.2  10.3  10.4  Planning the Urban Nature Experience  250  10.3.1 Park Planning Models  250  10.3.2 Issues Requiring Further Research  253  Summation  255  REFERENCES I II  Books and Articles  257  Other Sources  276  APPENDICES I  Focus Group Transcripts  283  II  Self-Administered Mail Survey Pre-test Results  312  III  Self-Administered Mail Survey Questionnaire  322  IV  Referendum-Style Ballot Pre-test Results  V  :.  331  Nature in the City Survey Frequency Listings By Question  334  VI  Longitudinal Comparison of Support for Preservation Strategies  354  VII  Summary of Planners' Forum Round Table Discussion  355  VIII  Pulse on Parks Survey Overview . .  358  IX  Pulse on Parks Summary of Frequency Responses  370  X  Overview of Study Research Process .  375  vii  LIST OF T A B L E S  Table 1  Comparison of Household Distribution by Quadrant  106  Table 2  Comparison of Community Type  107  Table 3  Comparison of Proximity to Natural Area Park Land  108  Table 4  Viewpoint on Urban Nature  124  Table 5  Preliminary Analysis of Experience Themes  135  Table 6  Intentions in the Urban Nature Experience  170  Table 7  Gender Comparison of Meaning Orientations  184  Table 8  Comparison of Benefit Group Expectations  196  Table 9  Summary of Affinity Profiles  205  Table 10  Eco-affect and Psychographic Type  213  Table 11  Park Planning Models  252  viii  LIST O F FIGURES  Figure 1  Marketing residential subdivisions  6  Figure 2  A neighbour in her garden  9  Figure 3  Aerial photo of the Weaslehead  10  Figure 4  Fish Creek Park  18  Figure 5  Calgary's river valleys and natural areas . .  20  Figure 6  Pulse on Parks questionnaire  21  Figure 7  Commodification of Nature  32  Figure 8  Nose Hill Park rationalized boundaries  37  Figure 9  The Human Condition  54  Figure 10  A world in which the wilderness is increasingly rare  Figure 11  The urban nature experience  79  Figure 12  Nature in the City questionnaire . .  92  Figure 13  Nature in the City survey post card reminder  96  Figure 14  Comparison of age profiles  99  Figure 15  Pattern of response by community district  109  Figure 16  Nose Hill Park - Most frequent natural area recently visited  Ill  Figure 17  The ideal notion of urban nature - Woods Park  133  Figure 18  Opportunity to regain perspective - a local hiking trail  141  Figure 19  Appreciation of other life forms - geese along the river  143  Figure 20  Balancing nature and city - Prince's Island Park  146  Figure 21  Nature settings close to home - a short walk from the Bow River  149  Figure 22  Family time —walking through Confederation Park in the fall  151  Figure 23  Safe and controlled urban nature - Prairie Winds Park  153  Figure 24  "Wasted space?" . . . vacant land along the Bow River . . . ;  155  Figure 25  Intention to seek respite - contemplative and kinetic styles  173  Figure 26  Interpreting meaning - kinship and utility  185  Figure 27  Connecting affinity and expectations for interaction  202  Figure 28  Grid/Group theory and relationships with the urban natural environment.. 211  Figure 29  Psychographic types and Eco-affect  ix  •.  73  217  Figure 30  A relationship of cautious consumption - Inglewood Bird Sanctuary . . . . 222  Figure 31  Understanding human relationships with the urban natural environment... 226  Figure 32  The hyper-real experience of Devonian Gardens  230  Figure 33  Inglewood Wildlands - renewing human connections with nature  233  Figure 34  Storm water management - non-traditional park forms  239  Figure 35  Park naturalization process: less tidy, more natural  240  Figure 36  Comparison of support for preservation scores  243  Figure 37  Simultaneously occurring relationships with urban nature  244  Figure 38  Negotiating interests through park master planning  249  Figure 39  Longitudinal comparison of responses to preservation strategies  251  Figure 40  The Federal Government's promotion of biodiversity  254  x  ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS I'd like to take this opportunity to acknowledge and thank all of the groups and individuals who helped me achieve this personal milestone. M y appreciation goes out first to everyone who took part in the research. It extends to the thinkers and writers who have created and disseminated such a rich and thought-provoking legacy of knowledge in the area of understanding our relationship with the natural environment. This body of work never failed to spark my interest and enthusiasm. The management and administration of both Calgary Parks & Recreation and the School of Community and Regional Planning, U B C , need to be acknowledged for their flexibility and resource contributions as I worked on this project. Thank you especially to the members of my Supervising Committee for their willingness to be available beyond the call of duty. I appreciate your guidance and advice. I appreciate as well the unfailing support of my family and friends over the years as I faced this and other challenges. Specifically, I'd like to extend a sincere thank you to my friend Lorraine for her thoughtful and thorough consideration of many of my initial ideas, Theresa for her expert advice on process and method, and Ann for her technical support and proofreading. Thanks go as well to everyone on my team of local and long distance cheerleaders for their consistent interest and encouragement. I would especially like to acknowledge the friendship and assistance of Claire, Dennis, Caitlin and Megan. Since the beginning of this endeavour their home was my home. It truly would not have been possible to complete this project without their enduring generosity. Over the time that it took me to bring this project to fruition I had a number of non-human companions to help sustain my perspective. Some were not here when I began and others needed to leave before I was done, but all bring me great joy and allow me to extend and develop my own relationship with nature. Finally, I'd like to thank my husband and best friend Alister Thomas for often doing more than his share, for his technical expertise, and for lovingly just being there - always. This has truly been a community effort and I invite everyone involved to share in my sense of accomplishment (and relief) in having it done!  Gae VanSiri August, 1997  xi  PART I: INTRODUCTION CHAPTER 1 Scope of the Study 1.1 Purpose and Objectives This dissertation explores contemporary relationships with urban nature. The key issue is the pressure that natural area park land in cities is facing - pressure to be all things to all people, and pressure to be put to other more socially or economically productive uses. The problem is investigated through examining views on nature and the influence that these views have on park planning policies and practices. The situation in Calgary, Alberta provides a context for the study.  Parks serve as a reflection of public sentiment concerning contemporary understanding of relationships with nature. It is suggested that studying the affinity that people have for nature in the city, and analyzing the expectations that this affinity creates in terms of planning for urban natural area park land, provides an avenue to define this sentiment. Without an indication of collective sentiment concerning the affective aspects of park land in the urban environment, the more easily quantifiable and rationalized economic and ancillary functions of park land will tend to be seen as more beneficial to the public interest. For this reason, the study of human emotional interaction with the environment is relevant to the work of urban planners, landscape architects and others involved in planning urban parks and public spaces. The results can contribute to knowledge about the significance of natural area park land in the city.  The issue of natural areas in the city is of interest and importance from a number of perspectives undeveloped urban green space contributes to the socio-cultural, biophysical and psychological viability of human lifestyle and habitat. Coming to terms with any differences in understanding about relationships with the urban natural environment is important to the future of city life because of the contribution that natural area park land makes to fostering individual and community wellbeing (Bonnes, Aiello, and Grazia Ardone 1994).  The findings from this study suggest that contemporary relationships with the urban natural environment are complex and multi-dimensional. The range is from ultra-conservative to moderately radical orientations toward the provision of urban nature. Although traditional utility-  1  based perspectives dominate, these co-exist with relationships grounded in kinship and with expressions of ambivalence or hostility. But the predominate way of relating to urban nature is perhaps best described by the concept of cautious consumption. A relationship oriented towards cautious consumption of the urban natural environment is typically activity driven and place-based. It involves a fairly narrow and conventional range of nature experiences that produce predictable feelings of well-being. This wide range of interactions creates a variety of expectations for urban park development.  These ideas and issues are explored within a general theoretical context concerning ideas about nature and through analysis of results of a public survey administered to a random sample of Calgary households (see Appendix X for an overview of the research process). The public survey component uses opinions, reported behaviours and descriptive narrative in the analysis of the use and meaning of urban natural area park land. The discussion of theory related to humanenvironment relationships is based on a conventional literature review concerned with two main themes. The first is the influence of culture in providing a framework for interpreting meaning. The landscape - with park land as an essential component - is seen as a fundamental expression of human-environment interactions. The second is the role of experience in creating meaning from contact with the natural environment. The idea of nature, especially as it relates to understanding the notion of wilderness, provides a framework for studying the formation of expectations for experiencing urban nature.  Given that the major purpose of doing research in an applied area such as park planning is "to improve professional practice through gaining a better understanding of it" (Merriam and Simpson 1984, 100),1 research into these concerns can lead to a greater appreciation of the complexities of planning for natural area park land. By examining what factors contribute to relationships with urban nature and how these relationships are expressed through policy and practices concerning the provision of public natural area park land in the city, it might be possible to foster a vision of urban development which endorses widespread acceptance of the role that park land can play in creating and maintaining a healthy human habitat. 1 The citation provided by Merriam and Simpson is: Gordon Darkenwald. 1980. Field Research and Grounded Research Theory. In Changing Approaches to Studying Adult Education, eds. Huey B. Long, Roger Hiemstra and Associates, 69. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. The original source was not consulted.  2  With this goal in mind, the objectives for this study are: 1.  To review and synthesize the relevant literature on ideas about nature, cultural determinism, interpreting meaning, and park planning;  2.  To explore the ways people conceptualize and describe experiences with urban nature and to consider how these interpretations impact future expectations for nature experiences in the city;  3.  To develop a model which suggests and explains factors that influence the development of different human relationships with the urban natural environment;  4.  To assess public views concerning the planning of natural area park land in the city; and  5.  To propose ways for park planning to respond to these issues.  The question guiding the research is: What factors contribute to the development of relationships with the natural environment and how are these relationships reflected in expectations for the provision of urban natural area park land? The thesis is that within a particular social context, culturally determined environmental ethics and individually defined experiences with the natural environment combine to produce expectations for the appropriate care, management, and planning of urban natural area park land.  ^  1.2 Organization of the Dissertation This dissertation has ten chapters organized into five different parts. There is also a list of Reference sources, which appears following the last chapter, and nine appendices.  Part One has two chapters. Chapter 1 describes the research interests and objectives for the study. It provides an overview of the purpose, rationale, assumptions and methods of the research. The situation in Calgary is presented as a case study. Chapter 2 is a review of park planning concerns. It outlines the research problem in detail, drawing from the literature and from the author's professional experience as a park planner.  Part Two - which is comprised of Chapter 3 - provides a discussion of the theoretical framework as it applies to the idea of nature and the way in which meaning is produced from contact with the • 3  natural environment. Emphasis is on the notion that irrespective of the particular physical manifestations, nature is a cultural construct - ideas about nature respond to variations in human inclinations and understanding, and meanings vary in relation to changes in this understanding. The discussion also considers transformations in the idea of wilderness. It considers the possibility that urban nature is essentially seen as domesticated wilderness: people tend to remark on "nice" not "nasty" forms of nature, safe not wild, and accessible not remote or elusive manifestations of nature as appropriate or ideal representations of nature in the city.  Part Three has three chapters that describe the methodology and results of the Nature in the City public survey conducted in Calgary in the spring of 1995. Chapter 4 includes a thorough discussion of all questionnaire design and pretest methods. Chapter 5 reports on the demographic and forced-choice question results. It provides a comparison of the demographic profile of the survey respondents to the Calgary public in general. It also contains a preliminary analysis of question by question results, including the referendum-style question used to poll the sample on preferences for the provision of natural area park land. Chapter 6 is a content analysis of the openended question concerning the meaning that nature in the city has for people. Common themes are presented and discussed. Selected respondent narratives are profiled as examples of the variety of nature experiences that take place in the city.  Part Four has three chapters that provide an in depth analysis of the key concepts under consideration - affective responses and inclinations towards urban nature. The analysis talks about the factors that define relationships with nature in the city. Chapter 7 looks at similarities and differences in the intentions that people have for interaction with the urban natural environment. It explores ideas about nature as they relate to ethical understanding. The discussion specifically looks at the results in terms of public sentiments concerning the preservation of natural area park land as expressed in both this 1995 study and in one conducted in 1991. Chapter 8 considers the impact of past experience on interpreting the meaning and benefit of nature in the city. It discusses the different characteristics of groups displaying varying degrees of involvement with urban nature. Chapter 9 speculates on the influence that social context has on shaping affinity for nature. Through further manipulation of the data it synthesizes the analyses of results discussed in Chapters 7 and 8. This chapter also presents a model describing four possible psychographic  4  orientations to nature. Each is grounded in the context of a different social reality and implies a different affinity for nature based on ethics and experience. The model explains the diverse expectations that arise from differences in relationships with the natural environment.  Part Five has one chapter. Chapter 10 is the conclusion which considers the contributions that this study makes to understanding relationships with urban nature. It looks at the influence that the wilderness idea is having on shaping urban nature and speculates on the potential to reconcile the paradox of artificial naturalism. It discusses public expectations concerning appropriate interaction with nature in an urban context and the consequences of such expectations for the future provision of urban natural area park land. Finally, it considers the implications that these expectations have for planning natural area park land, asking whether there is a need to broaden planning goals to formally address socio-cultural, biophysical, and psychological aspects of urban nature.  1.3 Overview of the Research Process This section discusses the rationale and assumptions for the study. It argues the case for studying urban nature and outlines the points of understanding that guide the enquiry.  1.3.1 Rationale Research into urban nature experiences has focused on observing physical characteristics and arrangements of space through studies that work on the identification of peoples' preferences for 2  particular natural features and configurations. The primary intent is to inform open space design and management. Such an approach is meant to manage the appearance of a site rather than attend to its ecological, historical, cultural or personal significance. Studies in areas such as environmental psychology, landscape assessment, and urban and regional planning, which are in a  2  Perhaps most well-known in this area is the work of environmental psychologists Rachel and Stephen Kaplan. Their 1989 The Experience of Nature: A Psychological Perspective includes, in addition to a comprehensive presentation of the primarily cognitive aspects of the appreciation of natural environments, an appendix containing a summary of key preference studies. The Kaplans' work is behaviourist in orientation. It is not a good reflection of the critical theory approach to investigation that has worked its way through analysis of socio-cultural phenomena in the last ten years. The move toward consideration of ideas as well as things is better reflected in work related to public space design and management by Carr, Francis, Rivlin and Stone {Public Space 1992) in which the authors give full attention to the need to attend to the needs, rights and meanings being sought by the people who will ultimately be using, or experiencing the spaces. A truly post-modern perspective is offered by Thayer (1994) in his assessment of the ultimate impact of technology on our experience of, with, and in evolving urban landscapes/environments. 5  large part motivated by a concern over the quality of human-environment relationships, concentrate on how space is used rather than on what space means. The ultimate practical application of use assessment models is in the development of marketable residential, industrial, and commercial environments. The success of these market endeavours is based on certain assumptions. It assumes that human behaviour can be easily and accurately predicted and that people are essentially oblivious to context. It is also based on the belief that since certain environmental attributes are basically "theoretically interchangeable" commodities (Williams, Patterson and Roggenbuck 1992, 30), it is possible to reproduce specific environments anywhere. This commodity approach seeks to modify or customize the environment in the human-environment relationship (see Figure 1).  Figure 1  WAQKINA WITH T H E LAND: Designers of Glendale Meadows aim to preserve as much of the natural environment as possibl  Marketing residential subdivisions (Calgary Herald 13 July 1996)  Neil Evernden (1985) suggests that relationships are a basic condition of existence, and that the type of relationship one has with "the environment" (however it might be conceptualized), contributes to an overall context for the development of self-in-the-world. This context provides a reference point around which to construct meaning from personal experience. The traditional 6  approaches to analysis of human-environment relationships have more recently been supplemented 3  with work that looks at this experiential aspect of an encounter with a setting. Such work provides insights into the meaning that experience generates. It contributes to a better understanding of the changes which may be required to the human factors (such as rethinking of expectations) in the human-environment relationship.  Phenomenological and ethnographic methods, which use a detailed analysis of a small number of individual cases, contribute a rich source of data to understanding individual perspectives on environmental experience. Using a traditional quantitative method combined with components of such qualitative analysis, this study probes individual responses to experience with nature. While still relying on aggregate data for analysis, the study provides an opportunity for speculation and reflection on theory related to the role that interpretation of experience within a particular social context plays in creating and sustaining appropriate human-environment relationships.  4  In depth socio-cultural analysis (Cranz 1982) has found that park land in the city continues to afford one of the best opportunities for realizing public life in a community. Threats to the supply of urban open space result from a failure to fully recognize this capacity and potential in parks (Gold 1988). In being common ground, both literally and figuratively, parks can provide a place for people of all stations and circumstances to celebrate, communicate, and recreate. The equality of opportunity that urban park land provides is not lost on the public. For the most part, everyone is able to visit park areas in the city free of charge (even though it is theoretically possible to control access in a number of cases). This is recognized as an important benefit of urban natural areas (see Nature in the City survey results in subsequent chapters). 3  See for example Beringer (1992) concerning the role of experience in the formation of environmental ethics in adolescents. See also Patterson (1993) who suggests that experience is "an emergent narrative rather than a deterministically predictable outcome" (Patterson 1993, 122). His proposed paradigm for studying human action is "productive hermeneutics" which he describes as a meaning-based model portraying humans as active participants (rather than reflexive agents in a stimulus response relationship with the environment) in the construction of meaning from experience. 4  Although not speaking explicitly about experiences with the natural environment, Harvey notes that "[t]he path between the historical and geographical grounding of experience and the rigours of theory construction is hard to negotiate" (Harvey 1985, xvi). He suggests, as a consequence, that the functions of speculation - by which he means being intellectually innovative in our consideration of influences that act on interpretation of experience, and reflection - by which he means the critical evaluation of experience, are vital to the construction of new theory in the area of experience assessment.  7  Not as well recognized by the general public as an important concern is the tendency towards intensifying development on open spaces. The intensification of natural landscapes in particular is considered to be the single greatest contributor to loss of biodiversity in communities today (Poracsky and Houck 1994). In general, the role biodiversity has in sustaining human life is rapidly becoming the paramount environmental concern of the developed world community (Minister of Supply and Services Canada 1995). Current development processes, including those that result in the permanent loss of local open space, pose a serious threat to human habitat (Weaver and Kim 1994). The balance that urban open space gives to the more intense use of land in our cities is essential to supporting biodiversity in an urban context. Recently, the physical environment of a community has been shown to be especially valued by residents of Canada's urban centres (J. Patterson 1995). Not only is the natural landscape seen as fundamental to developing a unique sense of place (Johnston 1990), but citizens also intuitively feel that interaction with nature in the city has profound emotional benefit (Ulrich 1983). Urban park land otherwise seen to be vacant and underutilized is taking on new life in keeping with present public sensibilities concerning the preservation of natural environments. As a result, interest in the provision of urban natural area park land is becoming more intense in Canadian cities today (Dwyer 1995). An example of this increasing interest is growth in organizations such as the "Friends of —, " who rally around local park sites; the Evergreen Foundation, which looks at naturalization of school yards; and the Federal Government's Active Living - Go for Green! campaign, which supports a variety of local environmental initiatives.  For many people urban natural area park land may be the only chance they have to experience close contact with nature (Raglon 1993). Indeed, the proximity and convenience that nature in the city presents for people to experience the natural environment is a fully acknowledged contribution that urban natural area park land makes to the quality of life in a community (Calgary Parks & Recreation 1986). But perhaps the more compelling reason to study ideas about the protection of urban nature is that even very small bits and pieces of it (see Figure 2, next page) will suffice to provide city dwellers with a legitimate experience with nature (Gallagher 1993).The physical constraints on re-developing communities make space allocation an especially significant concern. These considerations combined with the fact that experience with nearby nature extends an  8  opportunity to build a generalized appreciation for the natural environment (Ibid.) are important reasons for interest in urban natural area park land.  Figure 2  A neighbour in her garden — a generalized appreciation of nature (Photo by the author) In terms of psychological contributions that parks make to the human condition, there is very little documentation that is directly concerned with studying the experience of urban nature. In fact, it has been noted in the past that there is an undeniable need for research into the experience of nature in an urban context (Kaplan, R. 1983). Work in the area of park planning has also found that, due to a failure to integrate open space into the essential framework of a community (Gold 1988), there is a growing trend to remove park land from the public domain. This trend towards the privatization of public land observed in American cities (Francis 1988) points to a reduction in the opportunity to experience nature in the city and supports the underlying assumption of this study that park land use value is being undermined in urban areas. There is work more specific to affective influences of urban parks that has for some years been looking into the meaning different public space has for people (see Carr, Francis, Rivlin and Stone 1992, for example). Studies such as one which found that there were differences in the perception that city administrators and residents had of local community open space (Francis 1987) contribute to our understanding about "the role open space plays in everyday urban life" (Ibid., 102). 9  The competition to maximize undeveloped park land is especially intense when there are apparent conflicts in civic needs. It can be difficult in such circumstances to establish political support for park uses. But whatever is decided about the function of parks is largely derived from the particular vision that city builders and residents have of their community (Cranz 1982). For example, the citizens of Calgary have recently started to take exception to overtly economic and utilitarian perspectives on the use of undeveloped park land. This was demonstrated this past year during public hearings for GoPlan - the City's long-range transportation plan. The Plan proposed to include additional river crossings through existing park areas. Although the crossings were designed to improve traffic flow as Calgary grows, they were hotly debated. Transportation planning in Calgary historically has tended to downplay the significance of both the environmental and psychological impact in selecting alignments. Routes are judged instead primarily on their economic and/or geophysical efficiency (Calgary Parks & Recreation 1994b). But public concern over proposals to disturb any existing natural area, especially the Weaslehead (Figure 3) - a unique natural area along the Elbow River within the city limits - as was proposed in the GoPlan, has been extensive and ultimately effective. In approving the new transportation Plan, City Council, for the time being at least, recognized the public's wishes not to include any new river crossings.  Figure 3  Aerial photo of the Weaslehead (Photo courtesy of Calgary Parks & Recreation) 10  As this case demonstrates, the Plan architects, who are likely experiencing the park environment in an intellectual context, tended to view it primarily as space to manipulate in constructing a viable and attractive urban fabric (Relph 1976). Some politicians or business people, on the other hand, experienced the park land as a commodity or investment and see the main benefit of the land in terms of political or economic opportunity it affords. Viewing space as an abstraction is a reflection of how institutionalized intervention produces space in cities (Rotenberg and McDonogh 1993). It suggests a certain degree of dissonance between what people who actually know a park as a unique and meaningful place experience and what planners understand the role of park land to be (Godbey, Grafee, and James 1993). It seems reasonable to suggest that those who use a park, and who are in direct contact with a particular physical environment, are more likely to appreciate the park for the experiences it provides.  These issues and concerns - the case for an experiential-based outlook on park planning, the differences in public sensibilities concerning appreciation of the natural environment, and the increased pressure on park space that results from its status as the "least cost" development option (More, Stevens, and Allen 1988, 139) - form the basis for interest in researching the connections between park planning and relationships with the urban natural environment. The next section considers the assumptions that underlie the investigation.  1.3.2  Assumptions  Considerable work has gone into identifying and describing preferred tastes in both natural and built form. This enables the construction or re-creation of urban and natural environments capable of providing satisfying experiences (Kaplan and Kaplan 1989; Lynch 1960). While such work is not without interest, this study does not speculate on what aspects of a particular environment might be associated with certain preferences and subsequently certain meanings. The analysis examines instead what people feel is meaningful. It is based on certain assumptions about the creation of meaning in experiences with the environment. These assumptions are: i)  that all environmental experience takes place within a social context (see Kuhn 1985; Weigert 1991);  ii)  that experience provides a situation or structure for interaction from which an individual creates meaning (Barton 1994; Patterson 1993);  11  iii)  that in choosing to engage in a certain experience with the natural environment, an individual seeks to reflect a particular sense of self (Bagozzi 1992; Epstein 1989; Haggard and Williams 1992; Wojciszke 1989); and  iv)  that past experiences have an influence on any current and future engagements with the environment (Berleant 1992; Gallagher 1993; Ittelson, Franck, and O'Hanlon 1976; Knopf 1983; Ladd 1977; Ulrich 1983; and Wilson 1980). Experience Takes Place Within a Social Context This study assumes, first and foremost, that human-environment interactions take place within a particular social context constraining the potential meanings that individuals might draw from engagement with the environment. The point has been made that experiences with nature are far more individualistic than other types of experience (McGinnis 1994). But there is shared knowledge of the variety of possible ways to understand nature in our culture. The experience of shared landscapes provides one such basis for common understanding. Landscapes represent a social group's "imagined relationship with nature" (Cosgrove 1984, 15). They are also indicative of a "historically specific way of experiencing the world" that is meaningful to a certain group of people (Ibid.).  Chapter 3 discusses in detail both the historical and contemporary shape of ideas about nature that contribute to common culturally-specific knowledge regarding experiences with the natural environment. The assumption that social context sets bounds on meaning is important in suggesting that there is a shared basis for the interpretation of experience. This point becomes significant when considering options for providing opportunities to experience nature in the city. Individuals Create Meaning Experience is a circumstance or situation which structures an individual's interaction with the environment. The thing that one experiences - a sensation, physical impact, imaginative impulse, and so on - carries no meaning in itself as an object of stimulation (Schellekens 1979), although it has been suggested that our actions in the environment are not without "natural" meaning (Weigert 1991). For example, a singular backcountry hiking experience may result in someone achieving a deep sense of exhilaration, producing a meaning related to personal well-being and competency, 12  but the accumulated impact on the environment of many experiencing this same event may have a meaning of reduced capacity of the environment to thrive. This is referred to as the physical or natural meanings resulting from human/environment interaction. As we do not easily grasp this kind of meaning in our actions, it has been suggested that the natural environment is increasingly at peril (Ibid.).  This study focuses on the interpreted, rather than natural or "physicalistic" meaning (Weigert's phrase). It assumes that meaning is not inherent in an act, but rather is in the mind of the person involved in the act (Barton 1994). If it is accepted that people create different meanings from interaction with the same environment, a local natural area park for example, it must be assumed that there is no generic meaning in an experience. But in the case of intentioned experiences, there is the possibility that an experience will already have an understood meaning for an individual. It is also possible that different individuals may sense the same meaning. These kinds of meanings are created through an anticipated outcome or expectation that a person or persons hopes to achieve by experiencing a particular environment. The meaning is formed by both the physical aspect of the landscape and an intention to relate to it (Von Maltzahn 1994).  The intentioned experience is comprised of a series of perceptions and judgments involving anticipation, manipulation, evaluation and integration, in which the person first focuses intention on the environment in question, then engages in an experience, processes the effects of involvement and consults personal scripts to situate meaning. Patterson (1993) cautions that it takes more than being able to determine an individual's point of view to be able to understand the context in which experience takes place. He suggests positivist research approaches force individuals to be too abstract and theoretical in reflecting on their experiences. Instead the emphasis should be on an assessment of narrative. This approach is context bound - recognizing that "experience is contextual, influenced by an individual's unique identities, current personal projects, recent past experiences and situational influences" (Patterson 1993,183) - and is a more appropriate method for studying meaning.  In assessing and reporting on an experience after the fact, people may be more or less aware of the influences that personal history and situational factors have on the way meaning is interpreted. The survey conducted for this study uses an open-ended question to explore meanings created from 13  experience with nature in the city. This is an attempt to allow the respondent to establish his or her own context from which to report meaning. But the influence of social context on the respondents' narratives must be extrapolated from theoretical conjecture and from the researcher's understanding of the local context for the urban nature experience. Those who look to social dynamics for explanations tend to use aggregate methods of research (Kuhn 1985). In this respect, this study categorizes the meanings individuals reported into common themes, not in order to identify generic meanings in the natural area park experience, but to look for shared intentions in experience that would result in common expectations being expressed about urban natural areas.  Experience requires active involvement of an agent with her or his environment. The involvement takes the form of ah ongoing exploration process in which a person continually situates his or her self in the world, by ordering impressions (Tuan 1977). It has been suggested that there are four common characteristics in the processing of experience that enable all individuals to gain an understanding of their world (Ittelson, Franck, and O'Hanlon 1976). The thought is that everyone essentially orients themselves to the environment in which they act in order to establish a satisfactory relationship with the world (Ibid.). People also establish basic categories for analysis, or ideas about causal connections of experience, that relate to their own particular needs, which become more complex over time (Op. cit). Everyone strives, as well, to establish his or her own sense of order and harmony, as he or she becomes more familiar with the potential conflicts involved in interactions with the environment (Ibid.). L