Researchers explore place meanings surrounding UW Arboretum as a public natural area

LSC doctoral candidate James T. Spartz, working with Assistant Professor Bret Shaw, recently published a paper exploring the varied and sometimes conflicting meanings associated with the UW Arboretum as a public natural area.

Their article, “Place Meanings Surrounding an Urban Natural Area: A Qualitative Inquiry,” appears in the December 2011 issue of the Journal of Environmental Psychology.

Spartz and Shaw found that an integrative model of “Arboretum Meanings” emerged from the data. Use of this urban natural area was often associated with a deep appreciation of its biodiversity, as a location for sanctuary or escape, a place for recreation and exercise, and as a meeting place for friends and family. Themes of concern that arose through this analysis included potential harm from invasive plants, deer overpopulation, and out-of-scale urban development on private property adjacent to the arboretum. The authors hope that results can help inform land managers and conservation advocacy group leaders toward a better understanding of their stakeholders, maintain the most desirable elements of urban natural areas, and reduce potential conflict resulting from divergent place meanings among user groups.

You can learn more about Spartz’ work on place in communication at his blog The Topophilian and follow him on Twitter at @JTspartz.