Recreating Parks as Places for Restoration, Reconnection, and Reconciliation

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This integrative research study builds on the emerging theme of valuing parks for providing health benefits through experiences in nature, and explores how transdisciplinary inquiry can inform the role parks play connecting people to nature in the face of current global environmental challenges. The iterative research process drew upon several academic disciplines including environmental studies, health, social work, and education, and co-created knowledge with park managers and through conversations with Indigenous (Stoney Nakoda) elders. The study centered on a quasi-experimental field experience where 34 members of the public spent one hour in urban and remote natural sites—the latter presented as either sacred, undesignated nature, or as a park. Participants completed surveys on place preference and perceived health effects, attention restorativeness, and completed the Connection to Nature Scale instrument. Salivary cortisol samples were collected to assess physiological impacts of nature experiences. Though sample size was small, results provided a rich picture of how people perceived and were affected by experiences in natural settings. The study reveals a preference for remote natural sites, especially when presented as a park, and a spiritual connection with those places. It also reveals potential health effects of elements such as wind and rain, expands the definition health effects of nature to include contributions to wellbeing, and reveals a gap between health benefits of nature and reciprocal care of nature as well as a gap between park managers and the agencies they represent. Though challenging, transdisciplinary inquiry is shown to be a fruitful approach to exploring the role of parks in the Anthropocene. Finally, Indigenous collaboration in transdisciplinary park research offers a possible roadmap for connecting people to nature and a potential role for parks to play in reconciliation.
parks, protected areas, transdisciplinary, Indigenous, Health, connection to nature, Anthropocene, interdisciplinary
Carruthers Den Hoed, D. G. (2018). Recreating parks as places for restoration, reconnection, and reconciliation (Doctoral thesis, University of Calgary, Calgary, Canada). Retrieved from doi:10.11575/PRISM/31887