Publication Details

A social science perspective on the forest preserves: Seven virtues for connecting people and nature

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Year Published

2015

Publication

In: Celebrating 100 Years of beauty in the forest preserves. Proceedings of a symposium; 2015 May 28; Chicago, IL. River Forest, IL: Forest Preserve District of Cook County, Illinois: 26-29.

Abstract

How do people perceive and value urban green space? In what ways do people's perceptions and values of urban nature affect their use and experience of parks, forest preserves, and other green space types? Knowing this information, how can green space planners, managers, and decision makers facilitate a better "fit" between people and nature in urban settings? Answering these and related questions has been a central goal of the Chicago Urban Field Station, a social science unit of the US Forest Service's Northern Research Station. Since 1978, the forest preserves have been an important outdoor laboratory for our study of people-nature interactions, from early assessments of recreational use (Young and Flowers, 1982) to current studies of expert decision making and public support for ecological restoration practices (Watkins et al., 2015; Westphal et al., 2014). While it would be difficult to summarize this breadth of work here, the centennial of the Cook County Forest Preserves provides a fitting occasion to reflect upon some of the key themes drawn from it and related work, and from my personal observations as a researcher and visitor to the preserves over the last three decades. I refer to these key themes as "virtues" and of the seven I identify here, three underscore themes upon which the system was established a century ago: beauty, naturalness, and access. Four other virtues are less apparent in the foundational writings creating the preserves but have gained prominence in more recent times: cleanness, safety, health, and compatibility. Surely these aren't the only ones that matter, and their brief description here doesn't do justice to their nuances and connections to each other. I do, however, believe that all seven are needed to guide the preserves now and as they enter their next century.

Citation

Gobster, Paul H. 2015. A social science perspective on the forest preserves: Seven virtues for connecting people and nature. In: Celebrating 100 Years of beauty in the forest preserves. Proceedings of a symposium; 2015 May 28; Chicago, IL. River Forest, IL: Forest Preserve District of Cook County, Illinois: 26-29.

Last updated on: June 12, 2015