This paper presents current, peer-reviewed research about how to optimally manage urban parks and rivers. Each section, entitled by the name of the article I proceed to analyze, walks the audience through recommendations to implement as a response to various circumstances. Finally, this paper concludes that proper management can overcome all sorts of obstacles and leverage the potential of urban parks and rivers in a way that truly empowers humans to connect with the natural world while also preserving the sacred spaces.
The Societal Relevance of River Restoration
In this article, Jutta Deffner and Peter Haase (2018, 1-15) illustrated methods of deriving data to communicate the benefits of well-maintained urban environmental recreation areas. Deffner and Haase (2018, 1) described that because river restoration can be expensive, there is a conflict amongst stakeholders about the value of such investments. Here, the article implied that these tactics are particularly useful to overcome circumstances that involve limited funding or lack of project prioritization. From there, Deffner and Haase (2018, 1) sought out to investigate the social benefit of river restoration projects by conducting a study of (1) residents at three restored river sections in Germany and (2) residents living in the vicinity of 10 different restored river sections in three federal states.
The survey aimed to understand which activities local residents enjoy doing at restored river sections, how they evaluate the experience at site, and how they view costs of restoration (Deffner and Hasse 2018, 1). I agree with the researchers in terms of their inquiry into visitor judgement of their overall experiences and directly asking about their outlook on costs of restoration. The results showed that the population perceives river restoration as having great value (Deffner and Haase 2018, 1). Moreover, the interviewees considered the investments made by the public or sponsors to be predominantly useful (Deffner and Haase 2018, 1). The results implied that managers should target private investment as opposed to other ways of generating funds. The article’s viewpoint also highlighted that the results are highly valuable for water managers and politicians as the societal relevance of river restoration is a key factor in the ongoing public and political discussion about river restoration (Deffner and Haase 2018, 1).
The implication I found particularly interesting is that visitors have the ability to impact resources by communicating the benefits of these projects. The restoration actions that occur as a result of project approval ends up nourishing the resource. In other words, gathering this type of data for specific projects could be useful in generating the resources necessary to bring costly endeavors to fruition. I agree with the viewpoint in that it highlights that visitor related impacts to urban environmental recreation areas are not always negative.
Creating “People’s Park”: Toward a Redefinition of Urban Space
In her article, Erin Robinson (2019, 87-110) examined the development of a community garden in Buffalo, New York. The article’s general purpose was to analyze how the space provides meaning for the surrounding community (Robinson 2019, 87). Specifically, Robinson (2019, 87) asserted that how the project was initially organized influenced the potential environmental and social justice opportunities that could be created for community members, and thus its impact on the community dynamic. Robinson (2019, 87) went on to investigate how the project altered human social interaction in a community which, historically, has been racially and economically marginalized. The conclusion was that the place offered social spaces for experiential learning and other services (Robinson 2019, 110). However, the primary organizers did not include people who actually lived in the community (Robinson 2019, 110). Consequentially, the park lacked a crucial sense of community ownership (Robinson 2019, 110).
The scenario demonstrated the importance of not only public commentary, but even more so public involvement, during the initial stages of creating a new urban green space. Further, Robinson implied that involving marginalized populations in the decision-making early on is going to make it easier for managers to diversify their visitor population going forward. Additionally, I agree with Robinson’s recommendation to incorporate park users into the initial stages of decision-making because a large amount of staff is needed to maintain parks after they are established. The way to manifest that devotion is by honoring community members from the onset of the project.
The FIU Nature Preserve: Achieving Biological Conservation Through Diversification of Stakeholders
Suzanne Koptur and Alexandra Dutton (2017, 94-108) went on to depict how managers at the FIU Nature Preserve leveraged the park’s location to teach the community about South Florida’s rich natural history. By enhancing the facility to appeal to a larger target-audience and expanding educational programming for a wider array of participants, a dramatic increase in visitation took place (Koptur and Dutton 2017, 94). By looking at this area from a broader perspective— including those of a university administrator, a science professor, a college student, an investor, a police officer, a park manager, or a member of the general public — the new management envisioned many ways in which the nature preserve could be improved (Koptur and Dutton 2017, 97). The plan called for the preserve to grow in a number of ways such as revenues, facilities, programming, participants, and marketing (Koptur and Dutton 2017, 97). Visitation grew from less than 1000 people a year in 2010, to 30,586 in 2015 (Koptur and Dutton 2017, 94). These changes led the university to invest in and protect this forested park, which has long served as an important outdoor classroom for the FIU community (Koptur and Dutton 2017, 94). Throughout the article, Koptur and Dutton (2017, 94) imply that a park must be properly managed in order to provide a wealth of ecosystem services and instill a sense of place.
Koptur and Dutton (2017, 94-108) highlighted underutilization of a community park as a problem by framing it in the context of a park’s potential to connect people to their natural surroundings. Koptur and Dutton (2017, 95) emphasized that the greater the connection people feel to nature, the more likely they are to view themselves as conservationists and support environmental initiatives. It is interesting to consider the juxtaposition of this perspective and the viewpoints that address the over-utilization of a community park as a major challenge.
Long-Term Urban Park Ecological Restoration: A Case Study of Prospect Park, Brooklyn New York
Jessica DiCicco (2014, 314) acknowledged that, while they offer educational and cultural value, urban woodlands are under intense pressure human visitors and require restorative management to continue to provide these functions. Since the early 1990s, Prospect Park’s managers have actively implemented a woodland restoration program that serves as a model for long-term urban restoration (DiCicco 2014, 314). The program has included removing invasive plants, stabilizing eroding soils, planting native vegetation, and redirecting the flow of visitors through the woodlands with improved trails and fences (DiCicco 2014, 314). Similar to Koptur and Dutton, DiCicco (2014, 314) emphasized that the true strength of the plan has been the employment of a diverse and dedicated staff. Dicicco (2014) went on to convey it was supported by dedicated funding, practicing adaptive management and restoration in Prospect Park’s woodlands (DiCicco 2014, 314). Also, managers found that restoration would only be successful with a long-term commitment and continual, incremental restoration work (DiCicco 2014, 314). Given the constant stresses on urban woodlands, DiCicco (2014, 314) implied that ecosystem management in perpetuity is crucial to maintain a healthy forest in the middle of the city.
I found it interesting that DiCicco did not respond to her assertion regarding high quantities of visitor use with ideas about the need to limit visitation. Rather than focusing on preservation, DiCicco outlined a plethora of strategies that Prospect Park managers used and emphasized the need to maintain the tactics overtime. The timelessness of DiCicco’s plan implies that the staff can endure all sorts of obstacles that arise as long as they are consistently using adaptive management techniques. DiCicco redefines environmental stewardship as a commitment to taking measures necessary to sustain visitation despite its impacts on the land. I agree with the viewpoint that managers are simply supporting ecosystems of urban green spaces return to balance while humans are in the process of engaging with it to discover their place in the mix. DiCicco (2014, 325) depicted it beautifully by saying that restoration represents an indefinitely long-term commitment of land, resources, and people. Understanding and implementing that orientation is necessary for success in urban park restoration.
The insight that the articles provide reveals the knowledge mangers have at their fingertips. By simply taking actions aligned with proven successful tactics, managers have the potential to overcome obstacles that they encounter at various stages of a nature preserve’s existence. The next step is for mangers to understand how characteristics about a certain place in question relate to these case studies. All of the articles illustrated that the composition of stakeholders in restoration projects determine its success. Particularly in the urban context, the public can alleviate funding struggles by communicating the benefits of restoration programs and directly being a significant source of financial support. Recognizing the public population’s important role in the project’s approval needs to be grounds for involving them in the decision- making so that managers establish community ownership. From there, continuing to build a strong management staff can help in terms of expanding the diversity of recreation activity types and addressing the complex array of issues that hold a project back from connecting visitors with pristine areas. Finally, managers must take complete accountability despite overcrowding issues. The last article beautifully conveys that managers are capable of maintaining balance in a given ecosystem as long as they consistently carry out measures to support it. This paper serves as a guide for managers with a long-term vision who are committed to nourishing a given area. Great management entails diligent implementation of these sound tactics at the various stages of the process. Insofar as the management actually uses the same strategies, the same outcomes are going to happen. The availability of the historically successful methods offer a sense of hope for the future of natural resource management.
Deffner, Jutter and Peter Haase. 2018. “The Societal Relevance of River Restoration”. Ecology and Society. 23(4): 1-15.
DiCicco, Jessica. 2014. “Long-Term Urban Park Ecological Restoration: A Case Study of Prospect Park, Brooklyn, New York”. Ecological Restoration. 32(3): 314-326.
Koptur, Suzanne and Alexandra Dutton. 2017. “The FIU Nature Preserve: Achieving Biological Conservation Through Diversification of Stakeholders”. Southeastern Naturalist. 16(10): 94-108.
Robison, Erin. 2019. “Creating ‘People’s Park’: Toward a Redefinition of Urban Space”. Human Ecology Review. 25(1): 87-110.