Encounters with Difference and Politics of Place: Meanings of Birdwatchers and Dog Walkers at a Multiple-Use Urban Forest
Graham, Taryn M.
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With a particular interest in birdwatchers and dog walkers, this case study explored place meanings of users at Westmount Summit Woods, a multiple-use urban forest located just west of downtown Montreal, Quebec, Canada. A document analysis was conducted on the research site, followed by data collected through online questionnaire. A total of 120 users participated in the online questionnaire, of which included birdwatchers (n=44), dog walkers (n=61), and the broader community (n=15). Three themes relating to place meaning were interpreted: (1) Attachment to and Preference for; (2) (Re)connection with Self and Others; and (3) Conflict Between and Within. Findings suggest encounters played key roles in the formation of social identity, capital, and conflict. Questions regarding access to and use of public space, how humans and animals are placed vis-à-vis one another, and ways to build civic culture out of difference were addressed. Following on from these findings, recommendations for outdoor recreation management and future research were offered.