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Title: Out in the country: sprawl and the quest for nature nearby

Author: Kaplan, Rachel; Austin, Maureen E.;

Date: 2004

Source: Landscape and Urban Planning 69(2004): 235-243

Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)

Description: Residential development at the rural fringe, although contributing to many environmental problems, is steadily attracting new homeowners. Among the appeals of living "out in the country" are being closer to "nature" and having "space." The purpose of this study is to examine what these concepts mean to individuals who decide to live in new commuter-based subdivisions. Study participants (N = 231), drawn from 18 residential communities in the same rural township, responded to a mailed survey that included 24 photographs of natural areas in communities such as theirs. In addition to having the scenes rated in terms of their similarity to the participants' own setting, the survey included other approaches to assessing the perception of the nearby natural setting. Responses to one of these, an open-ended question about describing their neighborhood to a friend, showed a strong preponderance of nature-related descriptions (33% of all items mentioned). Based on the other questions, a typology of seven distinct kinds of natural areas emerged: manicured/landscaped areas, trees, gardens, mowed areas, forest, open fields, and wetlands. Using these seven nature categories to predict participants' ratings of community satisfaction, regression analyses showed the overwhelming role played by the availability of forests. The forested scenes were also by far the most preferred. Yet forests are particularly vulnerable as new developments replace existing woodlands. The study thus points to the importance of finding ways to preserve the forested land, for environmental reasons as well as for the satisfactions derived from them by residents, neighbors, and visitors. Such protection of forests, as well as wetlands and open meadows, is more likely if these areas are seen by residents as being integral, communally owned parts of the overall development.

Keywords: Natural environment, Sprawl, Land use planning, Perception, Environmental preference, Forest

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Kaplan, Rachel ; Austin, Maureen E. 2004. Out in the country: sprawl and the quest for nature nearby. Landscape and Urban Planning 69(2004): 235-243


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