Skip to Main Content
Stories, shrines, and symbols: Recognizing psycho-social-spiritual benefits of urban parks and natural areasAuthor(s): Erika S. Svendsen; Lindsay K. Campbell; Heather L. McMillen
Source: Journal of Ethnobiology. 36(4): 881-907.
Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)
Station: Northern Research Station
Download Publication (2.0 MB)
DescriptionUrban parklands are biological and social resources. While there is a growing recognition that park users interact with these resources to promote well-being, the diversity of these practices and benefits is not fully appreciated. Here we draw upon data from a social assessment of 40 New York City (NYC) parks spanning 11,200 acres and we focus on psycho-social-spiritual benefits that are co-produced by park users and parks. Our methods include interviews (n = 1,680), field observations, and photo documentation. Given our large and diverse sample, the data show that psycho-social-spiritual engagement with parkland is important across geographic, sociocultural, religious, and other identities throughout NYC. While specific practices may be culturally differentiated, we find that urban parks support psycho-social-spiritual well-being for a wide range of people who engage in practices that reflect personal desires to connect with nature and a larger reality, as well as via a broader set of practices focused on connecting with self and with others. Our approach is novel because it integrates data on park users from interviews, observations of activities, and material evidence of prior use of parklands. We describe our findings and present a typology of psycho-social-spiritual engagement with natural areas in NYC parklands. This study advances theoretical understandings of the psycho-social-spiritual as it manifests within the dynamic relationship between humans and the urban environment, raises questions about the implications of these findings for the management of social-ecological systems, and suggests future research that delves into the practices of specific cultural and park user groups.
- Check the Northern Research Station web site to request a printed copy of this publication.
- Our on-line publications are scanned and captured using Adobe Acrobat.
- During the capture process some typographical errors may occur.
- Please contact Sharon Hobrla, firstname.lastname@example.org if you notice any errors which make this publication unusable.
- We recommend that you also print this page and attach it to the printout of the article, to retain the full citation information.
- This article was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.
CitationSvendsen, Erika S.; Campbell, Lindsay K.; McMillen, Heather L. 2016. Stories, shrines, and symbols: Recognizing psycho-social-spiritual benefits of urban parks and natural areas. Journal of Ethnobiology. 36(4): 881-907.
Keywordsurban park, psycho-social-spiritual, well-being, New York City, social-ecological systems
- A social assessment of urban parkland: Analyzing park use and meaning to inform management and resilience planning
- Gathering in the city: an annotated bibliography and review of the literature about human-plant interactions in urban ecosystems
- Urban forest justice and the rights to wild foods, medicines, and materials in the city
XML: View XML