Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Place meanings on the urban waterfront: a typology of stewardships


Johan P. Enqvist
Richard C. Stedman



Publication type:

Scientific Journal (JRNL)

Primary Station(s):

Northern Research Station


Sustainability Science


Civic engagement in environmental management is often seen as linked to sense of place, sometimes with an assumption— explicit or implicit—that strong place attachment promotes a deeper stewardship commitment. This study challenges this idea by arguing that stewardship can develop along different pathways depending on people's place meanings. We investigate sense of place and stewardship practices by examining three types of civic groups engaged in protecting and restoring waterfronts and water bodies in New York City: environmental groups, community groups and recreational groups. Using semi-structured interviews and Likert scale surveys, we assessed stewardship activities, place attachment and place meanings that group members (n = 31) associate with their site. Our findings show that place meanings help differentiate between groups based on how they currently view the site (as a place of work, a place of home, or a place of use), and the goals of their stewardship. Some groups work to restore what the place was previously, others work to protect what it currently is, while others work to transform their place into something new. These findings demonstrate how stewardship can develop along different pathways, and by taking place meanings into account we can extend knowledge about how sense of place is linked to behavior as well as better describe the different pathways. Place meanings thereby provide a basis for a typology of stewardships that helps describe different roles that civic engagement can take in environmental management.


Enqvist, Johan P.; Campbell, Lindsay K.; Stedman, Richard C.; Svendsen, Erika S. 2019. Place meanings on the urban waterfront: a typology of stewardships. Sustainability Science. 14(3): 589-605.


Publication Notes

  • 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.