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Urban Park Restoration and the "Museumification" of Nature

Paul H. Gobster

Keywords: URBAN PARKS; ECOLOGICAL RESTORATION; NATURE EXPERIENCE; AUTHENTICITY; CHILDREN; LANDSCAPE CRITICISM

Ecological restoration is becoming an increasingly popular means of managing urban natural areas for human and environmental values. But although urban ecological restorations can foster unique, positive relationships between people and nature, the scope of these interactions is often restricted to particular activities and experiences, especially in city park settings. Drawing on personal experiences and research on urban park restorations in Chicago and San Francisco, I explore the phenomenon of this "museumification" in terms of its revision of landscape and land use history, how it presents nature through restoration design and implementation, and its potential impacts on the nature experiences of park users, particularly children. I conclude that although museum-type restorations might be necessary in some cases, alternative models for the management of urban natural areas may provide a better balance between goals of achieving authenticity in ecological restorations and authenticity of nature experiences.

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