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Concepts and Measures of Place Meanings and Attachment

Concepts such as home and community imply an enduring and deeply emotional relationship to a place and people often form similar bonds with specific sites on public forests and wildlands. These bonds may grow simply from frequent use of a particular place on a forest or because some place has come to symbolize something important about a person's identity. With increasing public interest and involvement in natural resource decision making, land managing agencies need to develop measures and assessments of these emotional and symbolic meanings and attachments. Such assessments are particularly relevant in situations where there is a wide divergence of values and perspectives among stakeholders regarding the appropriate management. Research on social-symbolic meanings is advancing our understanding of how recreation activity participation contributes to psychological well-being; how attachments to places contribute to a sense of meaning, identity, and community; how attachments vary across culture and affect local management regimes; and how place meanings and attachments affect natural resource conflicts. A key outcome of this work has been the development of standardized questionnaire instruments designed to measure place attachment among recreation site visitors and community residents. These scales allow investigators to describe and quantify the nature and depth of meanings and attachments people have for any place or landscape at a range of geographic scales from campsite to community, and identify stakeholder groups with differing degrees and forms of attachment that may form the underlying basis of conflict between competing groups over natural resource management decisions. Place attachment is being used by land mangers to enhance scenic quality assessments, assist recreation managers with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission hydropower re-licensing process, and map public values in fuel treatment planning.

Measuring Place Attachment: Notes and Sample Questions

Notes on Measuring Recreational Place Attachment Measurement (1.8 MB PDF file)

Daniel R. Williams
September, 2000

Example Survey Questions for Measuring Place Attachment

See notes on measurement (above) for explanations and analysis of survey questions.

Selected Publications

  • Williams, D. R. (in press). Pluralities of place: A user's guide to place concepts, theories, and philosophies in natural resource management. In Kruger, L., and Hall, T. (eds.), Sense of Place in Recreation and Tourism Management (PNW-GTR-xxx) Portland , OR : USDA Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station.
  • Williams, D. R. (2004). Place-identity. In J. Jenkins and J. Pigram (eds.). Encyclopedia of leisure and outdoor recreation (pp. 367-368). London: Routledge.


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