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Perceptions about Environmental Use and Future Restoration of an Urban Estuary

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Recent interest in restoring urban ecosystems has engendered studies on public perceptions of these ecosystems and future land use. This paper examines the perceptions of people using the waterfront area of the New York/New Jersey harbour estuary about their use of the area, and how this environment could be improved. Pollution was viewed as the most important problem in New Jersey, and removing pollution was rated the most important way to improve the waterfront habitat. Using the remaining undeveloped area for natural habitat and to improve quality of life were rated as the most important uses of the waterfront. People valued the waterfront for walking, providing open green space, and as a place to commune with nature without people. Management options people favoured were removing pollution and cleaning up rubbish and adding educational signs and information brochures about the remaining, natural habitat. Age, income and education influenced which activities people said they undertook. For improvements to the waterfront: Hispanics rated adding educational signs and creating information brochures higher, Blacks rated building promenades as more important, and Asians and Whites rated improving habitat for birds and butterflies more important than others. The data indicate that the public has a firm understanding of the big picture (pollution in the region and locally), habitat improvement, and of the small improvements that can be done locally. Planners and managers could move forward on three fronts: source reduction, wildlife habitat improvement, and amenity (signs, brochures, cleaning up rubbish) development. Understanding how people use an environment, and wish to improve it, can provide valuable information for future restoration and management of urban environments generally, as well as for structuring a citizen advisory committee.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Division of Life Sciences, Center for Urban Restoration Ecology, Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences Institute, and Consortium for Risk Evaluation with Stakeholder Participation, 604 Allison Road, Rutgers University, Piscataway, NJ 08854-8082, USA. [email protected]

Publication date: May 1, 2003

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