In an era of rapid urbanization, a changing climate, and deepening political division, parks represent increasingly important places for urban residents to interact with, and feel connected to, the natural environment and the mental and physical health benefits it provides. Unfortunately, in an age of austerity politics, parks and recreation departments in Midwest Rust Belt cities often lack adequate funding to maintain such public spaces. Recently, the business-minded Rock Island, Illinois Department of Parks and Recreation has implemented a creative cost-saving management solution: “naturalizing” sections of its city parks. Using a mixed-methods approach, this interdisciplinary study aims to discover how the community members near two representative urban parks in Rock Island perceive this economically motivated “re-wilding” of long-manicured and domesticated urban nature. Resident reactions reveal enduring conceptions of a nature-culture divide, as well as the upper class, White ideologies that have historically shaped park construction and use in the United States.
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Copyright (c) 2021 Christian Elliott