Sense of Place Impacts for Rural Residents in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta
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Physical and social changes can challenge residents’ sense of place, especially in rural areas. This research examines how proposed large-scale landscape changes may affect sense of place for rural residents within the Sacramento–San Joaquin Delta (Delta) and possible means of managing and conserving this sense of place during the proposed changes. To examine these questions, I conducted a content analysis of public comments from various planning processes since 2000 and interviews with “place” representatives to understand the current residents’ sense of place. Sense of place is described in terms of residents’ values and beliefs, and explained further in terms of place identity, place meanings, and place attachment. Among the attributes I found, which contribute to a deep sense of place for residents, were a high level of distinctiveness of place features, agricultural heritage, political exchanges, and very little physical change in the last 20 years due to land use restrictions. I also found that residents’ sense of place has been impacted by the reappearance of a past politically contested water infrastructure project, and the uncertainty of the potential loss of homes and agricultural land. The potential loss of agricultural land and degraded water quality were also found to impact the values that are interwoven into the social fabric of rural communities and local place identity. Strong emotional sentiments of multigenerational family ties, livelihood, love and stewardship of land and water, and the continued existence of rural communities were expressed by residents opposed to eminent domain for a water infrastructure project and the conversion of agricultural land for habitat restoration. These sentiments indicate the potential for the severing of strong bonds that residents have with the Delta and its people. I provide recommendations on how to incorporate Delta resident’s sense of place into planning and decision-making, strengthen internal and external place identity, communicate place meanings and values, and recognize the loss of sense of place during the implementation of proposed changes.
CitationSmith, Natalie (2013). Sense of Place Impacts for Rural Residents in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. Master's project, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/6910.
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Rights for Collection: Nicholas School of the Environment