Ask the locals - urban land management driven by local perceptions of cultural benefits.
This paper summarizes a study which aims to explore new ways to measure cultural benefits in Riverside Park, an urban park in Southampton, UK. As people are integral to urban environments, the study wanted to recognise how local people's opinions can drive management of an urban green space, for current and future generations. A total of 52 people were asked to voice, in their own words, their views regarding the benefits they currently gain from the park. Using a method called a Public Participation Geographical Information System, they were asked to mark the location of each benefit on a map. The study then repeated the same exercise, showing each person images of an 'alternative state', a possible future vision of the park, which included a new white-water kayaking facility and landscaping, allowing to compare answers for the two states. Allowing people to explain the benefits they gain from the park in their own words revealed stories, opinions and preferences in personal detail, and by sorting opinions into positive and negative ideas, trade-offs around the park were identified. Mapping also revealed 'hotspots' of use, indicating areas where development may cause contention between stakeholder groups. With this information, land managers will be better equipped to find the best compromise, to preserve current cultural benefits and maximise use of the green space, in Riverside Park and in other parks, for generations to come.