The Longitudinal Dams : Exploring place attachment and Visions of Nature of recreationists along the Waal

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As a possible next step in ensuring the safety and sustainability of the Dutch river landscape, Rijkswaterstaat has initiated a pilot project called ‘longitudinal dams Waal’. These longitudinal dams are currently replacing some of the groynes in the Waal between the villages of Wamel and Ophemert, and are projected to combat dangerously high and low water levels, aid nature development, and provide a safer place to recreate. However, the fishermen and boaters along the Waal also face possible threats to their recreational activities. Groyne removal reduces opportunities for fishing, and the impacts on nature and flood safety are not uncontested. On a more emotional level, however, previous research indicates that human intervention in natural and restorative places can engender strong resistance. This thesis explores the emotional attachments of fishermen and boaters to nature in general, and to this trajectory of the Waal specifically. On the one hand, we make use of the concept of place attachment to investigate the bond these recreationists have with the area, such as their social attachments and their dependency on the area. On the other hand, we employ the theory of Visions of Nature to explore their lay philosophy of nature. This includes their valuation of nature, their images of nature, and their reflections on the human-nature relationship. We make use of a mixed methods design. We use quantitative data from a small-scale survey (N = 75) to run several factor analyses, and to explore relationships using contingency tables. We also conducted 8 in-depth interviews in order to provide further depth and understanding to our quantitative findings. In a separate chapter we reflect on the ontological and epistemological positioning of a mixed methods researcher. Our analysis of Visions of Nature indicates that our respondents greatly value nature, while making a clear distinction between wild and functional natures, with a third image deviating from our own model. Concerning the human-nature relationship, respondents most strongly adhere to a Guardianship image, combining the traditional Steward with the Participant. This Guardian is argued to be different from the one found in earlier studies. Concerning place attachment, respondents recognise some of the traditional dimensions of attachment to places, but also a different form of attachment that we refer to as belongingness. We also find that the fishermen in our sample are significantly more attached to the area than the boaters. Respondents’ evaluations of the intended measures are largely negative, with boaters being more optimistic than fishermen. Contingency tables reveal that especially Images of Nature, recreation role and trust in Rijkswaterstaat influence respondents’ evaluation of the intended measures.
Faculteit der Managementwetenschappen