Environmental Engineering Reference
In-Depth Information
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Parks and Public Enjoyment
Roberto Gambino
In 1857, F. L. Olmsted signed the project for the world's most famous urban
park, Central Park in New York, in the heart of Manhattan. A few years
later, he worked to promote and guide the establishment of USA's first large
natural park, Yosemite National Park in California. This noncasual con-
currence reflects and symbolizes, in the work and thoughts of one of the
fathers of environmentalism, the role of parks in the construction of the
modern industrial city. The polarization between urban parks and natural
parks characterizes the birth of the most effective tool for celebrating
nature in modern territorial development.
What combines and makes the two territorial figures complementary
is their “double mission:” the conservation of natural heritage and pub-
lic enjoyment . In the US lesson, as in subsequent European experience and
as an important part the rhetoric that accompanied park policies in the last
century, that double mission was full of meaning. On the one hand, it meant
that conservation was directed not only at the preservation of specific
resources, but also at the celebration of natural landscapes, their value, and
their symbolic and representative function, often with clear “monumental”
worth, analogous to the value of cultural heritage. Additionally, it guaran-
teed public enjoyment of “common goods,” saved from individual exploita-
tion and directed not only at the promotion of physical contact with
nature , in view of the well-being, health, and rights of citizens, but also at
their spiritual elevation and civic education.
The classical mission of parks has been confirmed, not without defi-
ciencies, conflicts, and contradictions, in the evolution of national and
international legislative and institutional frameworks for the protection of
nature, and, more generally, in new environmental and citizenship rights.
That mission has been put to the test due to the explosion of the environ-
mental question in all of its forms, and to the processes of globalization that
drive economic, social, and cultural dynamics. The conservation option has
clashed with processes of degradation and ecosystem fragmentation that
threaten biodiversity at all levels and with the retreat of universal values in
contemporary society. The protection of public enjoyment has become
much more difficult in relation to the diffusion and aggressive growth of
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