Managing Coastal Change in the Cultural Landscape: A Case Study in Yankeetown and Inglis, Florida | Michael Volk, Kathryn Frank and Belinda B. Nettles
Climate change, including the related phenomenon of global sea level rise, is transforming landscapes, exacerbating risks to human settlements and economies, and forcing societies not only to seek ways to mitigate changes, but also to adapt to the inevitable.1 Like other major drivers of landscape change, climate change, and adaptation to it, has significant cultural dimensions; however, these are often neglected in policy making due to their qualitative nature.2 At the community and regional scales, local adaptation policy making occurs within a land use planning framework. Such a framework could potentially incorporate cultural dimensions to achieve greater success through the concept of cultural landscapes, and specifically by considering how they are identified, what makes them significant, and how to maintain and manage change in these areas. It is the objective of this article to demonstrate this approach through a case study of an action research planning project conducted in Yankeetown and Inglis, adjacent small towns in a largely rural region along the Gulf coast of Florida.
The community and regional planning field is awakening to the importance of culture as a concern in planning, proposing it lately as a fourth pillar of sustainability alongside social, economic, and environmental concerns.3 Culture can be taken to “denote the social production and transmission of values and meaning.”4 Cultural aspects important to planning include “wellbeing, cohesion, capacity, engagement, belonging, [and] distinctiveness.”5 Cultural aspects with spatial components are known in the planning and design fields as cultural landscapes, connected to concepts of a sense of place and the vernacular. At the scale of community and regional planning, “significant cultural landscapes” with values at national and international scales are important, as are other cultural landscapes at site, neighborhood, corridor, and regional levels that are primarily appreciated by local residents for their social, economic, and physical characteristics.6 Randy Hester’s work in the small coastal town of Manteo, North Carolina, was one of the first examples of how a study of locally valued cultural landscapes, which he termed “sacred structures,” provided important information to help planners and designers understand what to protect.7 Indicative of the uniqueness of the local perspective, Hester found that a significant cultural site in the community was an empty lot where people gathered to talk.
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