As urbanization increases, so do the demands on public parks to serve multiple aesthetic, recreational, and ecological functions. Decisions about vegetation selection and management on parkland are complex and must reconcile the values of diverse user groups. Public land managers serve a key role in this decision-making process, though their perspectives are not well understood. We apply Ostrom's ‘action situation’ concepts from the Institutional Analysis and Development (IAD) framework to four focus group discussions with public land managers about the possible implementation of flowering bee lawns (turf areas seeded with low-growing flowers) to support pollinators. The 33 participants represented 24 local park departments throughout the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area. The public land managers’ descriptions highlight the intertwined roles that the public, elected officials, and maintenance staff play as stakeholders in vegetation change decisions. Participants’ narratives also illuminate the dynamics governing the decision to adopt a novel vegetation type on parkland and the strategies public land managers use to negotiate these situations. The anticipated prevailing public opinion of flowering bee lawns varied across communities, yet there was similarity across park systems in the kinds of tensions and dynamics they expected (e.g. pressure to reduce maintenance costs, growing public concern for bee conservation, public fears of bee stings). They responded with three strategies; most common was an active effort to educate the public and elected officials. In contrast, some advocated a more discreet approach, experimenting with flowering lawns at low-visibility sites where the public would be unlikely to notice. Finally, a third approach, not mentioned as frequently, was to promote flowering lawns as an effort to reduce mowing or the use of herbicides. Our findings shed light on public land managers’ understandings of the complex socio-ecological landscape that they must navigate to effect vegetation change.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
Thank you to Marla Spivak, Eric Watkins, MaryLynn Pulscher, and James Wolfin for their collaboration and insightful leadership of the wider research project. Thanks to Molly O’Connor for her outstanding support during the focus groups. Funding for this project was provided by the Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund as recommended by the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR). Dr. Kristen C. Nelson’s research is supported in part by NIFA McIntire-Stennis MAES MIN 42-069.
© 2020 Elsevier GmbH
- Bee conservation
- Green infrastructure
- Park management
- Urban vegetation