Wild to Tame: The Presentation and Experience of Nature at Four Madison Landmarks
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Our research deals with the recursive relationship between the presentation and experience of nature at four sites in Madison, Wisconsin. We attempt to understand how common conceptions of nature influence the unfolding of a landscape and conversely, the shaping of community values. In order to narrow our focus, we concentrated on four landmarks in Madison that may be arranged on a continuum of “wild” to “tame” in terms of the natural elements that appear in the design and public perceptions of each site. This paper compiles historical data, contemporary observations, onsite survey responses and interviews with facilitators and volunteers connected to each landmark. Analyzing these results with an understanding of “wild” and “tame” informed by the works of American Romantic writers such as John Muir and Henry David Thoreau, we discovered several inconsistencies in popular conceptions of these terms. However, despite the complexities we encountered and evidence pointing to the breakdown of constructed ideals of wild or tame nature, we are able to draw out clear community values from our research that are consistent across all four sites: nature as a restorative retreat or refuge, control over nature, and permanence of these landmarks on the Madison landscape.