Friday, 16 May 2014

GEOG 2012 - Honey Harbor: Developing a Sense of Place

Honey Harbor: Developing a Sense of Place
Monica Taylor - 4522884
TA: Amanda Amore
Submission Date: Thursday October 18, 2012
Brock University

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Honey Harbor: Developing a Sense of Place

Within the district municipality of Muskoka is a harbor town that, although small in size, provides a gateway to an incredible expanse of Georgian Bay waters and lifestyle. Honey Harbor serves as a launching point to the “30 000 islands that make up the Georgian Bay geography” (Honey Harbor, 2012). This town, with a population of 2124 (Census, 2012) serves as a base in this paper in the attempt to understand how this community can create a sense of place that expands itself far out into the expanse of cottages that line the waters and to the cottagers who use Honey Harbor as their marina and base for community and culture. In order to understand how sense of place is created, place itself must be defined and understood as the groundwork for creating a “sense of place”. Using three key features of personal experience as a cottager, the multiple layers of what creates a sense of place as well as constructing a working definition of what sense of place means to the culture of cottagers in that region will be assessed. First, using the physical landscape of water as means of travel to and from the cottage to the harbor creates the concept of place. A second layer is viewing the primal landscape of the region and a third layer is deconstructing how place based education is used to improve a sense of place for both locals and especially the seasonal cottagers.
A unique feature of Honey Harbor that assists in the creation of a sense of place is the water systems that are used by all cottagers and home owners to travel from one place to another. There is little road access which is a key element in understanding how place is developed. Yi Fu
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Tuan, in his book “Space and Place: The Perspective of Experience”, describes space as “requiring movement from a place to another place – a place requires space to be a place” (Tuan, 1977, p.9). The community feeling on the water of going from a place that has been developed as “home” (cottage or home) to the small town of Honey Harbor (marina) connects the two in one entity that can be described as a “place” that has significant meaning to all those who use it. Tuan describes this phenomenon well by saying “Movements are often directed toward, or repulsed by, objects and places. Hence space can be variously experiences as the relative location of objects or places, and – more abstractly – as the area defined by a network of places.” (Tuan, 1977, p.12).
Once the concept of place has been established, moving towards an understanding of how feelings, memories and experiences effect a process called experiential perspective. Using such a personal place, it is easy to see how ones experiences with a place over time can anchor a sense of belonging. The concept of being able to relate to the world through the space and place in which you call home and spend your time is essential in developing as a person. The cycle of place affecting a person and in turn, the person affecting space is something that can be seen in Honey Harbor. An example of this is how a group of children who were fascinated with the boats on the water and began to paint paintings of what they saw and interpreted and sold them at the local store “The Bee Hive” in Honey Harbor. These children have created a sense of meaning and belonging through interacting with the space created by the water which connects them from their home/cottage to the main land. Cresswell describes this “conception of place describes a way of relating to the world. It insists that people have the burden of making their own meaning
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in the world through their own actions. Key here is the idea of ‘experience’. It is this notion of experience that lies at the heart of the humanistic approach to place” (Cresswell, 2006, p.1).
Using personal experiences of primal landscape interaction assists in understanding how personally experiencing Honey Harbor throughout childhood develops a sense of place and how this development has implications for the space in the future. A primal landscape is defined by Measham as “landscapes that are concerned with the interaction that occurs between children and the environments in which they mature” (Measham, 2006, p.426)
Developing an attachment and meaning and in turn, sense of place, is directly influenced by learning about the environment around you. As a child, they have the ability to grow and learn about the world, that includes the landscapes available. Measham includes in his paper that “learning about our environments during childhood is strongly influenced by the direct experience of playing, as well as through the role of family, culture and community” (Measham, 2006, p.426). Honey Harbor, being such a small community, provides a unique experience for children as the community and culture is like a family. The learning and experiencing of landscape that happens throughout childhood is fostered by the community and family feeling. Many families are routed there and since cottages are usually passed down from generation to generation the attitudes and beliefs about the environment that are fostered in childhood caries on to adulthood. These adults are therefore more likely to feel that personal attachment and sense of place for Honey Harbor and make more personalized and caring decisions about environmental

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choices (for example: who to vote for in municipal elections based on environmental care, proper boating measures on the water, waste disposal and proper shoreline management).
This idea of place – based education is especially important for the area of Honey Harbor as we build upon the importance of the experiences of those who live in the town and cottage areas especially as children. Place – based education is an attempt to help communities solve community problems through using students and school staff of the area. Place – based education promotes the focus on local examples and learning, which is important in developing a sense of place. Many people begin thinking at a local level and very quickly forget the importance of that specific place as they move onto broader thinking in terms of global scale issues and solutions. It is within the best interest of the school and municipal community to foster the concept of sense of place in students and teaching them how to bring that love of place and understanding of the unique landscape around them into action. It is this primal instinct that can ensure the reservation of local tradition and landscape preservation because people who make these decisions uniquely care about these places. We can see place – based education at work in the small local school: The Honey Harbor Elementary school. They are part of a program called the “Group of Seven”, this committee is school board wide and has each school focus locally on the environmental uniqueness of place and the environmental issues at hand and how they, as student, and later in life as adults can make positive changes. The program provides students with materials and an opportunity to share their findings with other schools and other regions through a conference once a year.
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In conclusion, Honey Harbor, was used as an example of a landscape that has been transformed through the defining of space, primal landscape interaction and place based education in order to grasp the concept of what is sense of place. The local community of both permanent residences and seasonal cottagers will be able to make a difference in the preservation of the local landscape because of the unique sense of belonging and caring for the space and place around them. This study and understanding of landscape can be a productive way of exploring further implications that the environment can have on a community and on the culture present in the area. Honey Harbors gateway to the cottage lifestyle and beautiful Muskoka environments will continue to inspire future generations to develop their own sense of place through experiencing the landscapes around them.

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Cresswell, T. (2009). Place. Royal Holloway: University of London.
Honey Harbor. (2012, October 2). General format. Retrieved from
Measham, T.G. Learning about Environments: The Significance of Primal Landscapes       Journal: Earth and Environment Management. Volume 38, Number 3 (2006),       426-424.
Statistics Canada. (2011). 2011 Census of Population (Catalogue number 98-316-XWE).   Retrieved October 2, 2012 from Statistics Canada:   census-recensement/2011/dp-pd/prof/index.cfm?Lang=E
Tuan, Yi Fu. (1977). Space and Place: The Perspective of Experience. Minneapolis:           University of Minnesota Press.

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