Conference paper
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Australian cities are increasingly important for the conservation of threatened species and their habitat, supporting more species per unit area than non-urban regions. Canberra is a case in point with its existing suburbs and greenfield developments occurring alongside nationally threatened ecological communities and species in the urban reserve network, Canberra Nature Park. At the same time, evidence is growing about the importance of access to nature for human health and well-being particularly in urban environments. Access to open space was part of the rationale for protection of the Capital’s landscape with most suburbs within walking distance of a nature reserve. Despite their multiple values, Canberra’s nature reserves are managed as bounded conservation units with limited reference to their other social values. Neighbours and recreational users are often framed as the source of conflict and disturbance.This qualitative research uses a case study of Mt Taylor Nature Reserve in Canberra Nature Park to explore how local people value and experience the reserve. It uses observational data to quantify users and their practices, and semi-structured interviews to distill meanings about the place and perspectives about management. The results reveal Mt Taylor is valued for amenity, recreation and nature-therapy. It is a ‘social’ egalitarian place fostering human connection and networks. Local users treasure the mountain and share legitimate concerns about its management. Given these strong social bonds, there is an opportunity to re-frame the way reserves are managed, to harness these attachments and align programs to benefit urban users and nature conservation.

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