Lynn A Staeheli in a chapter titled “Place” explains why the word “place could easily be one of the most contested terms in human geography.” She suggests that the controversy could be caused by three different reasons. The first being the “feelings and emotions evoked by the term — home, rootedness, order, setting, context.” The second being that since place has been used “In different ways by proponents of various epistemologies and theories” it might cause a large range of variance in meaning. While the third is that the difference in connotations by different peoples could be because “place seems to depend on one’s social role.” Throughout her chapter, she examines each aspect thoroughly.
Specifically Staeheli’s ideas of “place as a cultural and/or social location” and “place as context” seem to work together in order to make up the atmosphere of Boulevard Park in Bellingham, Washington. Boulevard Park as a cultural location matches Bellingham as a whole. It can be seen as place for casual athletic activity similar to how Bellingham has a large portion of fitness-oriented people who enjoy sports, outdoor adventures, and working out. If you sit on a bench at the park, you will see many different types of athletes pass by, as if the only purpose of the park is for exercise. But this phenomenon is just the culture of the park because of its context in a fit city. Therefore since context and social atmosphere are interconnected, you will find that what is happening here matches the demographics.
Staeheli says that “social locations…are associated with real, physical places within cities and regions” She then goes on to explain how “the certain kinds of people or activities may be thought as “belonging” to certain kinds of places — as being “in place.” Therefore since Boulevard Park is the “physical place” while the “social location” is one of fitness, athletics “belong” or are “in place” at the park. The social atmosphere of most places match the context of its surroundings. For example the amount of parties a house has depends on how outgoing and accommodating the homeowners are or the vibe a student gets at an on-campus coffeehouse will be more youthful than a similar place off-campus because of the types of people at each location.
So if the context of the place determines what is happening there, does the opposite hold true where what is happening there affects the context of the surroundings as a whole? I think yes because Bellingham would not be as active, if it Mount Baker, the Chuckanuts, bodies of water, and parks like Boulevard Park that encourage exercise weren’t nearby. Staeheili says that “one’s social personality with respect to an area may influence political attitudes” supporting the idea that the active ways of the people encourage political support of protecting the ocean front, mountains, and public parks. This in turn creates more places like Boulevard Park which then provides opportunity for more people to use them as places to workout. In the end “place as a cultural and/or social location” and “place as context” reinforce each other encouraging a place to have one dominant characteristic.