Blue Index San Marcos: Emotional Experiences, Values, and Use Patterns of Waterscapes in San Marcos, Texas
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Waterscapes can have profound benefits on people’s well-being and mental health, such as helping people feel calmer and more connected to nature. The COVID-19 pandemic impacted the ways we use and relate to urban waterscapes. The San Marcos River and its tributaries provide economic, social, and environmental benefits to the surrounding community of San Marcos, Texas, USA. I designed a study to answer the following research questions: (1) How do emotions and values associated with waterscapes relate to behavior and patterns of use? (2) How are experiences of waterscapes spatially distributed and how do waterscape characteristics influence this distribution? (3) How has the COVID-19 pandemic influenced people’s experiences of waterscapes in San Marcos? Using 10 photo stations with QR codes, I collected online survey data from 567 volunteer participants across various waterscapes in San Marcos. I aim to quantify and spatially represent the emotional benefits, valuations, and patterns of use of San Marcos waterscapes through measures of emotions experienced at a site, what is important about that site, and reason for visiting. People valued waterscapes for ecological benefits and in terms of relationships with place, rather than for recreation and tourism. 87% of participants perceive waterscapes as refuges from stress and social isolation, and 57% of participants use them more frequently. This study establishes a framework of non-contact landscape reporting through remote photo and survey data collection that amplifies the voices of the community and provides valuable citizen science data to city planners and resource managers.