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published: March 2004
Guadalajara City Parks
Ana Isabel Ramírez-Quintana-Carr, and Margarita Anaya-Corona, University of Guadalajara, Mexico
"Guadalajara city parks" ("Los parques de mi ciudad") is an environmental interpretation project that shows in a creative way the seven largest parks of this Mexican city. The site promotes the appreciation of the city parks and includes general information, services, history and a large collection of pictures. This is a joint effort of the College of Agriculture, Biology and Animal Sciences, and the College of Social Sciences and Humanities, at the University of Guadalajara. The previous work includes a book published in 2001. After the book was published the use of the Web is a natural extension for this project. Several objectives are met here that go from facilitating basic information to promote visitation; from providing information to promoting actions to protect and demand improvement of this areas, and other ones in the city. The parks featured are: Agua Azul, Colomos, Barranca Oblatos, Metropolitano, Montenegro, El Centinela, y La Primavera.
Key words: Guadalajara, parks, recreation, Mexico, environmental education, environmental interpretation.
The Guadalajara Metropolitan Area has a population of roughly four million (INEGI, 2002) in the heart of the state of Jalisco in a valley called Valle de Atemajac. The city is part of the Central-Western region of México and is regarded as being rich historically. The city is also rich in natural resources around it which provide a privileged environment. It has been a cosmopolitan city ever since its creation and has been a tourist attraction with a tradition of 450 years. Thanks to its geographical position it plays a strategic role for socio-economic purposes since it is in between two important mountain systems: (a) Sierra Madre Occidental, and (b) Eje Neovolcánico.
Guadalajara has an extension of 550 squared kilometers according to Barrera, Gómez, Sustay, Corona, and Sierra (1992). The ratio of green areas per resident is 4.8 squared meters. This ratio is regarded as very low if we consider that the World Health Organization estimates as optimal as much as 10 squared meters per resident. This difference is considered an indicator of loss in the quality of life for the citizens. This is why the conservation, improvement, and expansion of green areas destined to recreation and landscaping is a very high priority. The parks are natural elements in the urban setting that, combined with artificial elements, provide opportunities for the society to re-create. Also, the city parks are regarded as buffer areas that absorb some of the effects of the contamination of the environment within the city. Besides that, the parks are necessary for the society in the urban context for they are created because of social needs; for the same reason the parks are indicators that mirror the social transformations that cities undergo with the passage of the time. The parks sometimes perform specific roles for different reasons such as physiological features, socio-political, cultural, or sports related features.
The seven parks that are featured in this site are (1) Parque Agua Azul, (2) Parque Bosque Los Colomos, (3) Parque Barranca Barranca Oblatos Huentitán, (4) Parque Metropolitano, (5) Parque Roberto Montenegro, (6) Parque Bosque El Centinela, y (7) bosque La Primavera. These parks represent a combination of several kinds of uses and management types. This is the result of two circumstances that can be summarized as: (1) the location of the parks inside the city according to the county where they are located (Guadalajara, Zapopan, and El Salto), and (2) the kind of administration that is in charge of their management of the park which could be county, state government or an appointed board. The seven parks that have been selected for the Web have a common characteristic: they are some of the largest in the city (5 hectares or more). Also they are better kept by their managers and/or have a better condition regarding the gardens, trees, wild animals and plants, playgrounds, and other equipment for recreation, education, sports and cultural activities. The available infrastructure is information that was not readily available before. As of today there is no other site in the Web that represents the parks of the city of Guadalajara that this site could compare with, let alone that provides specialized information. The site that we are presenting can be accessed both using the English name and/or the Spanish one: www.parquesguadalajara.udg.mx and www.guadalajaraparks.udg.mx
This effort combines research from two groups at the University of Guadalajara (U of G). One of these research groups is in the Department of Geography and Land Management and was started in the year 2000 when a project was developed to diagnose the situation of the urban parks in the Metropolitan Zone of Guadalajara. Another research group, in the Department of Environmental Sciences, was started in 1995, and is conducting research to identify environmental perceptions related to availability and quality of the parks in the city and uses of free time (Carr, 1995; Carr, 2002). As a result of these two areas of research within the U of G, this project 'Los parques de mi ciudad en la Web' became a reality. The strength of this project is its collaborative nature because of it is produced inter-Centros since two university Centers participate: the College of Agriculture and the College of Liberal Arts, as well as many other institutions, NGO's and individuals. .
We want to do more than just provide information. The challenge is to find a middle point between keeping a high number of potential visitors, and to produce a site that keeps the interest of visitor high. In the production stage, it was consistent the temptation of using high technological resources. We had to keep in mind that if we did so, our main intended audience more likely would not be able to access it because they do not have the required plug-in, or a high performance minimal speed in their computers. Besides the issue of the minimal technological requirements for the users' computers there is another issue of the number or users. For the year 2003 it is estimated there will be 4.8 million of users of the Web in Mexico, or 4.4% of the population in (Sánchez, 2002). Considering the Spanish speaking population, it is estimated there will be as many as 12 million users in Latin America. Considering the full potential that the Web provides, we have decided to go the extra mile and make the site bilingual and add English as an option available. Still in the entire world, the use of high technological resources would prevent many users from using the site. That is why we tried to keep it in a middle point technologically speaking. We have made a deliberate decision to not provide a virtual experience. The experience we are intending to provide is more like a guided tour to the seven most interesting parks of the city within the line of environmental interpretation, associated with interpretive resources that only the Web could display in a hypertext context.
Our objectives have been kept within what we have called the seven 'E': educate (educar), link (enlazar), enchanting (encantar), enthuse (entusiasmar), push (empujar), facilitate (encauzar), and evaluate (evaluar).We seek to educate (educar) providing basic information for the potential visitor. We want to link people with people (enlazar). We want to link users with those professionals who dedicate their professional life to learning about the resources that exist in the parks and who take care of them. We want to enchant users (encantar) so they wish to come back to visit the site often and integrate it with their lives. We want to enthuse the public (entusiasmar) so they will give new values to the parks. We want to push (empujar) the public so they would turn into activists in defense of their parks once they really count with better information. We want to facilitate (encauzar) that the society finds common interests within the parks y generate new lines of action among citizens. We want to evaluate (evaluar) the impact that this site has on the visitors by pursuing repetitive usability tests and documenting the actions that can be promoted or supported by the use of this site.
At this website we display the most attractive parks of the city and link them to research products, both current and past. Especially we are providing historical information that can be directly verifiable with the current situation in the parks. We expect to trigger social participation in the production of science with actions such as inviting users to provide data they observe about birds, or plants they find interesting. With this we are generating one of the most desired research products the University is pushing for: user-based research. Social participation will be used in the creation of data. This way the users of this site will better understand the social role of research. With these features we are contributing to the information young people need to make up their minds about a career, to choose for a professional life. Nowadays, there exists a great need for new people in the areas of biology, geography, agronomy and other related sciences that one way or the other have something to do with parks. It is hoped that this will be a good beginning for young people in the city and generate ideas.
One of the main objectives of the sites is the diffusion of information via an alternative medium of communication to provide entertainment and education. The access to the information and the application for interpretation is complementary to a real visit. It could also be introductory information before a real visit. Another service is to provide the opportunity to get to know the city for people who live far enough from Guadalajara that visiting the parks is not possible in a day trip. However it is not intended that one experience substitute the other, it is more a complementary option.
Another objective is to facilitate resources for the formal system of education with real life materials, activities and practices. In previous research (Anaya, 2002) it has been found that the residents themselves do not know all of the parks available in the city. On the other hand the park managers have pointed out that the parks are underused by the residents. So it is an identified need to advertise the availability of the parks as an alternative recreational opportunity besides television viewing, which is being reported as being heavily used, particularly by children. It is necessary to advertise the opportunities the parks provide for the practice of environmental education associated with formal and non-formal education, intra and extra murals.
The site guides visitors to find new values to add to the parks available in the city, both local people as well as in other parts of the world. For locals, it enhances the importance of green areas and encourages social action to protect them as social areas for enjoyment. One problem that has been identified is the encroachment of public parks by abundant salespeople and semi-fixed vending boots.
Conception of the site
Currently, the Web constitutes a modern means of communication and reference that is widely accepted by the common person. The creation of this website contributes to three areas which are the basic roles of the public university: (1) research, (2) teaching, and (3) extension.
In order to elaborate on this project it was necessary to develop four different stages: (a) the first stage was the development of the concept of the site. The design regarding vision, structure and content according to the primary roles of the public university, (b) in the second stage, diverse research techniques were utilized to gather documents and information such as identification of literature, organization and presentation of the information, guided interviews and data gathering via use of questionnaires in different surveys of stakeholders, (c) the third stage included field work in the actual parks, with direct observation, picture taking, and assessment of the state of the parks, and (d) development, and constant evaluation of the site.
The site has a general index with the following sections: (1) specific information about the parks such as location, services, resources, schedules, special attractions, maps and pictures. (2) Section two includes information for professionals such as research products. (3) Section three presents a set of activities such as educational games for school groups. (4) Section four, includes a large set of pictures of the parks.
One special resource is the use of the guide book. The school teachers that have had the book have shown that it is more likely that they would visit the parks with their students. The web site would not substitute for the use of the book. Getting to know the schedules, the costs, and the services has encouraged educators to practice extramural education, which has been inspirational for the authors to go ahead and provide the same information via the web.
Conclusions and results
This project and all its components is a joint effort of many different people. The authors want to explicitly mention: CENCAR, U of G (Centro de Cómputo de Alto Rendimiento, Univerity of Guadalajara.) ACUDE. Fundación Produce Jalisco, A.C.; Government of the State of Jalisco; Department of Culture, Sports.; county management of the city of Guadalajara, Cuerpo de Guardabosques, Archivo Municipal, Park managers, Dra. María del Pilar Palomar Anguas for the design and construction of the maps; Lic. Celina Gomez Contreras. To the following people who provided information about the parks and the support: Ing. Gerardo Ruvalcaba Salazar, Capitán Alberto Galván Escobar, Ing. Raúl López Velásquez, Ing. Omar Castañeda Delgadillo, Biól. María Josefina Uribe Ramírez, Biól. Beatriz Méndez Da Silveira, Biól. Teresa Navarro Díaz, Biól. Ma. del Pilar Sandoval García. Sr. Miguel Angel Sánchez Acosta. Lic. María Eugenia Covarrubias Flores y Lic. Ruth García Gutiérrez. Biol. Gabriela Zavala García, Lic. María del Carmen Reyes Arreguín, maestra María teresa de la Mora Melo and Dr. Felipe Ortiz Aguilar. In particular to: students in the school of Geography José Antonio Ávila Rojo, and Oscar Bernardo Nápoles Salas.
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