Academic journal article Journal of the Community Development Society

Resident Attitudes toward a Proposed Limestone Quarry

Academic journal article Journal of the Community Development Society

Resident Attitudes toward a Proposed Limestone Quarry

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

A limestone quarry proposal in a small Pennsylvania community triggered disagreements among residents. Some actively opposed the quarry while a small group supported it. The majority of residents did not become involved in the issue. This research examines why residents responded differently to the operation of this quarry in their community. First, key and action informant interviews were conducted. Next, a content analysis of these interviews was used to develop a survey questionnaire. The survey was administered through a drop-off/pick-up method, eliciting a return rate of 69.7 percent. The strongest predictor of quarry attitude was attitude toward private property rights. Respondents who supported private property rights had favorable attitudes toward the quarry. Other significant predictors included environmental behavior, proportion of friends in the community, length of residence, level of involvement in community activities, and participation in a local festival. Implications of these findings for community development are discussed.

Keywords: Newcomers, oldtimers, natural resource use

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INTRODUCTION

In rural and small communities, proposed changes in natural resource uses have the propensity to become sources of conflict. Despite perceptions to the contrary, residence in such areas is not an indication of common behaviors or goals related to uses of the area's natural resources. Newcomers, especially those from larger more urban areas, often hold preservationist orientations toward the natural environment. In contrast, established residents are regularly depicted as holding utilitarian priorities, reflecting their involvement in extractive occupations, such as farming, logging, and mining (cf. Hays, 1987; Bourke & Luloff, 1994). A better understanding of these differing interests could help rural and small communities respond more effectively to their changing economy and environment.

When an extra-local mining company proposed to operate a limestone quarry in Haines Township, Pennsylvania, a group of largely newcomer residents organized to oppose it. There were few vocal proponents of the quarry in the community; the majority of residents did not become involved in the issue. We investigate how length of residence, community attachment, attitudes toward private property rights, and environmental behavior affected residents' attitudes toward the quarry. First, we review the literature on community attachment and attitude differences between newcomers and oldtimers on environmental issues. Then, we explain our methodology, briefly describe the study site and quarry issue, and present and discuss our survey findings with the help of interview data.

Community Attachment and Newcomer-Oldtimer Disputes

Most definitions of community include references to geographic territory (locale), local society, collective actions, and mutual identity (Wilkinson, 1991; Luloff & Bridger, 2003). Our focus is on the "... complex system of friendship and kinship networks and formal and informal associational ties rooted in family life and on-going socialization processes" (Kasarda & Janowitz, 1974, p. 329). Residents become attached to their communities through such interpersonal and organizational ties (Goudy, 1990; Kasarda & Janowitz, 1974). Attachment through these social bonds leads to positive sentiments toward the community and, in turn, enhances residents' attachments (Goudy, 1990).

Community attachment relates to three systemic variables: length of residence, socioeconomic status, and age (Goudy, 1990; Kasarda & Janowitz, 1974; Sampson, 1988). Longer time spent in a place leads to selectivity in social relations and produces sentiments that are more positive toward the community. Higher status residents tend to exhibit more interest in community affairs because they have more education and discretionary resources to articulate their interests (Coleman, 1957; Crain & Rosenthal, 1967; McCarthy & Zald, 1977). …

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