Uncovering Sense of Place in the Belgrades

In addition to the lake chemistry, geology, and economics, the EPSCoR project has a critical social science component responsible for connecting the community with the work being done. Student Nick Kondiles and Professor Jim Fleming of the Colby Science, Technology, and Society Department have been conducting sense of place research in Belgrade Village and throughout the watershed to improve EPSCoR-Belgrade communication. So what exactly is a sense of place and how does it contribute to the project?

Put simply, sense of place is the affection we hold for a particular location in our lives. The place could be the home we grew up in, a camp on Long Pond, or a special place in the woods. Sense of place is the kind of knowing that allows a location to take on personal significance and even ultimate meaning. As the human mind takes in the physical characteristics of a location, intangible qualities develop and a place gains personal value. As this interaction continues over time, the place is internalized in our minds and we develop affection for it. However, a sense of place is far more than the personification of land. This human-place bond serves as the foundation of community where friendships, businesses, families, and traditions flourish across generations. Wendell Berry states, “She is always trying to tell us that we are not so superior or independent or alone or as autonomous as we may think”. A true land-lover understands that taking from the land is also taking from the community, the past, and ourselves. Getting in touch with our sense of place will rekindle our affection into a deep-routed passion to conserve the places we hold most dear.

Of course, the Belgrade Lakes are special to a great number of people. If we can get these people to rediscover their sense of place we can get them to recognize the importance of sustainable living. In short, sense of place is an approach to getting the community to contribute more to the conservation effort. The research is conducted is several ways. Most information is gathered from one-on-one interviews with Watershed residents to investigate there sense of place. Those interviewed include: Nancy Mairs of the Belgrade Historical Society, Polly Beatie of the BLA, Dick Tripp, Peter Kallin, Bill and Marie Pulsifer, Frank Megill, Lynn Matson, Linda Mcloon and many more to follow. In addition to interviews, questionnaires are being distributed(available at MLRC) along with historical research of the area.  In the following weeks, the sense of place crew will be gathering footage for a historical documentary of the Watershed. The aim is to use film as a medium to promote sense of place and encourage conservation of Belgrade’s history and pristine beauty. Hopefully, a film like this will instill pride in the community and revive people’s affection for the land.

Questions or comments please contact nmkondil@colby.edu

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