Institute of Ecosystem Studies

2007 BES Annual Meeting Presentation and Poster Abstracts

Measuring park equity in Baltimore using a park service area approach
Sister, Chona
Co-Authors: Christopher Boone
Abstract: The environmental justice movement began with the recognition that communities of color are disproportionately exposed to environmental hazards, but recently it has been recognized that access to amenities, such as parks, is equally important. Access to parks promotes an active lifestyle shown to be key in maintaining one's health and well-being. Using Baltimore as the study site, the present work tests the environmental justice hypothesis that minority and low-income communities have disproportionately lower access to park resources. We employ the concept of Thiessen (Voronoi) polygons to delineate park service areas (PSAs) such that every space across the metropolitan area is assigned to its closest park. We then assign demographic characteristics (i.e., population, race/ethnic group, and income) to each PSA by overlaying Census data. Potential congestion, defined as the number of residents per park acre, is then quantified for each PSA. PSAs with high potential congestion are deemed as inequities. Results show that predominantly Black communities in Baltimore are typically located in more dense residential areas with PSAs having higher levels of potential congestion. This supports the hypothesis that minorities have lower access in terms of park acre per capita compared to predominantly White communities. Examining equity in the distribution of parks across Baltimore helps elucidate how urban processes (e.g., white flight, urban sprawl) have helped shape the distribution of amenities such as parks across different groups in the population, allowing better access to some than others. The advantages of the approach employed here are also discussed.