Baltimore Ecosystem Study Institute of Ecosystem Studies

2016 BES Annual Meeting Presentation and Poster Abstracts

Assessing equality of access to parks and recreation using the local context
Dony, Coline

Abstract: Urban infrastructure impacts our individual and social behavior. For example, better access to parks can increase our level of physical activity. Increasingly aware of this association and the potential impact on community health; urban leaders started incorporating access to parks as an indicator of quality of life. One challenge however, is to quantify the notion of “access”. For example, three studies that evaluated geographic access to parks in Charlotte (North Carolina), each identified different areas of low access to parks. This study presents results from social surveys that were carried out in 2015 to understand perceptions about accessibility from park visitors, to understand their travel behaviors and to confirm the use of parks for physical activity. Based on the insights gained from the surveys, geographic access to parks was re-assessed to better reflect the local context. Although many studies use park size to model access to parks, this study shows that safety, aesthetics and park amenities are more important to visitors. Additionally, it confirms that most visitors came to a park to engage in physical exercise. Finally, it became clear that parks managed by homeowner associations or other entities have not been included in previous studies, which resulted in incomplete assessments. For this study, the location of these non-public parks were collected and used to better evaluate park access. The results show that neighborhoods with a high percentage of blacks fell in areas with a lower number of parks per square mile, which may indicate a form of environmental injustice.