Parks differ depending on neighborhood

U. MISSOURI (US) — Although more parks exist in lower-income neighborhoods, they tend to have fewer amenities than those in upper- and middle-class neighborhoods, according to new research.

Every community in America has its share of parks. However, park amenities in certain communities can be lacking, which can be detrimental to the health of potential patrons.

“Parks are important for physical activity and socialization among community members,” says Sonja Wilhelm Stanis, assistant professor in the Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism at University of Missouri. “However, our research suggests that resources are not always distributed equitably.”

The study reviewed 219 parks in four counties, covering 313 square miles in the Kansas City, Missouri, region. The research team found that lower-income areas had more parks, but fewer amenities such as playgrounds.

Parks in high-minority areas had more basketball courts and fewer trails while middle-class areas had more aesthetic features such as water features or decorative landscaping.

The researchers also examined the proportion of parks with adjacent sidewalks and found that low and high-income areas had a higher proportion of parks with adjacent sidewalks compared to medium-income areas.

“Sidewalks are an important predictor of how much exercise the local population engages in and how safely and easily patrons can access resources in the neighborhood,” Kaczynski says. “The absence of such amenities around parks should not be ignored.”

According to previous research, sidewalks in lower income areas tend to be more uneven and often have obstructions making them difficult to access. Quality concerns and fewer aesthetic features can lead to poorer perceptions and actual problems related to park attractiveness and safety, which can deter park visitation and use, Wilhelm Stanis says.

“Previous studies show that certain features, such as playgrounds and trails, are important for physical activity,” she says. “We do believe that more research is needed to examine how disparities in park environments are associated with activity levels and health outcomes.”

Researchers from Kansas State University and the University of South Carolina contributed to the study, which is published in Annals of Behavioral Medicine.

Source: University of Missouri