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Psychological park accessibility: A systematic literature review of perceptual components affecting park use

Summary


Assessing psychological factors affecting urban park use may be an effective approach to increasing use of existing parks

The purpose of this systematic review of the literature was to understand psychological factors affecting urban park use and to identify methods for measuring them. While park accessibility studies tend to use the term ‘perceptual’ versus ‘psychological’ in reference to factors affecting park use, the latter was chosen for this article to emphasize the contrast with physical proximity. As studies have shown, proximity alone does not predict park use. Traditional park-use studies treat the concepts of park accessibility and usability separately. This paper argues for an integration of the two into one conceptual framework — referred to as ‘psychological park accessibility.’

All 34 studies included in this review examined (1) urban parks either exclusively or in addition to other public spaces, (2) either park use or park-based physical activity as an outcome, and (3) people’s perception of park use environment as a predictor. While most of the studies were based on data from adults, some included information provided by children and youth. The studies represent both quantitative and qualitative methods.

Three dimensions of psychological park accessibility were identified: perceptions of distance, perceptions of park quality, and perceptions of the neighborhood environment. Most studies found distance to be less important than perceived park amenities, and only a few studies thoroughly examined the relationship between perceptions of the neighborhood environment and park use. Quality of facilities and activities was significantly associated with park use in many of the studies. The most frequently noted perceptions of quality related to safety. Specific quality-related facilities included walking paths, restrooms, water facilities, benches and lighting. For parents and children, water facilities, shade, swings and picnic areas were important factors influencing their park use.

This study was based, in part, on the need to increase use of existing urban parks versus creating new parks in cities where land for parks is becoming increasingly limited. The conceptual framework presented in this paper is proposed as a tool for more accurately assessing the psychological factors influencing people’s use of parks. Once these factors are identified, urban planners and policy makers can use this information to more effectively promote increased use of existing parks.

Citation

Park, K., (2017). Psychological park accessibility: A systematic literature review of perceptual components affecting park use. Landscape Research, 42(5), 508-520.

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