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People’s perception influences on the use of green spaces in socio-economically differentiated neighborhoods

Summary


Community and individual factors are relevant to the use and valuation of green spaces

A study was conducted in the Metropolitan Area of Santiago to better understand perceptions and preferences impacting the use of green spaces in urban environments. The ultimate goal was to improve the planning and design of public green spaces. The authors note that the presence of green spaces does not mean that they will be used by the public.

This study was based on the premise that individual and community-based factors play a key role in understanding how green spaces are used. To test this premise, users of urban green space and other residents of the city from three socio-economically differentiated neighborhoods were observed and interviewed. Four individual and community-based factors were examined: community attachment, image of green spaces, perception of safety, and social cohesion.

A series of observations (totaling 160 hours over a five-week period) were performed in selected green spaces in each of the three neighborhoods. These observations focused on the physical environment, the social environment, and observed relationships between users and the green space. Data were also collected through interviews with green space users and non-users. The interviews focused on three dimensions: the socioeconomic context, leisure-related preferences for green spaces, and perceptions of green spaces.

Findings indicated that people in all three neighborhoods valued green spaces for the social and environmental benefits they provided. They regarded children as the primary users of green space and generally agreed on the basic elements green spaces should have to be attractive to people. They all valued green spaces for the opportunity they offer for contact with nature and for enjoying outdoor activities. Additionally, they were all concerned about safety.

There were several areas where perceptions and use of green space differed by neighborhood. These differences included (1) patterns of use and users, (2) unequal images associated with green spaces, (3) differences in intensities and times of use, and (4) social cohesion through and community attachment to green spaces.

More intensive and diversified uses of green spaces were observed in middle- and low-income neighborhoods. Additionally, higher intensity of use seems to influence higher valuation of green spaces and promote social interaction within them. In the upper-income neighborhoods, green spaces were valued more as recreational areas for children. Residents of low-income neighborhoods considered green spaces key to their quality of life.

These results indicate that social and individual factors are relevant to the use and valuation of green spaces.

Citation

de la Barrera, F., Reyes-Paecke, S., Harris, J., Bascuñán, D., Farías, J.M., (2016). People’s perception influences on the use of green spaces in socio-economically differentiated neighborhoods. Urban Forestry & Urban Greening, 20, 254-264.

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