Access to Parks & Recreational Spaces

Ample availability and access to safe, clean and green open parks and recreational spaces, that appeal to interests and activities across generations, incentivize physical activity among residents. Communities that lack the resources to support low-cost physical activity often fall into sedentariness and are more likely to experience social-emotional problems.

Disparities and Statistics

  • Race and Ethnicity: Evidence shows that white populations disproportionately access public lands for outdoor recreation. The second National Park Service Comprehensive Survey of the American Public, carried out by the University of Wyoming and published in 2011, found that only about one in five visitors to a national park site is nonwhite, and only about one in 10 is Hispanic.³⁴

  • Socioeconomic Status: There are wide-ranging disparities between low-income communities and areas that are more affluent in both the quantity and quality of park spaces. According to Environmental Health Sciences professor Michael Jerrett, “People living in low-income communities aren’t getting sufficient access to this health-promoting resource, and when they do have access, the area tends to be more polluted, the park facilities are not as well-maintained, and there is less park programming and less energy going into the programs offered.”³⁵

  • Health: Green spaces bring numerous health benefits. Experiences in nature can lead to decreased blood pressure and levels of the stress hormone cortisol, assist with direct attention fatigue, and increase cognitive function. Nature might even buffer the impact of stress and can bring people together while fostering neighborhood social ties.

  • For more information about the various efforts to diversify outdoor spaces, check out the following article.³⁴