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Article
Urban Nature Parks and Neighborhood Social Health in Portland, Oregon
Journal of Park and Recreation Administration (2013)
  • Joshua W.R. Baur, Dr.
  • Edwin Gómez, Old Dominion University
  • Joanne Tynon, Oregon State University
Abstract
Studies continue to reveal that urban green spaces, such as nature parks, can be a means for maintaining and improving the wellbeing of city dwellers. This study looked at the contribution urban nature parks make to perceptions of neighborhood social health among residents of Portland, Oregon – the state’s most densely populated city. We tested four hypotheses: 1) parks within walking distance of respondents’ homes are positively associated with neighborhood social health, 2) parks within driving distance are positively associated with neighborhood social health, 3) park-related social activity mediates the relationship between parks within walking distance and neighborhood social health, and 4) park-related social activity mediates the relationship between parks within driving distance and neighborhood social heath. Using multiple regression analysis on data collected from a mail back survey, we obtained results that indicate that city nature parks in Portland within walking and driving distance of our sample’s homes are positively associated with perceptions of neighborhood social health. Park user status was included in regression models to account for the possibility that park users may be likelier to positively associate parks with neighborhood social health given users’ enjoyment of the benefits urban outdoor recreation sites supply. User status was not significantly related to sense of neighborhood social health. We tested for mediation to explore whether park related social interaction helped account for the influence of nature parks on perception of neighborhood social health. Park-related social interaction partially mediated the relationship between both park proximity variables and sense of neighborhood social health. Our tests for mediation indicate that a part of the contribution to neighborhood social health Portland nature parks provide occurs because of the social activity such parks facilitate. These results are consistent with prior research and are suggestive of the contribution urban nature parks make to socially healthy city neighborhoods in Portland. This research is of particular importance in light of increasing urbanization in the U.S. Studies indicate that more Americans are living in cities than ever before, and this trend is projected to continue. City green spaces such as nature parks provide physical, psychological, and social health benefits, as well as ecosystem services, all of which support healthier, happier city dwellers and more sustainable cities. The research findings herein discussed provide Portland park planners and managers with further empirical data to help leverage increasingly scarce resources for urban park maintenance and development.
Keywords
  • urban nature parks,
  • neighborhood social health,
  • social interaction,
  • Portland,
  • Oregon
Publication Date
2013
Citation Information
Joshua W.R. Baur, Edwin Gómez and Joanne Tynon. "Urban Nature Parks and Neighborhood Social Health in Portland, Oregon" Journal of Park and Recreation Administration Vol. 31 Iss. 4 (2013) ISSN: 0735-1968
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/joshua-baur/6/