Study Links Urban Green Space to Income, Race

June 30, 2020by Mark Ferenchik, The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio) (TNS)
A man rides his bicycle down a trail on April 27 at Whetstone Park in Columbus. [Joshua A. Bickel/Dispatch]

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The World Health Organization said urban green spaces, such as parks, playgrounds and greenery in neighborhoods, can promote mental and physical health by alleviating stress and providing psychological relaxation.

Access to green space, such as parks and sports fields, can be associated with income and race, according to a recent study by Ohio State University researchers.

And the easy ability to walk in a nearby park, or enjoy some shade on a warm day, can boost the well-being for many.

“The access to green areas is in every way beneficial for physical and mental health,” said Yujin Park, one of the study’s authors, who recently completed her Ph.D. in city and regional planning at Ohio State University’s Knowlton School of Architecture.

“In this time of pandemic, with space for outdoor activities, it’s important for people to mitigate their stress,” Park said.

The World Health Organization said urban green spaces, such as parks, playgrounds and greenery in neighborhoods, can promote mental and physical health by alleviating stress and providing psychological relaxation.

The OSU study appears in the August issue of the journal Landscape and Urban Planning.

The researchers gathered data from by census block group in both the Columbus and Atlanta metros from the 2010 census and the 2014 Smart Location Database of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and compared it with four data sets that show green spaces.

They then analyzed accessibility using green measures such as general greenness, tree canopies, parks, trails, golf courses and sports fields, and green open spaces including gardens, farms, fields and lawns.

In the Columbus metro, richer more affluent neighborhoods have better access to parks, trails and other green space.

“I live in Worthington. There’s a fair mount of green space. I see the same in Upper Arlington, Clintonville. High-income areas,” said Jean-Michel Guldmann, is professor emeritus of city and regional planning at Ohio State, and the study’s other author.

Park said that in urban areas in Columbus such as Linden and the Hilltop there are fewer trees and green spaces than in other neighborhoods, she said.

“Think about tree canopies and green gardens,” she said.

In the Atlanta area, access is more determined by race.

Inner-ring suburbs show the most income-driven disparity, while that’s less so in downtown and central city and exurban areas.

Park said she got the idea for the study because she likes trees. Her father is a landscape architect, she likes to hike, and appreciated the green spaces where she has lived in South Korea and Columbus.

“At some point, green space is not available to everyone in the community,” Park said.

Sophia Fifner, a spokeswoman for the Columbus Department of Recreation and Parks, said officials realized the system’s 2014 master plan wasn’t targeted to social equity to ensure that every resident was connected to parks and amenities.

Over the next five years, the system, which already has more than 400 parks, is working to make sure all residents will be within a 10-minute walk of a park. Also, it is creating an urban forestry master plan to create a sustainable urban tree canopy throughout the city.

Fifner said residents ask for more parks.

Guldmann said their research could be beneficial to communities because it shows precisely where types of green space are.

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© 2020The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio)

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

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