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Trail Use Among Latinos: Recognizing Diverse Uses Among A Specific Population

Megan Kelly Cronan, Kimberly J. Shinew, Monika Stodolska

Abstract


Physical inactivity has reached epidemic proportions across the United States and is consistently linked to negative health effects such as obesity and chronic disease. These negative effects are particularly prevalent among the growing Latino population. As walking is the most frequently reported physical activity in the United States, trails and greenways may serve as important resources for encouraging physical activity and combating obesity and chronic disease. However, the majority of trail research has been conducted only among white populations, with limited research on Latinos and other minority groups. Without an understanding of diverse cultural preferences and expectations, trail management for health benefits may not be effective among minority populations. This study was part of a larger project, the goal of which was to examine Latinos’ use of parks, sports complexes, and trail systems for active recreation. The section of the study presented here specifically sought to understand Latinos’ trail visitation patterns as well as their valuation of specific trail amenities, motivations for trail use, identification of factors that detract from their trail experience, and the individual characteristics of Latino trail users. Data collection was conducted at the Lincoln Park Trail System in Chicago where Latino field personnel conducted informal observations of the trail area and collected a total of 301 properly completed surveys from Latino visitors. These survey results indicate that some of the most popular activities along the trail included sitting/relaxing/resting as well as talking/socializing, while the most popular physical activity was walking. Respondents also indicated that their most important reasons for visiting the trail were being with friends and family, spending time outdoors, and reducing stress. An analysis of the results indicates that the majority of Latinos visited the trail area on weekends, spent a long time at the destination (almost five hours), and that the area surrounding the trail served as a cultural stage on which Latinos were able to reenact the plazas and markets of their homelands. Our findings suggest that cultural understanding on the part of trail managers and designers is essential to best serve a growing Latino population as well as successfully encourage physical activity. Our survey and observational data together suggest the need for organizing family-oriented events along the trail as well introducing trail design features that will encourage walking by recognizing the preferences of Latino visitors.?

Keywords


Latinos, trail use, greenways, health, trail management

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