Assessing the Locational Equity of Community Parks through the Application of Geographic Information Systems
Keywords:Community parks, equity, accessibility, geographic information systems (GIS)
AbstractThe need to analytically evaluate the accessibility and equity of publicly provided services is becoming more important as competition for tax dollars and public funds intensifies. Parks and other recreational amenities are especially vulnerable to fluctuating fiscal conditions as welfare, emergency, and health services often take precedence over leisure. Recent research has focused on assessing equity, or providing services in proportion to need, instead of simple equality, or equal access for all. This article uses three common measures of accessibility, minimum distance, travel cost, and the gravity potential, to evaluate how equitably community parks serve various high-need populations in the Oklahoma City metropolitan area. Based on past literature and present-day demographic characteristics in Oklahoma City, areas with high concentrations of Hispanics and lowincome residents are defined as having the greatest need for access to parks followed by African Americans and Asians. Areas with high concentrations of Hispanics are found to have the highest levels of access to parks followed closely by low income areas, while areas with high percentages of African Americans and Asians do not have as much access. These results indicate a currently equitable distribution of parks, but future plans for Oklahoma City’s growth through 2020 will most likely worsen the African American population’s relative access. Also, while these results are generally consistent for all three accessibility metrics, we recommend the minimum distance and gravity potential methods for their ability to better discern small-scale patterns. This article reinforces the utility of geo-statistical tools in the public realm of park planning. Past research in the field has been gradually building toward this outcome, as greater attention has been paid to distance calculations (road network versus straight line), diverse accessibility measures (minimum distance, travel cost, gravity potential), and the incorporation of geographic information systems (GIS) into the planning process. The merger of widely available spatial databases with appropriate socio-economic data is a valuable tool for the purpose of evaluating the locational equity of parks with respect to defined need-based groups. This research builds on past work by explicitly incorporating spatial autocorrelation statistics into the analysis process, an approach that identifies zones within the study area that exhibit statistically significant clustering of different socio-economic characteristics and of high or low park access. Correlation of clusters of higher need groups and high or low access areas provides guidance to park planners for both future park development as well as assessment of both the equity as well as the efficiency of the current park system. Spatial autocorrelation statistics integrated into GIS packages such as ArcGIS 9 place more effective tools in reach of researchers and planners seeking to both equitably locate parks as well as to justify their results and decisions to the general public.?
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