Urban Parks and Attitudes about Ecosystem Services: Does Park Use Matter?
Keywords:urban forests, urban parks, recreation, ecosystem services, environmental attitudes, Oregon
In this study, we explored how visitation to urban green spaces relates to attitudes about urban forest ecosystem services among city residents. We used responses to a general population survey of urban residents in four Oregon, USA, cities to explore whether visits to urban and urbanproximate green spaces (such as parks and forest reserves) had a relationship to people's attitudes about urban forest ecosystem services. We also looked at a relationship between use frequency and familiarity with urban forest and ecosystem concepts. Results from our sample suggest that visitation frequency to urban green spaces has a positive relationship with attitudes about urban forest ecosystem services. We found that, in general, more frequent urban green space visitors had a greater familiarity with urban forest and ecosystem terms, and were more tolerant of problems (i.e., disservices) associated with urban trees and green space. Visitation frequency was less strongly associated with beliefs about threats to urban forests. Our results give some indication that urban natural resource management in Oregon could benefit by promoting urban natural area visits. Our data suggest that increasing visitation to urban parks, forest reserves, or other designated natural areas would likely coincide with greater public understanding and support for urban natural resource management. Among the strategies that may encourage more visitation, maintenance and general upkeep are very important. For example, infrequent visitors in our sample rated trash and litter accumulation and loitering as more substantial problems associated with urban forests and green spaces than more frequent visitors. Ensuring that potential users perceive a safe and inviting setting may increase visits. Most parks and recreation departments in the U.S. are facing shrinking budgets although volunteers can accomplish many basic maintenance and upkeep tasks. Partnering with community groups and local businesses will also provide outreach and engagement opportunities that can promote greater public support for park and recreation departments.
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