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Differences in Park Plans and Policies across U.S. Municipalities

Erin L. Peterson, Susan A. Carlson, Emily N. Ussery, Ian Dunn, David R. Brown, Deborah A. Galuska


Park planning documents may be valuable tools in order to promote policies and direct resources toward parks. However, the prevalence of such planning documents and policies specific to parks across municipal characteristics is not well known. This study compares the presence of parks and recreation plans and policies that address park safety and maintenance by municipality characteristics. Nationally representative data from the 2014 National Survey of Community-Based Policy and Environmental Supports for Healthy Eating and Active Living were analyzed (n=2005, response rate: 45%). About 7 out of 10 U.S. municipalities with a population of at least 1,000 reported having a parks and recreation plan. Prevalence of specific park or outdoor recreation policies was 78% for lighting, 85% for patrols by police and security, and 87% for maintenance of green space and equipment. The prevalence of a parks and recreation plan and of specific park or outdoor recreation policies were significantly lower in the smaller communities examined in this study. Most communities with at least 1,000 residents have park planning documents and policies, and opportunities may exist for practitioners to leverage the planning process to better engage residents. Future studies could investigate the role and importance of using planning documents, policies, or budget provisions to address park access and quality in less populous municipalities.

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Policy; community planning; built environment; health promotion; active living

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