Green Spaces for All to Enjoy

In our Open Voices blog we share insight from leaders in our communities who are advancing what it means to have sacred, open green spaces in our cities. In May, we examine the design elements that contribute to meaningful green spaces in our cities.

When planning for green spaces in a community, collaborating with potential users and residents is important for sustainable and relevant community green space systems. When we consider specific design elements of green spaces, research indicates there are some differences between ethnic and cultural groups concerning their preferences for nature experiences. Park-use patterns, preference for park settings, and constraints on park use can vary by race and ethnicity. It is important to recognize that culturally-dominant ideals of nature often are expressed in park planning and design, potentially overlooking preferences of minority users and limiting the experiences of all.

Below we present a few findings on differences in green space preference. But do take note, that when given a choice, people prefer natural environments with water features, large trees, “wild” plants, and appropriate landscape design. This is compared to built environments, and is found among people regardless of nationality or culture.

  • The longer it takes to reach a park is likely to mean you’ll visit it less, but also means you’ll spend more time in the park to make it worth your while. For those not within walking distance from a green space, public transportation can be a barrier to visiting an urban park, not to mention trying to get outside the city. Consequently, persons with low incomes and minorities may suffer disproportionately from poor transportation and land-use decisions.

elder from ee paper

  • How many green spaces your city has and where they are is important, yet matching park amenities to use preferences may be more important than access.
  • Some research suggests large shaded picnic areas, play equipment, water features, sanitary facilities and open-air vendors or cafes increase attractiveness of parks for Hispanic users. Green spaces explicitly designed to support family and community activities fosters healthy and sustainable communities!
  • Other cultural studies show a difference in green space use for individual rather than group based activities. Caucasian visitors tend to use parks alone rather than in family or friend groups.
  • Elders and those in retirement may have nature access needs distinct from their sociocultural group. For example, elders whose childhood was spent in Latin America may desire a park with a central plaza for “people-watching” and plants native to that region. Additionally, park users with mobility and accessibility needs are historically at a disadvantage, but we do see many accessible green spaces popping up across our cities with attention to smooth sidewalks and places to rest.

As humans, we share a desire for contact with nature, in all its many shapes, sizes and colors (just like us!).

For references and more information, please review our publication “Environmental Equality: Providing Nearby Nature for Everyone“.


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