Public Parks contributeto the health and well-being of citizens, by serving as a venue for physicalactivity. In an age where health conditions related to obesity and diet are onthe rise, it is in the best interests of park administrators and city officialsto provide parks as well as ensuring their upkeep and accessibility. The DallasPark System is one of the largest of any city in the country. It has a total of380 parks adding up to over 23,470 acres of developed and undeveloped parklandaccording to the Dallas Park & Recreation department. Prominent landscapefigures include: 4,658 acres of water, 18,641 acres of tree cover, 143 miles of developed trails, 4dog parks, athletic fields, playgrounds, spray grounds, tennis, basketball andvolleyball courts, and picnic shelters.
However, Not all parks in Dallas appearto be created equal, with considerably more funds invested in North Dallascommunities such as Plano as opposed to poorer areas that would benefit themost. Research from Gallup and Healthways which is an analytics and advice firmshows that active living communities that invest in bike paths,parks, and trails have citizens with better life prospects as faras well-being goes. A previous report in their State of American Well-Being seriesshows that across the communities studied nationwide, residents in thefive highest active living communities have, on average, significantly lower rates ofsmoking, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol anddepression. Conversely, they also boast drastically higher rates ofexercise, healthy eating, fresh produce eating, and those thriving in physicalwell-being as compared to residents in communities with low active livinginfrastructure. These results support the fact that park networks are linked tomultiple aspects of health and wellbeing in cities and positively impact urbanquality of life as a whole”. However, Not everyone has viable access tosuch parks . In fact, if you can seetrees or vegetation from your door youare most likely living in one of the more affluent areas in your neighborhood.
The neighborhoods of SouthDallas come to mind when relating the inverse relationship that state ofwellbeing between north and south Dallas to that of urban parks. There are onlya small number of parks within this general area, most of them with the samebareness of amenities and lack of green space. For Instance, Kimble Park a 1.2acre neighborhood park established in 1966.
To better understand this we mustconsider the areas demographics. It has an estimated population of 15,050. Ofthat 15,000 more than 90% are African American. There are 7,655 male residents and7,395 female residents.
The total number of households is 6,231 with 2.33people per household on average. Total household expenditures in this are below the national average. Themedian age of the current population is 38.75 with 1,453 people being marriedand 8,968 being single. The employment numbers show that there are 61% whitecollar employees and 39% blue collar employees. We can infer from this being alow to moderate income earning community that perhaps not much time is setaside visiting recreational areas even though they are free.
Concerns mayinclude lack of outreach and information about parks by the city, safetyconcerns regarding disrepair, and overall lack of enticing amenities thatprovide a reason for visiting as well. A one acre plot with no facilities, nocommunity investment, or even a small grill is hardly welcoming. To be fairthere are other parks within the general area of this community that provides astark contrast to the previous one. For instance the William Blair jr. Park.This park boasts an impressive 900 acres, perhaps showing us the reason whysome of the other smaller parks are barren in comparison. Interestingly, alarge amount of community investment was put into this location. 4.
6 miles of naturalsurface trails were built by the Student Conservation Association andGroundwork Dallas. The amenities/ facilities include: fishing, lake/pond,outdoor basketball, pier, playground, portalets, sculpture areas, soccer field,volleyball field and the aforementioned trails. This park is evidently theantithesis of the one mentioned earlier,showing that citizens definitely have a desire for green space.
Immediatelysurrounding urban areas are experiencing a decline in the quality and quantityof their green spaces overall however. The racial make up also brings to mind theidea of “white flight”. This iswhen falling high income availabilityand deteriorating public safety and services, prompt high income households(typically white and asian families historically) to relocate from city centers tosuburbs thus leaving the appeal of urban park development a foregoneconclusion. Highly urbanized and wealth driven areas such as Downtown Dallashave begun to show evidence of this with extremely expensive parks coupled withrestaurants and other amenities which are all but welcoming to low and moderateincome earning individuals from the outskirts. People from low socioeconomicgroups such as South Dallas without resources to move to greener areas may oneday have to face environmental injustice with regards to access of such areas.That is, unless gentrification occurs first.The neighborhoods ofNorth Dallas bring with them the implication of expansive green spaces and urban landscapes. Plano specifically, which boasts an impressive 62 park andtrail system.
In 2013, the city of Planoreceived the top spot nationally in a livability survey according toAreaVibes.com. The population of Plano is 281,731. 63.5% of the totalpopulation of Plano is White, 8.3% is Black or African American, and 19.
6% isAsian. The age distribution of Plano is 61.9% ages 20-64 years, 26.0% ages 19years or younger and 12.1% ages 65 years or older. The median age for femalesis 39.8 years old. The median age for males is 37.
8 years old. 54.1% of Planoresidents are married. 55.1% of residents have obtained a college degree orhigher. The projected annual population growth in Plano over the next fiveyears is 2.
7%. The estimated population density in Plano is 3,910 per squaremile. The estimated income for Plano is $44,546. The average household incomein Plano is $114,728. The average travel times in Plano are: 15-29 minutes(35.4%), 30-59 minutes (31.1%) and 14 minutes or less (20.9%).
The total numberof businesses in Plano is 14,230. The unemployment rate for Plano stands at2.5%. 22.7% of Plano workers have Blue Collar jobs whereas 77.
3% have a WhiteCollar job. 76.0% of Plano residents are married couples with children. Theaverage family household size is 3.2. 61.
4% of Plano residents own their homewhile 38.6% of residents rent. The median household income in Plano is $88,077.The owner-occupied median home value in Plano is $206,868.The renter-occupiedmedian rent in Plano is $820. Thedifference in demographics between thenorth and south is extreme, particularlyin regards to income. The income can beattributed to the large amount ofcollege educated citizens who are also married in the area.
The elderly, theyoung, and secondary educated people in these cities seem to benefit more fromthe presence of green areas in theirliving environment than other groups in large cities under. This can be madeapparent by the care and elaborate designs of the parks. One such park is BobWoodruff Park.
The park features include: Baseball Fields, Benches,Bicentennial Bur Oak Tree, Creeks, Drinking Fountains, Fishing Pier, Grills,Lake (12.7 acres), Outdoor Learning Center, Parking, Paved recreational trails ,Pavilions , Picnic Shelter, Picnic Tables, Playgrounds, Restrooms, SandVolleyball. The parks are centrally located and are able to cater to the entire city.
There are also aninterconnection of trails that serve to connect other parks to otherneighborhoods. Additionally, parks areand essential part of the communities they serve and contribute to the healthof the community. For example, due to the abundance of outstanding parks in Plano, the residents visit theseparks with their children, friends, dogs and even by themselves more often . Thus, creating alifestyle for themselves that promotes exercise, relaxation, and meditation. Inreturn increases life expectancy , decreases high blood pressure, stress and obesity After comparing andcontrasting these areas, one is able to find a link between urban, public andrecreational areas with healthy and wealthy communities. Park space generatesmany economic and environmental benefits. Many of these benefits are notobvious, for instance, popular parks positively regulate the local climateand reduces energy costs.
Even better, abeautiful park enhances local property values for homeowners and revenue for the city throughtax assessments. The location of public parks also determine the city’slandscape as far as housing and business, with it being more desirable forcitizens to purchase property near these sites. This means that there is ancontributory relationship between location and residential development. I believe this lends itself to the idea thatincome stratification exists and is responsible for the concentration ofpoverty. Perhaps city officials couldcreate open space with similar amenities within the city to lessen the outwardpull of developable land going north.
Suburban households reveal theirpreference for their location, but deeper understanding of which attributesdrive this preference would be helpful in convincing officials which areas needthe real advantage of public and recreational prosperity granted by parks.