Research Portal

April 15, 2024

Building equity into public park and recreation service investment: A review of public agency approaches

Beck, H., Berney, R., Kirk, B., & Yocom, K. P. (2024). Building equity into public park and recreation service investment: A review of public agency approaches. Landscape and Urban Planning.

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In recent decades, academic and professional research has increased understanding of the importance of city and landscape planners engaging with social and environmental justice issues, including contemporary inequities inherent in the planning, distribution, use, and access of public green and open spaces. However, there is a gap between this research centering equity and the planning, development, and implementation rate demonstrated by public agencies. In this article, we examine examples of emerging practice in the public park and recreation sector to understand the strategies and approaches public agencies are taking to provide equitable park and recreation systems. Our research identifies and analyzes 17 examples of North American public park and open space management agencies using equity-based planning frameworks to prioritize park investment and resource distribution. Equity-focused resource analysis is distinct because while it assesses budget and project-based funding distributions, it further incorporates assessments of historical allocations to understand better areas of under-investment and the evolving needs of different communities. As economic inequities become more pronounced, local governments, and other public institutions providing services to populations, are important in helping communities navigate changes. Our findings support the ongoing advancement of equity-driven planning and implementation for public park and recreation agencies by providing practical information on existing approaches to redress the impact of unfair patterns of under-investment.