Research Project: Parks, Open Space, Recreation: Infrastructure for Healthy and Sustainable Cities

IURD Faculty Affiliate and College of Environmental Design Dean Jennifer Wolch

Park space is an environmental amenity or good, with implications for health, child development, social capital, and quality of the urban ambient environment. Likewise, public recreational programs are central to engaging diverse population groups in physical activity, with broad ranging and long-lasting public health implications. 

IURD Faculty Affiliate and College of Environmental Design Dean Jennifer Wolch is part of a team that has investigated relationships between the urban built environment, physical activity and public health; developed metrics and tools for the analysis of park and recreation access; characterized inequities across demographic groups and communities in metropolitan regions; studied urban trails and alleys as infrastructure for health promotion and sustainability; and examined the ways in which racialization of park space may influence park use. 

Her colleagues on this work are: Michael Jerrett and Jason Su from the UC Berkeley School of Public Health, Pascale Joassart-Marcelli (San Diego State University), Kim Reynolds (Claremont Graduate University), Genevieve Dunton (USC), Josh Newell (University of Michigan), Mona Seymour (Loyola Marymount University), and Jason Byrne (Griffith University) along with the USC's Transdisiplinary Research on Energetics and Cancer (TREC) team led by Kiros Berhane and Rob McConnnell, and the Green Visions Plan team led by Wolch and Travis Longcore and John Wilson (USC).

Associated Publications

Parks and recreation, physical activity, and obesity:

Investigating the Impact of a Smart Growth Community on Children's Physical Activity Contexts using Ecological Momentary Assessment. G.F. Dunton, S. Intille, J. Wolch, and M. Pentz. Health & Place.

Assessing the Social and Physical Contexts of Children's Physical Activity: An Ecological Momentary Assessment Study. G.F. Dunton, K. Kawabata, S. Intille, J. Wolch, and M. Pentz. American Journal of Health Promotion.

Social and Physical Contextual Influences on Children's Leisure-Time Physical Activity: An Ecological Momentary Assessment Study. G.F. Dunton, Y. Liao, S. Intille, J. Wolch, and M. Pentz. Journal of Physical Activity and Health. 8(Suppl 1), S103-S108(2011).

Automobile Traffic around the Home and Attainment of Body Mass Index: A Longitudinal Cohort Study of children Aged 10-18 Years. Michael Jerrett, Rob McConnell, C.C. Roger Chang, Jennifer Wolch, Kim Reynolds, Fred Lurman, Frank Gilliland, Kiros Berhane. Uncorrected proof online October 20. Preventive Medicine 50: S50-S58 (2010).

Urban Built Environment Correlates of Childhood Obesity. Genevieve Dunton, Jesse Kaplan, Jennifer Wolch, Michael Jerrett, and Kim Reynolds. Obesity Reviews. 10:393-402 (2009).

Measures of Physical Activity and Exercise. Donna Spruijt-Metz, David Berrigan, Louise A. Kelly, Rob Mcconnell, Donna Dueker, Greg Lindsey, Audie A. Atienza, Selena Michel, Melinda L. Irwin, Jennifer Wolch, Michael Jerrett, Zaria Tatalovich, Susan Redline, Kiros Berhane. Chapter 6, in Handbook of Assessment Methods for Eating Behaviors and Weight Related Problems: Measures, Theory and Research (Second Edition). David B. Allison and Monica L. Baskin (Eds.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage (2009).

Disparities in access to parks and recreational resources:

Policy Brief Series, UC Berkeley College of Environmental Design and School of Public Health, Access to Parks and Recreational Resources (2011):

Disparities in Park Space by Race and Income (PDF).

Funding Disparities for Local Parks and Recreation Resources in the Los Angeles Region (PDF).

Parks and Recreational Programs Help to Reduce Childhood Obesity (PDF).

Recreational Resources Promote Active Living (PDF).

slide:disparities in access can have health consequencesThe Role of Nonprofit Organizations in Creating Active Communities. Pascale Joassart-Marcelli and Jennifer Wolch. Submitted to Urban Geography.

Does Exposure to Air Pollution in Urban Parks have Socioeconomic, Racial or Ethnic Gradients? Jason Su, Michael Jerrett, Audrey de Nazelle, and Jennifer Wolch. Environmental Research. doi:10.1016/j.envres.2011.01.002.

Childhood Obesity and Proximity to Urban Parks and Recreational Resources: A Longitudinal Cohort Study. Jennifer Wolch, Michael Jerrett, Rob McConnell, C.C. Roger Chang, Kim Reynolds, Bernardo Beckerman, Nicholas Dahmann, Kirby Brady, and Kiros Berhane. doi:10.1016. Health & Place. (2011).

Places to Play: Environmental Justice and the Distribution of Urban Parks and Recreation in Los Angeles. arcCA 10.2: 15-20 (2010).

The Active City: Recreation Programs, Public Health and Environmental Justice. Nicholas Dahmann, Jennifer Wolch, Pascale Joassart-Marcelli, Kim Reynolds and Michael Jerrett. Health & Place. 16: 416-435 (2010).

Got Green? Addressing Environmental Injustice in Park Provision. Chona Sister, Jennifer Wolch and John Wilson. GeoJournal. Published online September 8 (2009).

Urban multi-use trails and physical activity:

Development, Reliability and Validity of an Urban Trail Use Survey. Spruijt-Metz Donna, Reynolds Kim, Wolch Jennifer, Jerrett Michael, Byrne Jason, Hseih Stephanie, Myles Ranell, Xie Bin, Lili Wang, Chou Chih-Ping. Journal of Health Promotion. 25:2-11 (2010).

an informal bike trail in los angelesProximity and Perceived Safety as Determinants of Urban Trail Use: Findings from a Three-City Study. Jennifer Wolch, Donna Spruijt-Metz, Jason Byrne, Michael Jerrett, Chi-Ping Chou, Zaria Tatalovich, Susan Weaver, Lili Wang, William Fulton and Kim D. Reynolds. Environment & Planning A. 42:-57-79 (2009).

Reasons for Urban Trail Use Predict Trail-Related Physical Activity. Genevieve Fridlund Dunton, Kim Reynolds, Donna Spruijt-Metz, Jennifer Wolch, Chih-Ping Chou, Michael Jerrett, Jason Byrne, and Susan Weaver. American Journal of Physical Activity and Health. 6: 426-434 (2009).

Urban alleys as green infrastructure:

The Forgotten and the Future: Reclaiming Back Alleys for a Sustainable City. Jennifer Wolch, Josh Newell, Mona Seymour, Hilary Bradbury, Kim Reynolds, Jennifer Mapes and Travis Longcore. Environment & Planning A. 42:2874-2896 (2010).

trash collects in untended open spaceNeighborhood Attitudes toward Urban Alleys and Alley Greening. Mona Seymour, Jennifer Wolch, Kim Reynolds, and Hilary Bradbury. Applied Geography. 30-380-393 (2010).

Reliability and Validity of an Audit Tool for Systematic Assessment of Urban Alleyways. Mona Seymour, Jennifer Wolch, and Kim Reynolds. Journal of Physical Activity and Health. 7:214-223 (2010).

Parks and social difference:

Race, Nature and Parks: Past Research and Future Directions for Geographic Research. Jason Byrne and Jennifer Wolch. Progress in Human Geography. 33: 1-23 (2009).

Planning for Environmental Justice in an Urban National Park. Jason Byrne, Jennifer Wolch and Jin Zhang. Journal of Environmental Planning and Management. 52: 1-28 (2009).

MAPPING TOOLS FOR ANALYSIS OF PARK ACCESS:

Design and Development of a Web-Based Platform to Support Dynamic Analysis of Parks and Open Space. Parisa Ghaemi, Jennifer Swift, Chona Sister, John Wilson and Jennifer Wolch. Computers, Environment and Urban Systems. Published online June 18 (2009).

Access to Parks and Park Facilities in the Green Visions Plan Region. Green Visions Plan Technical Report #17. Chona Sister, John Wilson and Jennifer Wolch. Los Angeles, CA: USC Center for Sustainable Cities and GIS Research Laboratory. 2008.

web tool screen shotCreating Parks & Open Space Using Green Visions Planning Toolkit 1.0. Green Visions Plan Technical Report #18. Newell, J, Sister, C., Wolch J., Swift, J, P. Ghaemi, J. Wilson, and T. Longcore. University of Southern California GIS Research Laboratory and Center for Sustainable Cities, Los Angeles, California. 2008.

Access to Parks and Park Facilities in the Green Visions Plan Region, Green Visions Plan Technical Report #16. Chona Sister, John Wilson, and Jennifer Wolch, J. University of Southern California GIS Research Laboratory and Center for Sustainable Cities, Los Angeles, California. 2007.

Park Congestion and Strategies to Increase Park Equity. Green Visions Plan Technical Report #15. Chona Sister, John Wilson, Jennifer Wolch, Jennifer Swift, and Parisa Ghaemi. University of Southern California GIS Research Laboratory and Center for Sustainable Cities, Los Angeles, California. 2007.

Park and Open Space Resources in the Green Visions Plan Area. Green Visions Plan Technical Report #14 Chona Sister, Jennifer Wolch, John Wilson, Allison Linder, Mona. Seymour, Jason. Byrne, and Jennifer Swift. Los Angeles, CA: University of Southern California GIS Research Laboratory and Center for Sustainable Cities, 2007.

Potential User-Wildlife Conflicts in Urban Parks and Possible Solutions. Green Visions Plan Technical Report #9. Mona Seymour, Diego Martino, Jason Byrne, and Jennifer Wolch. University of Southern California GIS Research Laboratory and Center for Sustainable Cities, Los Angeles, California, 2006.

SAGE (Systematic Audit of Green-space Environments): Audit Form and Instructions. Green Visions Plan Technical Report #6. Jason Byrne, Jennifer Wolch, Jennifer Swift, and Christine Ryan. University of Southern California GIS Research Laboratory and Center for Sustainable Cities, Los Angeles, California, 2005.

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