Use and perceptions of New York City’s forests, wetlands, and landscaped park areas

Use and perceptions of New York City’s forests, wetlands, and landscaped park areas


In this study, randomized field interviews with 955 New York City park users explore differences in park use and motivations for park visitation according to site type and gender of respondents. We find that natural areas offer different experiences and social meanings to park visitors compared to the ballfields, lawns, and playgrounds of landscaped  areas. Visitors to urban forests and wetlands are more likely to value a sense of refuge, place attachment, and the opportunity to experience nature, while those in landscaped areas are drawn to a particular park quality or activity. Park users who do not visit natural areas cite their preferences for landscaped park areas as well as specific concerns that these sites of wild urban nature are not safe or accessible for themselves or their children. Women are more likely to visit parks with children and are less likely to visit natural areas than men. In addition, people who participate in environmental stewardship groups are more likely to visit urban natural areas than those who do not engage in stewardship.

In a nutshell, this resource offers:

  • A brief review of the social and psychological benefits of time spent in natural settings.
  • Evidence from interviews that shows gender strongly shapes the experience of park visitors in natural and landscaped areas, with women reporting higher levels of discomfort and concerns about safety--but also greater feelings of awe--than men in natural areas.
  • Descriptions of why people do or do not visit natural areas in New York City.

How to use this resource:

  • As peer-reviewed research that affirms natural areas and landscaped parks are used for different reasons, often by different user groups.
  • As a starting point to provide experiences and programming to park visitors who are unfamiliar with or intimidated by natural areas.
  • As a point of consideration when planning forest management (the connection between aesthetics and safety).

Author: Nancy Falxa Sonti, Lindsay Campbell, Erika Svendsen, Michelle Johnson, D. S. Novem Auyeung

Date published: 2020

Point of contact: Nancy Falxa Sonti, Research Ecologist, Community and Landscapes of the Urban Northeast, US Forest Service, nancyfsonti@usda.gov 

Citation: Sonti, N. F., Campbell, L. K., Svendsen, E. S., Johnson, M. L., Auyeung D. S. N. 2020. Fear and Fascination: Use and perceptions of New York City's forests, wetlands, and landscaped park areas. Urban Forestry & Urban Greening. Vol 49.

Resource is available online here.

 

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