Date of Award

5-2016

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Legacy Department

Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management

Committee Member

Dr. Lincoln R. Larson, Committee Chair

Committee Member

Dr. Jeffrey C. Hallo

Committee Member

Dr. C. Scott Shafer

Committee Member

Dr. Mariela Fernandez

Abstract

One type of urban park, greenways, represent unique "corridors of benefits" that have attracted a great deal of attention from urban planners and recreation practitioners. Well-designed greenways can contribute to sustainable urban development by improving health and wellness, facilitating connections with nature, fostering social interaction and inclusion, adding value to marginal land, and enhancing connectivity across the urban landscape. However, little is known about the extent to which these benefits are realized and how they are distributed across diverse populations in different types of settings. To answer these questions, our study explored patterns of greenway use, constraints to use, and public perceptions of benefits of two greenways: the Eastside Trail in Atlanta, Georgia and the Leon Creek Greenway in San Antonio, Texas. Onsite user observations (2,111 on Eastside Trail and 464 on Leon Creek Greenway) and intercept surveys (505 on Eastside Trail and 429 on Leon Creek Greenway) were conducted along both greenways during summer 2015. Data were analyzed using Chi square tests, ANOVA, and descriptive statistics to examine factors associated with the primary outcome variables of interest: greenway use, constraints to use, and perceived benefits. The urban Atlanta Beltline is located near the dense population of downtown Atlanta and therefore had more users accessing the greenway by foot or bicycle, traveling to restaurants and shops, and the majority of users were walking. The suburban Leon Creek Greenway is located in a wooded San Antonio creek corridor and had more users accessing it by personal vehicle, using the greenway for recreation and exercise, and the majority of users were bicycling. The majority (71%) of users observed on the Eastside Trail were White, 13% were African American, 9% Hispanic/ Latino, 4% Asian and 3% Other. The Leon Creek Greenway had a racial breakdown of 48% White, 44% Latino, 4% African American, 3% Asian, and 1% Other. Users of both greenways recognized experiential benefits derived from trail use, while the Eastside Trail users equally recognized cultural benefits. Perceptions of environmental benefits associated with the trails were slightly less important. Among the trail users we surveyed, constraints to using the greenways were not commonly expressed, yet some differences between the greenways emerged. Each of these greenways appeared to meet different needs and play distinctive roles in their communities. This is likely due to the locations of the greenways within their respective cities, and the populations of residents nearby. Greenway planners can use these results to help determine the type of greenway they would like to implement in their city: an "urban" greenway that enhances downtown infrastructure connecting destinations and being used for transportation and recreation, or a recreation-centered "suburban" greenway that provides a sense of solitude and interaction with nature, as well as opportunities for improving health and wellbeing.

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