First Advisor

Jennifer Dill

Term of Graduation

Spring 2007

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Urban Studies


Urban Studies




Open spaces -- Oregon -- Portland City planning -- Oregon -- Portland National parks and reserves -- Oregon -- Portland -- Planning, City planning, National parks and reserves -- Planning, Open spaces, Oregon -- Portland



Physical Description

1 online resource (viii, 142 pages)


Current research is examining the link between the built environment and regular physical activity to improve public health. As communities become denser and individual lots become smaller, locally accessible parks will assume more importance as places to promote physical activity and individual health outcomes.

To determine if park design and facilities can promote use and physical activity, I examined five neighborhood parks in three newer developments near Portland, Oregon (Fairview Village, Sunnyside Village and Orenco Station). I used a multi-method research approach that included interviews with relevant public agencies and developers, field inventories of the parks and surrounding context, observations of park use, intercept surveys of park users and secondary data sources.

The results indicate that active living is not an explicit goal for parks in these new, planned communities. Developers wield strong influence on the location, size, design and functions of the parks and open spaces within the developments, and make decisions based on the ability of the space to provide visual amenity and economic returns on the project. While public agencies have some control through regulation and development review processes, they also must balance several public interest goals for park space including passive uses and environmental protection.

The parks in these developments generally contain the amenities recommended for neighborhood parks by the National Recreation and Park Association, which include playground equipment, basketball courts, picnic tables and shelters, and open lawn areas that support both active and passive uses. This study found that the parks in these developments support physical activity primarily for children, as play equipment is the most-used feature of the parks, and bringing children to play is the primary purpose for park visits. Adults tend to be sedentary in the parks. The parks are used frequently, proximity to home is the primary reason for visiting the park, and walking is the most common mode of travel to the park.

Active recreation in parks must be a clear priority to ensure other goals and objectives do not overshadow physical activity as primary influence on the policies, regulations and requirements that affect park location, size, design and facilities.


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