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Parks, Trails, And Greenways Factsheet

Parks, Trails, And Greenways Factsheet

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Published by: Scott Schaefer on Dec 08, 2008
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Parks, Trails, and Greenways Factsheet

Active Living by Design and Parks, Trails, and Greenways Parks, trails and greenways are important to communities because they are critical places that provide opportunities for close-to-home recreation and connections to local destinations of interest. All three can help promote active living, a way of life that integrates physical activity into daily routines. Active Living by Design promotes environments that offer choices for integrating physical activity into daily life. In many communities across the country, parks provide a natural environment for low-impact and low cost activities such as walking or cycling. They also often provide facilities such as trails, playgrounds, and dedicated sports facilities for more physically active uses. Many parks and greenways serve multiple purposes for conservation, education, recreation and transportation. Greenways are corridors of protected public and private land established along rivers, stream valleys, ridges, abandoned railroad corridors, utility rights-of-way, canals, scenic roads or other linear features. Trails are often located in parks and greenways that provide public access for recreation or transportation purposes such as walking, jogging, bicycling, and cross-country skiing.
Parks, Trails, and Greenways Affect Our Levels of Physical Activity

Evidence is growing that parks, trails, and greenways have positive affects on increasing physical activity. In addition to this health benefit, communities profit from their parks, trails and greenways by protecting open space, attracting investment, revitalizing cities, boosting tourism, and preserving the environment, and increasing quality of life.i Researchers have found positive relationships between settings for physical activity and physical activity patterns in adults.ii,iii,iv The proximity of parks, trails and greenways to neighborhoods where people live and work can influence levels of daily physical activity. • • • In a survey of U.S. adults, people with access to neighborhood parks were nearly twice as likely to be physically active as those without access to parks.ii Approximately four out of five residents of the United States and Canada use local parks.v,vi As part of a Pennsylvania statewide survey of the public’s perception of greenways, more than 80 percent of the participants reported using a greenway and 93 percent supported the idea of providing additional greenways in their community.vii In a 2003 study of trails in six Indiana cities, over 70 percent of trail users reported they participated more in activities, such as walking and biking, as a result of the trail in their community.viii

To encourage daily routine physical activity, research suggests that facilities and programs associated with parks, trails and greenways should respond to local demographics, special populations and community interests. The types of programs and facilities offered often determine how parks, trails and greenways are used and by whom. People are more likely to use and support these places if they offer a variety of choices and culturally-appropriate activities.

Active Living by Design: Park, Trails, and Greenways Factsheet - Draft


Parks, Trails, and Greenways Factsheet
• The results of a 2004 study show that there are fewer parks, green spaces and bike paths/lanes in communities with higher levels of poverty. Communities that have higher median income levels are associated with an increased probability of having bike paths.ix The same study also shows that moving from a community with a 1 percent poverty rate to a 10 percent poverty rate is associated with a decrease of bike paths from 57 percent to 9 percent. A study of park usage of older adults (50 years and older) in Cleveland found that the majority of these park users were physically active during their visit with more than twothirds using the parks for moderate or high levels of physical activity. o 16 percent enjoyed a high level of physical activity (e.g., jogging, bicycling, hiking), o 51 percent had a moderate level (e.g., walking 21-45 minutes, biking, hiking or swimming for less than 30 minutes), o 17 percent had a low level (e.g., playing with grandchildren, walking 20 minutes or less).x A survey of users on three greenways in Texas found that the greenways have contributed the most to their community’s quality of life through health and fitness, followed by the provision of natural areas, accessible recreation, land use patterns, pride in the community, and community identity.xi

Trails are an ideal setting for daily physical activity and can provide a safe connection between community destinations such as parks, schools, shopping districts and workplaces. Trails appeal to all segments of a community because they provide an equal opportunity for people of all ages, incomes, and cultures to be active. Studies suggest that the presence of a trail can increase physical activity among adults. For example: • In a Missouri survey, 55.2 percent of people using trails reported an increase in walking since they began using the trails. Women and people with a high school education or lower were more than twice as likely to have increased their amount of walking since they began using the trails.xii This study also found that walking trails may be beneficial in promoting physical activity among women and people in lower socioeconomic groups. A study of older woman in Pittsburgh concluded that living within walking distance of several types of destinations, such as a park, biking or walking trail or department or hardware store, led to greater levels of physical activity.xiii Weekday user surveys on trails in Seattle, WA, Tampa, FL, and Washington, DC show that from 35 percent to 45 percent of weekday trail users are making a non-recreational trip, translating into 1,000 to 2,000 trips each day.xiv The same surveys also found that commuters used the Washington, D.C. trail more than three times per week and up to five times per week on the Tampa, FL trail.

Active Living by Design: Park, Trails, and Greenways Factsheet - Draft


Parks, Trails, and Greenways Factsheet

Walking is the preferred mode of activity for parks, trails, and greenways because it is the most common physical activity among the general population and people of color; it is also acceptable and accessible.xii Studies suggest people want to walk more. In a recent study, 55 percent of Americans said they would like to walk more throughout the day for exercise or to get to specific places.xv This same study also found that 63 percent of Americans would like to walk more to stores and other places to run errands. Parks, trails and greenways are a perfect environment support people’s walking and physical activity needs. By linking parks and trails to destinations of interest, more people would be able to walk to places in their neighborhood and beyond.
Physical Inactivity Affects Our Health

Physical inactivity plays a significant role in the most common chronic diseases in the United States, including coronary heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure and diabetes; each of these is a leading cause of death.xvi Specifically: • • • Physical inactivity and poor diet are responsible for an estimated 400,000 deaths annually from coronary heart disease, colon cancer, stroke, and diabetes.xvii Health scientists have recently declared a new epidemic of children diagnosed with adultonset diabetes, a disease that was rarely seen in children as recently as the early 1990’s.xviii Obesity and overweight play a significant role in death and disability and are strongly influenced by physical inactivity. Obese individuals have a 50-100% increased risk of premature death versus individuals at a healthy weight.ix In 2002, the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) found that 65.7% of adults are overweight or obese, and 30.6% of adults are obese, or approximately 30 pounds overweight.xix The proportion of young people who are overweight has more than doubled in the last 20 years.xx Among children aged 6 through 19 years in 2002, 31.5% were either overweight or at risk of overweight and 16.5% were overweight.xxi In 2000, only 26% of U.S. adults were achieving the recommended levels of physical activity; 28% reported no leisure time physical activity (i.e. sedentary).xxii
Leisure Time Physical Activity U.S. Adults, 2000
28% 46%

26% Inactive Recommended Insufficient

People who meet or exceed the recommended levels of physical activity report higher levels of perceived quality of life and health status. In 2001, individuals across all age groups meeting recommended levels of physical activity were significantly less likely to report “unhealthy days” compared to physically inactive adults.xxiii

Active Living by Design: Park, Trails, and Greenways Factsheet - Draft


Parks, Trails, and Greenways Factsheet

Low-income people, people of color and those with less education suffer disproportionately from health problems related to inactivity and tend to be less physically active than the overall population.xxii

How Much is Enough? Physical Activity Recommendations

The U.S. Surgeon General’s Physical Activity Recommendations are: In order to reduce the risk of chronic disease, adults should accumulate 30 minutes or more of moderate intensity physical activity on five or more days per week. Moderate activities include a brisk walk, bicycling on level ground, mowing the lawn, etc. Alternatively, adults can participate in vigorous exercise for 20 minutes or more on three or more days per week. Vigorous activities include running, bicycling on hills, aerobics classes, cross country skiing, etc. Community Solutions Parks, trails, and greenways are essential physical activity infrastructure for communities. Park and recreation policies and practices should promote creating active places near neighborhoods and connecting community destinations. Community participation is essential to assess local needs, plan for new or maintain rehabilitated facilities, and promote programs and culturally-appropriate activities. In order to help realize the full health benefits of parks, trails, and greenways, communities can pursue some of the following activities: Active Living by Design Calls to Action Preparation
• Develop and maintain a partnership, coalition, or task force of citizens, advocates and professionals of various disciplines. • Assess existing parks, trails, and greenways for opportunities for and barriers to active living. • Assess policy support for active living by identifying and evaluating relevant park, trail, and greenway master plans, ordinances and design guidelines to identify strengths and potential areas for improvement. • Conduct or provide training for local advocates of active living to help build the skills necessary for creating community changes. • Identify and generate funding sources; write grant proposals.

Active Living by Design: Park, Trails, and Greenways Factsheet - Draft


Parks, Trails, and Greenways Factsheet
• Inform local officials about your partnership and goals though meetings, publications • •

• •

and onsite visits. Educate local media about active living and your partnership through editorial meetings, relationships with reporters, and letters to the editor. Work with park and recreation managers to create strong messages, supportive facts, and local case studies of how communities have used parks, trails, and greenways to support physical activity. Use existing events and programs or establish community events that can educate and inform the public and media about active living. Partner with local park, trail, and greenway organizations to utilize their communication channels to promote active living via their newsletters, bulletin boards, websites, and listservs. Provide maps of local trails and greenways that highlight their role as an alternate route to destinations of interest.


• Work with parks and recreation departments to create after-school or summer programs that promote physical activities such as walking and gardening. • Form walking or biking clubs in neighborhoods that utilize trails and respond to different age groups, skill levels and interests. • Support at-risk youth programs in local parks. • Promote bike safety events for children, families and seniors. • Use trails, greenways, and parks as outdoor classrooms that educate people about wildlife and local history. • Integrate park, trail, and greenway plans with land use, transportation, and economic development plans. • Advocate for subdivision ordinances that require that a set amount of land be reserved for trails and/or greenways. • Create grassroots support that encourages public officials to increase funding through bonds, grants and other mechanisms. • Volunteer to serve on a park and recreation board, bicycle advisory group or environmental commission that makes local and regional decisions that affect parks, trail, and greenways. • Work with employers to provide incentives and amenities to employees that commute to work by trail. • Work with local governments and non-profit groups to plan and develop non-profit groups to plan and develop facilities for all types of recreational uses. • Link parks, trails, and greenways to local destinations of interest to ensure that walking trips are as convenient, or more expedient, than using a car. • Design parks, trails, and greenways to deter crime and enhance safety. • Design parks, trails, and greenways with multiple users in mind and solicit community feedback to assess community needs and interests. • Ensure that parks, trails, and greenways are constantly maintained and receive the necessary infrastructure improvements.


Physical Projects

Active Living by Design: Park, Trails, and Greenways Factsheet - Draft


Parks, Trails, and Greenways Factsheet

For more information on how parks, trails, and greenways affect public health and for more resources to improve transportation and health in your community, please see the Active Living by Design website at www.activelivingbydesign.org. The site is rich with data sources, funding sources, tools, publications, presentations and links to potential partners.
Active Living by Design

Active Living by Design is a national program of The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and is administered by the UNC School of Public Health in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. The program establishes and evaluates innovative approaches to increase physical activity through community design, public policies and communications strategies. For more information, please visit our website: www.activelivingbydesign.org. References:
Lerner, S. & Poole, W. (1999). The economic benefits of parks and open space: How land conservation helps communities grow smart and protect the bottom line. San Francisco, CA: The Trust for Public Land. ii Brownson, R.C., Baker, E.A., Housemann, R.A., Brennan, L.K., & Bacak, S.J. (2001). Environmental determinants of physical activity in the United States. American Journal of Public Health, 91(12), 1995-2003. iii Huston, S.L., Evenson, K.R., Bors, P., & Gizlice, Z. (2003). Neighborhood environment, access to places for activity, and leisure-time physical activity in a diverse North Carolina population. American Journal of Health Promotion, 18 (1), 58-69. iv Task Force on Community Preventive Services. (2002). Recommendations to increase physical activity in communities. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 22(4S), 67-72. v Godbey, G., Graefe, A., & James, S. (1992). The benefits of local recreation and park services: A nationwide study of the perceptions of the American public. Ashburn, VA.: National Recreation and Park Association. vi Harper, J., Neider, D., Godbey, G., & Lamont, D. (1996). The Use and Benefits of Local Government Recreation and Park Services in Edmonton, Alberta. Winnipeg, Manitoba: University of Manitoba, Health, Leisure and Human Performance Research Institute. vii Pennsylvania Greenways Partnership Commission, Greenways Partnership Advisory Committee. (2001). Pennsylvania Greenways: An Action Plan for Creating Connections. Harrisburg, PA.: Author. viii Indiana University, School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation, Eppley Institute for Parks and Public Lands. (2001). Summary report Indiana trails study: A study of trails in 6 Indiana cities. Bloomington, IN.: Author. ix Powell, L., Slater, S., & Chaloupka, F.J. (2004). The relationship between community physical activity settings and race, ethnicity and socioeconomic status. Evidence-Based Preventive Medicine, 1(2), 135-144. x Payne, L, Orsega-Smith, B., Godbey, G., & Mark, R. (1998). Local parks and the health of older adults. Parks & Recreation, 33(10), 64. xi Shafter, C.S., Lee, B.K., & Turner, S. (2000). A tale of three greenway trails: User perceptions related to quality of life. Landscape and Urban Planning, 49, 163-178. xii Brownson, R.C., Housemann, R.A., Brown, D.R., Jackson-Thompson, J., King, A.C., Malone, B.R., et al. (2000). Promoting physical activity in rural communities: Walking trail access, use and effects. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 18(3), 235241. xiii King, W. C., Brach, J.S., Belle, S., Killingsworth, R., Fenton, M., Kriska, A.M. (2003). The relationship between convenience of destinations and walking levels in older women. American Journal of Health Promotion. 18(1), 74-82. xiv TR News. (1995). Off-road but on track: Using bicycle and pedestrian trails for transportation. TR News, No. 178. MayJune. Transportation Research Record. Washington, DC: Transportation Research Board xv Belden Russonello & Stewart. (2003). Americans’ attitudes toward walking and creating better walking communities. Washington, D.C.: Surface Transportation Policy Project. http://www.transact.org/report.asp?id=205 xvi McKenna, et al., Current Issues and Challenges in Chronic Disease Control. In: Chronic Disease Epidemiology and Control, 2nd Edition.. Brownson, et al. (Eds.). Washington: American Public Health Association, 1998, pp. 3. xvii Mokdad, A., Marks, J., Stroup, D., and Gerberding, J. (2004). Actual causes of death in the United States, 2000. JAMA, 291 (10): 1238-45. xviii Kaufman ,F. Type 2 diabetes mellitus in children and youth: a new epidemic. Journal of Pediatric Endocrinology & Metabolism. 2002;15 Suppl 2:737-44.

Active Living by Design: Park, Trails, and Greenways Factsheet - Draft


Parks, Trails, and Greenways Factsheet
Hedley, A.A., Ogden, C.L., Johnson, C.L., Carroll, M.D., Curtin, L.R., Flegal, K.M. (2004). Prevalence of overweight and obesity among US children, adolescents, and adults, 1999-2002. JAMA, 291(23): 2847-2850. xx US Department of Health and Human Services. The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Prevent and Decrease Overweight and Obesity, 2001 xxi Hedley, A.A., Ogden, C.L., Johnson, C.L., Carroll, M.D., Curtin, L.R., Flegal, K.M. (2004). Prevalence of overweight and obesity among US children, adolescents, and adults, 1999-2002. JAMA, 291(23): 2847-2850. xxii Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), 2000. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. xxiii Brown, D.W., Balluz, L.S., Heath, G.W., Moriarty, D.G., Ford, E.S., Giles, W.H., & Mokdad, A.H. (2003). Associations between recommended levels of physical activity and health-related quality of life: Findings from the 2001 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) survey. Preventive Medicine, 37(5), 520-528.

Active Living by Design: Park, Trails, and Greenways Factsheet - Draft


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