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Spatial Equity in the Provision of Urban Recreation Opportunities

Bryan J. A. Smale, Department of Recreation and Leisure Studies, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario N2L 3G1 INTRODUCTION Equal opportunity in the provision of urban recreation resources has long been the principal goal of most public leisure service agencies. As a result, most Canadian communities have in place systems of parks and facilities that are intended to be relatively evenly distributed and easily accessible to all residents. In order to arrive at these equitable distributions, planners have relied on the use of recreation standards of provision which are based on traditionally held assumptions about what is "needed" to satisfy demand for recreation (Torkildsen, 1983; Wilkinson, 1983). However, the application of recreation space standards has been the focus of considerable criticism. The criticisms are based upon three primary concerns: (1) standards lack a theoretical foundation for their arbitrary requirements; (2) standards have not been empirically validated to verify whether or not the recommended levels of supply are in any way related to recreation need; and (3) standards assume that the demand for recreation opportunities is uniform for the entire population and that provision is therefore subject only to variations in population density (Smale, 1988). However, considerable research has demonstrated the variations in recreation demand that exist (Maw, 1974; Glyptis, 1981; Smale, 1985), and the measurable differences in the sizes and attributes (both tangible and perceived) of recreation sites, make these assumptions untenable. As a result, despite the intentions of standards to achieve a degree of spatial equity in the provision of recreation opportunities, their rigorous application may more often lead to misallocation. The difficulty in trying to fit a relatively static system of diverse recreation resources to a dynamic population with variable demands for recreation points to the importance of conducting ongoing assessments of current provision to determine if the distribution of opportunities is equitable. The purpose of this study is to examine the spatial equity in the provision of urban recreation opportunities using an approach that is responsive to the variations in the recreation demand system and to the diversity of the recreation supply system. By regarding the supply of recreation resources and the demand for them as spatial systems in an urban context, their mapped surfaces reflect their inherent variations. Consequently, under conditions of an equitable provision of recreation opportunities, a complete balance between the two systems, and therefore in their surfaces, should be represented by a smooth surface. Departures from a smooth surface reflect points where the supply of and the demand for recreation do not coincide. METHODS In order to test out the conceptualisation of the relationship between the recreation supply and demand systems, the study focused upon urban park provision. Urban parks are provided exclusively by the public sector, which has an equal opportunity mandate, and are used almost entirely by the municipality's residents thereby providing a relatively "closed system" within which to assess supply and demand. Data were derived from two principal sources: (1) a site-by-site inventory of the parks in the town of Oakville, Ontario, and (2) a comprehensive survey of residential households within the town's administrative boundaries. The data gathered provided the raw material for operationalising the recreation supply and demand systems. The park inventory recorded the following characteristics: (1) facilities such as pools, sports fields, washrooms, and so on; (2) furniture such as picnic tables, benches, shelters, and so on; (3) playground equipment such as swings, slides,

climbers, and so on; and (4) physical attributes such as garden beds, availability of water, and so on. The household survey gathered information concerning the following aspects: (1) residential factors such as length of residency, ownership of private pool, and so on; (2) recreation participation in a number of activities selected specifically because of their links to park use; (3) recreation use and perceptions of parks with respect to familiarity, attractivity, and accessibility; and (4) demographics such as household size, income, ages, and so on. The variables derived from the inventory (supply indicators) and from the survey (demand indicators) were incorporated into a simple gravity model along with an estimate of distance (Pareto function of Manhattan distance) between the parks and neighbourhoods in order to explain variations in reported park use. Regression coefficients calibrated in the model were then used as weights in determining separate indices based on the concept of potential (Warntz, 1965, Pooler, 1982) for the supply system and for the demand system. Potential values at specific grid points in the urban area were estimated for each system, and their surfaces mapped. Finally, the ratios of the potential values at the same grid points were calculated and that surface mapped. If the level of supply coincided with the level of demand at a grid point, the resultant value would equal 1.0, and if supply matched demand across the community, all grid points would equal 1.0 and the resultant surface would be smooth reflecting spatial equity in the provision of urban parks. "Peaks" and "pits" in the surface would therefore indicate "supply-rich" and "supplypoor" areas within the community. RESULTS A total of 114 parks were inventoried, and 1,163 households completed the survey. These households were subsequently organised according to their demographic characteristics into relatively homogeneous neighbourhoods (n = 48) which served as reference points for the demand system. The gravity model explained 66.11% of the variation in park use by the neighbourhoods (F=54.746; p< 0.001) with park familiarity, distance from the park, total accessible park perimeter, selected physical characteristics of the park, and participation in some of the recreation activities being principally responsible for much of the variation. The standardised regression coefficients of those variables associated with the supply system and those associated with the demand system were separated out and the potential indices for each system calculated for the parks' locations and for the neighbourhoods' locations. In order to map the surfaces of the two systems, a relatively fine grid was placed over the community and potential values estimated at each of the intersections. Potential surfaces were mapped for the supply system, the demand system, and for the ratio of their standardised values. Examination of the mapped surface of the supply system revealed areas within the community that with relative surpluses in the provision of recreation opportunities. The three areas showing the highest levels of supply potential included the neighbourhoods near the central business district, those neighbourhoods surrounding Fourteen Mile Creek in the west end of town, and many of the neighbourhoods in the north area. Neighbourhoods on the town's periphery and those encased by other neighbourhoods tended to show the lowest levels of supply potential. The potential surface for the recreation demand system showed that the central area of the town around Sixteen Mile Creek and the entire north area possessed above average levels of demand potential. Another pocket of higher than average demand potential was found in the central neighbourhoods of the west area of the town. Low levels of demand potential tended to be confined to those neighbourhoods on the edges of the west and east areas of the town. The ratio of the supply and demand potential values resulted in a mean of 1.007 (sd=0.049), as expected, which reflects a community-based indicator of "spatial equity" in the provision of recreation opportunities, in this case, urban parks. In other words, when a value of 1.0 occurs on the mapped surface of the potential ratios, it is an indication of a point in the community where the level of supply matches the level of demand. Examination of the recreation

opportunity spatial system revealed two areas of the town which were extremely "supplyrich" given the levels of demand. These two areas were the central neighbourhoods of the community and the neighbourhoods surrounding the mouth of Fourteen Mile Creek in the town's west area. "Supply-poor" neighbourhoods in the town are principally found in the north area and in isolated pockets of the east area. Even though the levels of supply in the neighbourhoods in the north area are above average, they are not adequate to meet the even higher levels of demand being expressed there. Overall, spatial equity in provision of recreation opportunities does appear to exist in the community given the relatively low variations from the expected potential value of 1.0 in the surface. Subsequent discussions of the conceptual model focus upon whether the theorised spatial equity suggested by the mapped surface has practical utility in urban recreation planning. REFERENCES Glyptis, S. A. 1981. "Leisure life-styles". Regional Studies. 15(5): 311-326. Maw, R. 1974. "Assessment of demand for recreation - a modelling approach". In Appleton, I. (ed.). Leisure Research and Policy. Edinburgh: Scottish Academic Press, pp. 78108. Pooler, J. A. 1982. "Entropy maximisation, information minimisation, and population potential: joint considerations". Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Department of Geography, University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario. 198 pp. Smale, B. J. A. 1985. "A method for describing spatial variations in recreation participation". Society and Leisure. 8(2): 735-750. Smale, B. J. A. 1988. "Equipotentiality in urban recreation opportunities". Unpublished doctoral Dissertation, Department of Geography, University of Western Ontario. London, Ontario. 291 pp. Torkildsen, G. 1983. Leisure and Recreation Management. London: E. & F. Spon. Warntz, W. 1965. Macrogeography and Income Fronts. Monograph Series No. 3, Regional Science Research Institute, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 117 pp. Wilkinson, P. F. 1983. Urban Open Space Planning. Faculty of Environmental Studies, York University, Toronto, Ontario.

Sixth Canadian Congress on Leisure Research May 9-12, 1990

Sixime Congrs Canadien de Recherches en Loisir Le 9-12 mai, 1990 University of Waterloo

Leisure Challenges: Bringing People, Resources and Policy into Play Les defies des loisirs: agencer les personnes, les resources, et les decisions
Editor/Le rdacteur: Bryan J. A. Smale

Ontario Research Council on Leisure 1990 Conseil Ontarien de Recherche en Loisir 1990

Copyright 1990

Ontario Research Council on Leisure/Conseil Ontarien de Recherche en Loisir

All rights reserved. No part of this publiciation may be reproduced or used in any form without written permission of the editor or ORCOL. Printed and bound at Graphic Services University of Waterloo