Accessibility and Usability: Green Space Preferences, Perceptions, and Barriers in a Rapidly Urbanizing City in Latin America

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Parks, Urbanization, Green Space, Gender, Safety, Inequalities

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Green spaces are one important indicator of urban quality of life. Yet urban green space research is often carried out in industrialized nations, with relatively little known about green space use and preferences in rapidly urbanizing cities in developing countries. With high levels of urbanization and widening inequalities in many Latin American cities, it is necessary to evaluate green space situated within cultural and geographical contexts. In this study, green space usability was explored by examining preferences, perceptions, and access barriers of parks and urban green space using on-site individual semi-structured interviews and systematic observations of behavior among a purposive sample of urban residents. We sought to determine whether certain sectors of the urban population have access to green space in close proximity of their homes and localized patterns of use in (municipal) urban parks and neighborhood parks. The revitalization and construction of urban parks in the last decade in Santa Cruz, Bolivia was found to reduce access barriers for residents by providing more desirable and safer public spaces for leisure and recreation. However, gender disparities were found in terms of usage and we document unequal distribution of larger and more desirable green spaces throughout sectors of the city, so that not all urban residents are experiencing such benefits. Results highlight the potential importance of designing green spaces to serve as equalizers in urban areas characterized by social and spatial inequalities.

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Landscape and Urban Planning, v. 107, issue 3, p. 272-282