Graduation Year

2011

Document Type

Thesis

Degree

M.A.

Degree Granting Department

Geography, Environment and Planning

Major Professor

Jayajit Chakraborty

Keywords

Environmental Justice, ethnicity, GIS, multivariate regression, race

Abstract

Although environmental justice research has traditionally focused on environmental disamenities and health hazards, recent studies have begun to examine social inequities in the distribution of urban amenities such as street trees and parks that provide several direct and indirect health benefits to local residents. This thesis adds to this knowledge by evaluating distributional inequities in both distribution and access to parks in Pinellas County, the most densely populated and one of the most racially segregated counties in Florida. An important objective was to determine if neighborhoods with lower levels of park access are more likely to contain a significantly higher proportion of racial/ethnic minorities and low-income residents. The analysis uses precise locations of parks, street network data, and block group level census socio-demographic information. Parks are classified into three categories based on park size (acres). For the first research question, park service areas are constructed to determine the socio-demographic composition of residents closest to each park based on a 400-meter walking distance along the road network. Park service areas allow the calculation of potential park congestion, in acres per person, and the analysis of statistical associations between socio-demographic characteristics and park acreage. The results indicate less congested parks and higher acreage for racial/ethnic minority residents and those below poverty level, with respect to White residents and those above the poverty level. The second research question examines inequities in the geography of park access as measured through the creation of network-based buffer zones based on walking distances from each park. Statistical analysis, including basic comparisons and a multivariate least squares regression, indicate significantly lower accessibility to parks for residents who are Hispanic and 65 or more years in age. Parks are significantly more accessible to neighborhoods containing a higher proportion of individuals in poverty, vacant houses, and those within the cities of Clearwater or St. Petersburg. This research contributes to a growing body of literature on park inequity by using walking distances on local streets to define park service areas and focusing on an urban area (Pinellas County, Florida) that has not been examined in past studies of environmental justice.

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