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This article examines the distribution of parks in Baltimore, Maryland, as an environmental justice issue. In addition to established methods for measuring distribution of and access to parks, we employ a novel park service area approach that uses Thiessen polygons and dasymetric reapportioning of census data to measure potential park congestion as an equity outcome measure. We find that a higher proportion of African Americans have access to parks within walking distance, defined as 400 meters or less, than whites, but whites have access to more acreage of parks within walking distance than blacks. A needs-based assessment shows that areas with the highest need have the best access to parks but also have access to less acreage of parks compared to low-need areas. Park service areas that are predominantly black have higher park congestion than areas that are predominantly white, although differences are less apparent at the city level than at the metropolitan level. Following Iris Young and others, we argue that conceptions of justice must move beyond distributive justice and address the social and institutional mechanisms that generate inequities. For Baltimore, we examine how segregation ordinances, racial covenants, improvement associations, the Home Owners Loan Corporation, and the Parks and Recreation Board created separate black spaces historically underserved with parks. These mechanisms ultimately fueled middle-class flight and suburbanization and black inheritance of much of Baltimore's space, including its parks. If justice demands just distribution justly achieved, the present-day pattern of parks in Baltimore should be interpreted as environmental injustice.
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Parks and People: An Environmental Justice Inquiry in Baltimore, Maryland
Christopher G. Boone a; Geoffrey L. Buckley b; J. Morgan Grove c; Chona Sister d
a School of Human Evolution & Social Change, School of Sustainability, Arizona State University, b
Department of Geography, Ohio University, c Northeastern Research Station, USDA Forest Service, d Global
Institute of Sustainability, Arizona State University,
First Published on: 12 August 2009
To cite this Article Boone, Christopher G., Buckley, Geoffrey L., Grove, J. Morgan and Sister, Chona(2009)'Parks and People: An
Environmental Justice Inquiry in Baltimore, Maryland',Annals of the Association of American Geographers,99999:1,
To link to this Article: DOI: 10.1080/00045600903102949
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Parks and People: An Environmental Justice Inquiry
in Baltimore, Maryland
Christopher G. Boone,Geoffrey L. Buckley,J. Morgan Grove,and Chona Sister§
Arizona State University—School of Human Evolution & Social Change, School of Sustainability
Department of Geography, Ohio University
USDA Forest Service—Northeastern Research Station
§Global Institute of Sustainability, Arizona State University
This article examines the distribution of parks in Baltimore, Maryland, as an environmental justice issue. In
addition to established methods for measuring distribution of and access to parks, we employ a novel park service
area approach that uses Thiessen polygons and dasymetric reapportioning of census data to measure potential
park congestion as an equity outcome measure. We find that a higher proportion of African Americans have
access to parks within walking distance, defined as 400 meters or less, than whites, but whites have access to more
acreage of parks within walking distance than blacks. A needs-based assessment shows that areas with the highest
need have the best access to parks but also have access to less acreage of parks compared to low-need areas.
Park service areas that are predominantly black have higher park congestion than areas that are predominantly
white, although differences are less apparent at the city level than at the metropolitan level. Following Iris Young
and others, we argue that conceptions of justice must move beyond distributive justice and address the social
and institutional mechanisms that generate inequities. For Baltimore, we examine how segregation ordinances,
racial covenants, improvement associations, the Home Owners Loan Corporation, and the Parks and Recreation
Board created separate black spaces historically underserved with parks. These mechanisms ultimately fueled
middle-class flight and suburbanization and black inheritance of much of Baltimore’s space, including its parks.
If justice demands just distribution justly achieved, the present-day pattern of parks in Baltimore should be
interpreted as environmental injustice. Key Words: Baltimore, environmental justice, parks, segregation.
Este art´
ıculo examina la distribuci´
on de parques en Baltimore, Maryland, en t´
erminos de justicia ambiental.
as de los m´
etodos usuales para medir la distribuci´
on y acceso a los parques, nosotros empleamos un novedoso
enfoque de ´
area de servicio del parque, el cual utiliza los pol´
ıgonos Thiessen y la distribuci´
on dasim´
etrica de datos
censales para medir la congesti´
on potencial del parque como una medida del grado de equidad. Descubrimos que
hay mayor proporci´
on de afroamericanos que blancos con acceso a los parques a distancia peatonal, la cual se
define como de 400 metros o menos; pero m´
as que los negros, los blancos pueden acceder a parques de mayor
on, situados a distancia peatonal. Una evaluaci´
on basada en niveles de necesidad muestra que las ´
con las mayores necesidades tienen el mejor acceso a parques, pero tambi´
en tienen acceso a parques de menor
on, en comparaci´
on con lo que ocurre en ´
areas de necesidades menores. Las ´
areas de servicio de parques en
donde predomina la poblaci´
on negra exhiben mayor congesti´
on que las ´
areas con predominio blanco, aunque las
diferencias son menos aparentes al nivel de ciudad que del metropolitano. Siguiendo a Iris Young y otros, arg¨
Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 99(4) 2009, pp. 1–21 C
2009 by Association of American Geographers
Initial submission, June 2007; revised submission, June 2008; final acceptance, July 2008
Published by Taylor & Francis, LLC.
Downloaded By: [Arizona State University] At: 17:48 12 August 2009
2 Boone et al.
que la concepci´
on de justicia tiene que ir m´
as all´
a de la justicia distributiva y debe enfrentar los mecanismos
sociales e institucionales que generan inequidad. Examinamos c´
omo en Baltimore las ordenanzas de segregaci´
convenios raciales, las asociaciones de bienestar, la Corporaci´
on de Pr´
estamos para Propietarios de Vivienda, y
el Consejo de Parques y Recreaci´
on, han contribuido a crear espacios negros separados, siempre deficientes en el
servicio de parques. En ´
ultimas, estos mecanismos llevaron a la desbandada de la clase media, al desarrollo de la
on y la herencia por los negros de gran parte del espacio de Baltimore, incluidos sus parques. Si a la jus-
ticia se la concibe como distribuci´
on justa, lograda con justicia, entonces el actual patr´
on de parques de Baltimore
debe interpretarse como injusticia ambiental. Palabras clave: Baltimore, justicia ambiental, parques, segregaci´
Environmental justice as a body of scholarship and
forum for activism is now more than twenty years
old. In its infancy, the primary focus of environ-
mental justice scholarship was the distribution of toxic
facilities and waste dumps in relation to where groups
of people live, especially racial and ethnic minorities.
The landmark study by the United Church of Christ
Commission for Racial Justice (1987) set the course of
early scholarship, given the alarming finding that racial
and ethnic minorities were more likely than whites to
live near hazardous waste facilities, even controlling
for income. It implied two things that most believe
to be unjust: that residents could not buy themselves
out of a polluted neighborhood or that polluting in-
dustries were deliberately targeting or discriminating
against racial and ethnic minority neighborhoods. In
response, a number of “which-came-first” studies (see,
for example, Been and Gupta 1997) were undertaken to
test whether industry was deliberately targeting racial
and ethnic minority communities with unwanted land
uses. If minority communities moved near to a polluting
industry after it was established, the argument goes, the
spatial coincidence of minority community and toxic
facility could not stand as a charge of environmental
racism. The approach is superficially persuasive, yet it
ignores the institutional structures in place, such as zon-
ing and real estate practices, that might increase the
probability of disadvantaged communities living near
hazardous facilities. Although many of the institutions
are not overtly discriminatory, they might be governed
by more subtle forms of racism that guide relations be-
tween rich and poor, white and non-white (Bolin et al.
2002). White privilege has also helped to ensure that
most unwanted land uses end up on the other side of
town. Pulido (2000) reminds us that in Los Angeles, the
distribution of polluting industry is as much a function
of where whites are located as where racial and ethnic
minorities reside. Most of the environmental justice lit-
erature has treated minorities as a magnet for polluting
industry, but the distribution of toxic and hazardous fa-
cilities is also a function of whites having the power
to expel and exclude the dirtiest industries from their
Because many of the early studies, including the
which-came-first investigations, could show only statis-
tical associations between variables, in the last decade
a number of scholars have examined the place-specific,
historical, and institutional structures that have created
environmental inequities (Hurley 1997; Boone and
Modarres 1999; Craddock 2000; Bolin et al. 2002;
Boone 2002, 2005; Ishiyama 2003; Bolin, Grineski, and
Collins 2005; Colten 2005; Saha and Mohai 2005; Gri-
neski, Bolin, and Boone 2007). Hurley’s (1997) study
of Wagner Electric in St. Louis, for instance, shows
how housing and occupational discrimination restricted
jobs and neighborhoods around the plant mainly to
whites, a pattern that persisted well into the 1960s. Af-
ter white flight in the 1960s, African Americans moved
in, encouraged by blockbusters, and were left with a
toxic brownfield. Others have highlighted the legacy of
early zoning decisions on present-day land use to ex-
plain patterns of inequity (Maantay 2001, 2002; Boone
2005). Such intensive case studies and narratives pro-
vide “thick description” that enriches understanding
of processes at work. Boone’s (2002) study of envi-
ronmental equity in Baltimore, for example, demon-
strates how a long history of disadvantage for black
Baltimoreans led to a present-day distribution of toxics
release inventory (TRI) sites primarily in white neigh-
borhoods. Decades of strict occupational and residential
segregation kept blacks away from white, working-class
neighborhoods that enjoyed short walks to nearby fac-
tories. Persistent residential patterns mean that whites
are now living closer than blacks to toxic industrial sites,
an unexpected legacy of discrimination and racism. In
Buffalo, New York, similar historical processes of la-
bor force exclusion and residential segregation have re-
sulted in disproportionately low exposure of blacks to
toxic sites (Krieg 2005). A study from Detroit finds sim-
ilar patterns where residential segregation has excluded
blacks from industrial districts and in turn reduced prox-
imity to toxic facilities (Downey 2005). Bowen et al.
(1995) found no significant spatial correlation at the
census tract level between TRI sites and race in Cleve-
land for 1990, but they did not investigate historical ex-
planations for those patterns. These results from older
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Parks and People: An Environmental Justice Inquiry in Baltimore, Maryland 3
industrial cities suggest that regional patterns of envi-
ronmental inequities might exist, but further historical
investigation is required to properly theorize on this
In contrast to the place-specific historical studies,
national-level assessments continue to search for broad
patterns and explanations of inequity. In a recent
assessment, Mohai and Saha (2007) find that race, con-
trolling for income and sociopolitical factors, is a criti-
cal variable for explaining the distribution of hazardous
waste facilities. Similar to the United Church of Christ
study of twenty years ago, they argue that racial tar-
geting, housing discrimination, and other race-related
factors cannot be discounted in the explanations for
hazardous waste facility siting. Using the Department
of Environmental Protection’s Risk Screening Environ-
mental Indicators database, which models relative lev-
els of toxic releases in a given region, Downey (2007)
tests the hypotheses that higher residential segregation
and income inequality lead to greater environmental in-
equalities in the nation’s largest metropolitan areas. He
finds that the sixty-one metropolitan areas show varia-
tion in environmental inequality that is explained nei-
ther by degrees of residential segregation nor by income
inequality. Downey argues, as have others (Mennis and
Jordan 2005; Saha and Mohai 2005) who have under-
taken quantitative environmental justice studies, that
detailed, historical studies are necessary to illuminate
the processes of environmental inequality formation.
By far, the majority of environmental justice stud-
ies have focused on the distribution of environmen-
tal disamenities, but recent research has cast attention
on environmental amenities, especially parks. Coming
to terms with white privilege compels researchers to
understand not only how privilege repels environmen-
tal burdens, such as polluting industry, but also how it
might attract more than its fair share of environmen-
tal amenities. Parks are usually treated as environmen-
tal amenities because of the multiple social, economic,
health, and environmental benefits they provide. Peo-
ple who live near parks benefit from access to public
space and opportunities for social interaction; strength
of social ties and sense of security are typically greater in
neighborhoods with public parks. The health benefits of
parks are clear: People who live close to parks are three
times as likely to get the recommended amount of daily
exercise when compared to those who live beyond walk-
ing distance (Giles-Corti et al. 2005). Mental health has
also been shown to improve when individuals have ac-
cess to green spaces (Chiesura 2004; Maller et al. 2006).
Parks also provide a number of important ecosystem
services such as a moderation of the urban heat island
effect, reduction in certain air pollutants, absorption of
precipitation, filtration of water pollutants, reduction
in floods, reduced loads on stormwater systems, and the
provision of wildlife habitat. In some parks, community
gardeners take advantage of these ecosystem services
every day in growing food. Park planners have long
touted the economic benefit of parks as justifications
for city expenditures. Most studies indicate that prop-
erty values increase with proximity to parks (Crompton
2001; Sherer 2006). More than a century ago, Frederick
Law Olmsted showed that tax revenues from properties
adjacent to Central Park more than offset the costs
of building the park (Rosenzweig and Blackmar 1992).
Real estate developers also understand this arithmetic
and build parks into residential subdivisions, although
a notable trend is the increase in the number of pri-
vate parks open exclusively to subdivision residents or
members of home owners associations.
Most urban parks, however, are public property and
should stand up to the scrutiny of just distribution.
Defining just distribution is not a simple task, but it
is central to the environmental justice project. Some
Marxist scholars are wary of the term justice, given that
traditional systems of justice have worked to perpet-
uate class advantages for the elite. But the associa-
tion of justice with social struggle, fairness, and equity
means that it has broad currency from multiple politi-
cal and analytical viewpoints (Harvey 1973; Merrifield
and Swyngedouw 1997). At the most basic level, just
distribution can be defined as equal distribution of ben-
efits and burdens among individuals or groups. In the
case of parks, this might be measured, for instance, as
equal numbers of acres per person or recreation funds
per capita by neighborhood or socioeconomic status. A
difficulty with equal distribution as an outcome mea-
sure, however, is that it does not take into considera-
tion needs, merits, or choices of the population, which
can differ considerably between a middle-class family
with two cars and a single mother who depends on
walking or public transportation. Neighborhoods with
an abundance of young children or elderly individu-
als might merit more parks and recreation spaces than
do neighborhoods with working-age individuals. Equity
or fairness of distribution, which incorporates needs,
choices, and merits, is more difficult to measure and
evaluate than equality of distribution but is an ethi-
cally defendable position (Hay 1995). Equitable distri-
bution can also serve as an efficient model for park
planning when budgets for parks and recreation are
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4 Boone et al.
Nevertheless, a focus on distribution or outcome eq-
uity is not an entirely satisfactory assessment of justice.
Very early on in the environmental justice movement,
affected groups protested their systematic exclusion
from the decision-making process that resulted in waste
facilities being located in their communities (Bullard
and Johnson 2000). Marginalized groups not only
had to bear the disproportionate burden of toxics but
also the humiliation of not being heard by decision-
making bodies and regulatory agencies. Their protests
highlighted the fact that unjust procedures can be as
harmful and unjust as uneven distributions of hazardous
wastes (Shrader-Frechette 2002; Agyeman 2005). The
same applies for the allocation of amenities. A just
distribution of parks does not constitute justice unless
the procedures to allocate them are just as well. I. M.
Young (1990, 15) argues that distributive justice “tends
to ignore the social structure and institutional context
that often help determine distributive patterns.” An
assessment of justice should therefore include an eval-
uation of procedural equity, including the institutions
that guide social relations and decision structures.
The history of the public parks movement shows
that securing public, democratic space in just ways has
never been easy. “Public space,” notes Mitchell (2003,
11), “is always an achievement (invariably against very
steep odds).” Even when that public space is achieved,
it often reflects decisions and motives of a privileged
group, but such systems of privilege have long been
challenged. More than a hundred years ago, Progressive
era politics and the playground movement brought park
distributional issues to the fore, a reaction to the large
bucolic landscape parks, such as New York’s Central
Park, which were designed to reflect interests of male
elite society (Cranz 1982). By the late nineteenth cen-
tury, women, adolescents, and children were deemed le-
gitimate park users with specific needs (T. Young 1995).
Although the playground movement had larger social
engineering goals in mind, especially to reduce juvenile
delinquency, it forced city leaders to confront the issue
of distribution of parks, rather than just design, and to
serving groups previously ignored. Fear of mob rule and
the belief that parks could soothe the revolutionary zeal
of working-class citizens played a part in shifting priori-
ties (Pipkin 2005). Principles, however, did not always
lead to practice. Plans for large urban parks reflecting
elite tastes continued to find their way into city bud-
gets, often at the hands of influential groups beyond the
reach of the electorate.
As the twentieth century progressed, the growth of
the bureaucratic classes placed more authority in the
hands of administrators for the distribution of urban
services, including parks (Teaford 1984). A basic ac-
companying assumption is that the distribution of parks
became less influenced by the vagaries of politics. In a
study on the distribution of parks in Chicago, how-
ever, Koelher and Wrightson (1987) found that pol-
itics played a strong role, favoring wards that had a
high percentage of black residents. In addition, they
found that the Park District’s decisions on park distri-
bution responded to efficiency maximization, favoring
wards with high percentages of home ownership, but not
equity maximization, which would favor low-income
wards. Even the most trenchant bureaucracy cannot be
immune from local political favoritism.
Other actors influence park distribution. For Los An-
geles, Pincetl (2003) highlights the leadership role of
the nonprofit sector in funding, establishing, and main-
taining parks in a relatively underserved city. Propo-
sition 13, which drastically cut city and county real
estate taxes and shifted revenue control to the state,
reduced funding for parks in the early 1980s. By for-
mulating intricate public–private partnerships, envi-
ronmental nonprofits have been a significant force in
crafting persuasive park bond measures and influencing
park distribution and land use in Southern California.
Pincetl uses this study to remind us that urban theory
cannot ignore the role of nonprofit organizations in the
provision of urban services, including parks. Nonprof-
its were influential, for example, in generating funds
for the Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area, a large
park near Baldwin Hills in Los Angeles. In a city that
is largely deficient in parks, the 387-acre park is a re-
markable achievement; however, Byrne, Kendrick, and
Sroaf (2007) demonstrate that the existence of a large
tract of undeveloped land in this part of Los Angeles
is largely the result of past environmental degradation.
The recreation area sits on land that was formerly cov-
ered by oil derricks and later a water reservoir. On a
geologically unstable site, the reservoir burst in 1963,
killing five people and destroying sixty-five homes. By
the late 1960s, County Supervisor Kenneth Hahn saw
the potential of creating a park on the site. He was
prompted in part by the Watts riots but drew on the ro-
mantic notion of parks as a means of reducing juvenile
delinquency as both a moral and cost-saving justifica-
tion for the park. In a part of the city experiencing white
flight and becoming primarily middle- and upper-class
African American, Hahn also likely saw the political
advantages to be gained from securing a park in this
neighborhood. Hahn counted on African Americans
as a reliable and loyal constituency, and he was the
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Parks and People: An Environmental Justice Inquiry in Baltimore, Maryland 5
only elected official to meet with Dr. Martin Luther
King, who visited Los Angeles in 1961. Although the
Hahn family had a long history of supporting parks,
Kenneth Hahn’s forty-year tenure as a county super-
visor is testament to his political prowess. The story
of the state recreation area reminds us that park de-
velopment is not a simple, technocratic exercise but is
deeply imbued with political and ecological considera-
tions (Byrne, Kendrick, and Sroaf 2007).
Neglect of existing parks, or nonaction, is an injustice
that can result from procedural inequities. Although
neglect might not remove existing parks, it can make
those spaces dangerous, unpleasant, and unwelcoming,
sometimes to such a degree that parks are rarely used.
The simple presence of a nearby park does not mean
that people will perceive it as an amenity or use it for
recreation. In the 1970s, particularly in inner cities,
collapsing park budgets, coupled with a continued tide
of middle-class residents to the suburbs, coincided with
general declines in park maintenance and use (Low, Ta-
plin, and Scheld 2005). In high-crime neighborhoods,
many parks became places to avoid rather than to en-
joy. In Cobbs Creek Park in Philadelphia, a loss of
informal and formal mechanisms of social control, from
park policing to benches on which to sit and watch the
park, created an ecology of disorder and fear. Once a
safe haven from crime on the streets, the park became
a center of crime, especially against women, after the
city’s police commissioner dissolved the Park Guard in
1972 and new, more violent gangs infiltrated the neigh-
borhood. Many local residents time the decline in safety
of the park with the replacement of the unarmed Park
Guard by the Philadelphia Police Department. Poorly
maintained park grounds add to residents’ sense of dis-
order and fear (Brownlow 2006). These decisions, made
in the context of increasingly oppressive policing tac-
tics, rendered a once cherished park into a disservice to
many in the surrounding neighborhoods.
Seemingly benign management decisions for parks
can also act as barriers or disincentives to particular
groups or individuals. In Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, an
advocacy group that helps to manage the park has
worked to restore its natural ecology, especially the
woodlands. The activities include expansion of the
woodland area into previously open spaces and fenc-
ing off of some of the older woodland areas to pro-
tect restoration efforts. Low, Taplin, and Scheld (2005)
found that the fences were perceived by the poorer,
east-side users of the park as a barrier to the more af-
fluent and white west side of the park. For Hispanic
users, who perceived open areas with shade trees as
forested, the woodland regeneration efforts were seen
as signs of official neglect and also dangerous places,
especially for women. Even greenways, promoted as a
means of integrating neighborhoods by linking places
along a linear park system, tend to attract and shun some
groups more than others. In Raleigh, North Carolina,
greenways are used mainly by whites engaged in soli-
tary, active recreation (Furuseth and Altman 1991). In
Chicago’s Lincoln Park, Hispanics, Asians, and blacks
were more likely than whites to use the park in groups
and engage in passive activities (Gobster 2002). If man-
agement favors wooded trails over picnic areas, some
users might find the park less appealing. Low, Taplin,
and Scheld (2005) also remark that if a group’s history
is not represented or is erased in historic parks, those
groups are unlikely to use them. Having a park in the
neighborhood might in these instances be quite literally
Although people might feel excluded from parks, as
public spaces parks should count for something. At the
very least, parks have the potential, if properly and sen-
sitively managed, to provide multiple services and ben-
efits. An assessment of procedural justice is fundamental
for understanding the social and institutional dynamics
that create parks and govern how they are used and
perceived, but an analysis of the distributive justice is
an appropriate beginning point in comprehending who
gets what and why. In the next section we use the Bal-
timore metropolitan region to illustrate three ways to
assess the distributive justice of parks. This is followed
by an analysis of documents pertaining to parks and
recreation, and the role of improvement associations,
the Baltimore municipal council, and the Home Own-
ers Loan Corporation in reinforcing separate white and
black spaces in the city. We argue that a deeper histori-
cal understanding of urban and institutional dynamics is
necessary to comprehend the unexpected distribution
of parks in Baltimore, as well as to advance environ-
mental justice theory.
Measuring Access to Open Space
A quarter mile (400 m) has become the standard
distance threshold that people are willing to walk to
reach a park or recreation area, corresponding roughly
to a five-minute trip (Forsyth 2000; Nicholls 2001;
Lindsey, Maraj, and Kuan 2001; The Trust for Pub-
lic Land 2004; Wolch, Wilson, and Fehrenbach 2005).
Accordingly, many municipalities in the United States
set goals to place parks and recreation areas within
prescribed distances or walking times of residential
Downloaded By: [Arizona State University] At: 17:48 12 August 2009
6 Boone et al.
areas. Seattle, Phoenix, Portland, and Cleveland aim to
have parks for their entire populations within a half mile
(800 m). Minneapolis and Denver use a six-block stan-
dard, and Denver specifies that the blocks must be
walkable, without physical barriers to access (Harnik
2004). The National Recreation and Parks Association
(NRPA), the Trust for Public Land, and the Congress
for New Urbanism advocate for parks within a quarter
mile (400 m) of all urban residents. People will certainly
travel further than a quarter mile to parks but are likely
to drive rather than walk if distances are greater than a
half mile. Parks then become “a formal destination, not
a place to drop in” (Harnik 2004, 10), and therefore re-
duce the chances of unplanned exercise that can occur
in close-by neighborhood parks.
Researchers have employed a variety of methods to
measure walking access to parks, as well as other ur-
ban destinations, such as schools (Braza, Shoemaker,
and Seeley 2004; Ewing, Schroeer, and Greene 2004;
Schlossberg et al. 2006), junk-food outlets (Austin
et al. 2005; Kipke et al. 2007; G. C. Liu et al. 2007),
video lottery machines (D. H. Wilson et al. 2006), and
transit stops (Randall and Baetz. 2001; Rastogi and Rao
2003; Zhao et al. 2003). Metrics range from simple Eu-
clidean or Manhattan distance buffers to more complex
network analyses with distance-cost functions (S. X.
Liu and Zhu 2004). One difficulty with generating net-
work distances is that parks can have multiple entry
points or destinations. For small parks, a centroid can
be used as the destination point, but for larger parks,
any point along the perimeter can arguably serve as the
destination. In some cases, gates, barriers, or street in-
tersections create natural entry points. Given the broad
scale and extent of this study, we chose to use a sim-
ple quarter-mile buffer from the perimeter of all parks
as a measure of accessibility. This generalization likely
introduces more error in suburban areas of metropoli-
tan Baltimore where streets are less likely to follow a
grid pattern. Strict compliance to street networks, on
the other hand, discounts the cut-throughs and infor-
mal paths that walkers use to straighten their paths to
destinations, including parks (Hewko, Smoyer-Tomic,
and Hodgson 2002; Talen 2003).
The spatial data for the parks layer were obtained
from the Maryland Department of Planning (MDP).
For the city of Baltimore, this data set was supplemented
with a parks layer compiled by the Parks & People Foun-
dation (, a nonprofit organi-
zation based in Baltimore. Some of the small pocket
parks digitized by the foundation are not included in
the MDP database. For measures of accessibility, these
small pocket parks are treated as equal to larger re-
gional parks, because they can provide some, although
not all, opportunities for active or passive recreation.
Although schoolyards can provide recreation space, we
did not include them in the analysis because access
is typically restricted to nonschool hours and in some
cases the schoolyards are gated or fenced (Scott et al.
2007). We used aerial imagery (Google Earth) and flat
maps (Thomas Guide) to confirm that the parks layer
is accurate for surrounding counties.
To determine the demographic characteristics of
those who have access to parks, we use census
block groups (CBGs), census tracts (CTs), and census
attribute data from 2000 and employ two selection
methods: (1) CBGs that contain their population cen-
troid within a quarter-mile buffer from parks; and (2)
centroids of assessed value of properties (as a proxy
for household income) within a quarter mile of parks.
We also employ a needs-based index, described later,
and analyze park accessibility for high- versus low-need
In addition, we employ potential park congestion
(PPC) as an innovative method to examine the distri-
butional equity of parks. PPC is defined as the number of
people per park acre (PPA) in a given park service area
(PSA) if every resident were to use the closest park.
It is a measure of park provision in terms of acreage
available to residents within a specified area. We use
Thiessen (Voronoi) polygons to delineate a service area
for each park (see Sister et al. 2007 for details of the
method). Demographic characteristics are assigned to
each PSA by overlaying the layer with Census 2000
block data and a parcel layer. Information from the
Census 2000 block data was refined using a dasymet-
ric approach that reapportions census data according
to residential land use polygons (Boone 2008). As in-
dexes to the relative economic status of a given service
area, we used total assessed property values from parcel
data, along with percentage of owner-occupied housing
units and vacancy rates from census block data. PPC
in the PSAs was then compared across different race
and income groups. In this PSA approach, higher PPC
levels translate to potentially greater numbers of people
competing for park space, and are therefore a measure
of park crowding and potentially limited access.
Park Distribution and Access: Measuring
The Baltimore metropolitan region is well endowed
with parks, totaling 56,397 acres or 22.5 acres per
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Parks and People: An Environmental Justice Inquiry in Baltimore, Maryland 7
Table 1. Acres of accessible parks per thousand population
for census block groups, categorized by percentage white
and black
Percentage of census White (acres/1,000 Black (acres/1,000
block group population population) population)
25–50 31.32 22.80
50–75 30.16 24.94
>75 53.02 12.75
thousand population. That figure is well above the
national standard of 6.25 to 10 acres of parkland
per thousand persons. Within the metro area, acres
per thousand population range from a low of 7.6 in
Baltimore City to a high of 46.3 in suburban and rural
Harford County. At the CBG level, we selected CBGs
that had a population centroid within a quarter mile of
one or more parks and then compared the demograph-
ics of these CBGs to those not selected. Using this
approach, we find that a significantly higher proportion
of blacks, 38 percent, have access to parks than does
any other racial or ethnic group in metro Baltimore.
Analysis of household income data also shows that
lower income areas have better access to parks. Median
household income of block groups with access to parks
($42,160) is lower than that for block groups beyond
the quarter mile ($52,123). These results are in part
a function of higher residential and park densities
in Baltimore, where blacks are the majority, than in
surrounding counties. Indeed, population density and
percentage black are strongly correlated and have been
for most of Baltimore’s history (Groves and Muller
1975; Olson 1997). In CBGs where blacks constitute
more than 75 percent of the population, the mean
density is 5,411 per square kilometer, and the figure in
predominantly white CBGs is 1,366. Even controlling
for income, population density and percentage black are
significantly and positively correlated. The reality for
most blacks in metropolitan Baltimore is that they live
in more densely populated neighborhoods than whites.
Table 2. Acres of accessible parks per thousand population, categorized by income class and race
Income class ($) Accessible acres Population Acres/1,000 population Mean % white Mean % black SD of income
0–11,739 815 28,500 28.60 5.95 90.33 <–2
11,740–36,704 6,208 429,047 14.47 26.11 70.05 –2 to –1
36,705–61,669 9,242 513,242 18.01 63.25 31.80 –1 to 1
61,670–86,633 20,056 258,634 77.55 80.70 13.39 1 to 2
86,634–200,000 13,281 119,562 111.08 85.76 6.26 >2
Another equality measure is access to acreage of
parks, which measures quantity of park space. This tells
a different story. In general, those parks that are within
a quarter mile of predominantly white neighborhoods
tend to be larger than parks close to predominantly
black neighborhoods (Table 1). Income also shows
a strong association with accessible park acreage
(Table 2). This is also likely a function of the high
collinearity of race and income, as well as a concen-
tration of minorities in Baltimore where most parks are
relatively small. These results are similar to patterns
found in Los Angeles, where low-income Latinos have
better access than whites but whites have access to
more park acreage than Latinos (Wolch, Wilson, and
Fehrenbach 2005).
Using parcel-level data from Maryland Proper-
tyView, we analyzed age and value characteristics of
properties within and beyond a quarter mile from parks.
The purpose of this analysis is not to model hedonically
the impact of parks on housing values but to seek an-
other method of gauging the demographic and housing
characteristics of areas close to parks. Of the 860,000
residential property parcels in metropolitan Baltimore,
225,000 or 26.2 percent had their centroids within a
quarter mile of at least one park. This figure matches
very closely the proportion of block group population
(27 percent) within a quarter mile of parks. Analysis
using the property parcels shows that residents within
a quarter mile of parks tend to live in houses that are
older and have lower market values than those beyond
the quarter mile. For properties with access, the mean
and median years built are 1952 and 1955, whereas for
properties beyond the quarter mile, the figures are 1966
and 1972. The mean and median market value for prop-
erties with access is $138,399 and $91,360, whereas for
properties without access the values are $191,694 and
$149,160. Parcel density is also significantly and pos-
itively associated with access. In general, these figures
confirm what is seen on the map of parks and demo-
graphic characteristics: Poor, inner-city minority resi-
dents tend to have better access to parks, but white,
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8 Boone et al.
Table 3. Pearson’s coefficient of correlation comparing
potential park pressure with percentage race groups in park
service areas across the Baltimore metropolitan region
Pearson’s Significance
coefficient level
% African American 0.153 0.01
%White 0.156 0.01
Assessed property value 0.046 >0.05
% owner-occupied 0.111 0.01
Vacancy rates 0.098 0.01
wealthier suburban residents tend to have access to
more park acreage per person. Age and timing of de-
velopment play a large role in these patterns, and these
issues are discussed in the final section.
Park Distribution and Access: Measuring
Potential Park Congestion
Results from the PSA approach show that across
metropolitan Baltimore, percentage African American
population is positively correlated and percentage white
is negatively correlated with the number of persons per
park acre in a PSA (Table 3). African Americans are
more likely than whites to reside in PSAs that are po-
tentially more congested (Table 4). Assessed property
values are not significantly correlated with PPC, but
these values are significantly less (p<0.01) in pre-
dominantly African American PSAs compared to pre-
dominantly white PSAs (Table 5).
The distribution of potential park pressure across
the Baltimore metropolitan region has a distinct spa-
tial pattern, with potentially more congested PSAs lo-
cated in or close to the City of Baltimore (Figure 1).
Table 4. Proportion of the two major race groups (African
Americans and whites) present in different park pressure
classes in the City of Baltimore and in the metropolitan
Baltimore area
City of Baltimore Metropolitan Baltimore
Persons per
park acre % Black % White % Black % White
0–50 50 46 13 82
>50–166 51 45 21 74
>166–300 71 26 29 67
>300–500 71 26 42 54
>500–1,000 69 27 45 51
>1,000–3,000 76 21 65 31
>3,000 66 30 65 31
Table 5. A comparison of park service areas with greater
than 75 percent African Americans or whites in terms of
park pressure levels (i.e., persons per park acre), total
assessed property values, owner-occupied vacancy rates,
and proportion of owner-occupied housing units in both
the City of Baltimore and the metropolitan Baltimore area
City of Baltimore Metropolitan Baltimore
>75% >75% >75% >75%
Black White Black White
Persons/park acre 4,890 4,870 4,787 890
Assessed value ($) 37,878 128,109 39,800 213,182
% vacancy rate 22 10 22 5
% owner-occupied 30 58 31 76
In contrast, PSAs with relatively low park pressure
levels are located mainly in the predominantly white
suburban counties outside the city. This distinct pat-
tern helps to explain differences in PPC at the city
and metropolitan levels (Table 4). PPC for predomi-
nantly (greater than 75 percent) black and white PSAs
is nearly identical for the City of Baltimore, whereas
for the metro region as a whole the persons per park
acre is more than five times greater in predominantly
black PSAs than in predominantly white PSAs. The
different results at these two scales reflect Baltimore’s
geography of race, where the City of Baltimore remains
the center of predominantly black neighborhoods. The
contrasting results also highlight the need to consider
scale in environmental justice research (Cutter, Holm,
and Clark 1996). Existence of inequities at one scale
might easily be invisible at another scale, especially
when such injustices are not distributed evenly across
space, as is typically the case. Analyses that “jump
up” or “jump down” scales can significantly change
Needs-Based Assessment
The literature defines children, the elderly, the car-
less, and low-income neighborhoods as having the
greatest needs for parks within walking distance (Talen
2003; Wolch, Wilson, and Fehrenbach 2005). Needs-
based assessments are one means of addressing issues of
equity rather than equality but also serve a practical
purpose by targeting a public good, in this case parks, to
those groups who are most likely to use it or need (be-
cause of limitation based on age, ability, or resources)
access to green space within walking distances. Follow-
ing Talen (2003), we created a needs index using the
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Parks and People: An Environmental Justice Inquiry in Baltimore, Maryland 9
Figure 1. Park congestion levels in the greater Baltimore region, 2000. PSA =park service area.
percentage of persons under eighteen years of age, over
sixty-five years of age, percentage in poverty, as well as
the percentage of housing units without an automobile.
Using Jenks natural breaks, each variable was divided
into four classes and then each census tract was assigned
a corresponding value of 1 (low need)to4(high need).
Figure 2 shows the summed values of all four variables.
A clear pattern emerges indicating the highest needs
for parks in the City of Baltimore and a lower overall
need score in the suburban counties. A little over 60
percent of all census tracts have their population cen-
troid within a quarter mile of at least one park. Using
these selection criteria, nearly 70 percent of the high-
est need census tracts have access to parks, compared
to 57 percent for the lowest need census tracts (we use
census tracts because data on percentage of households
in poverty and without automobiles are not available at
the block group level). Nearly all the highest-need cen-
sus tracts are in the City of Baltimore, suggesting that
the city is meeting this important equity goal. Only 19
of the 127 high-need census tracts are not accessible
to a park. Nevertheless, 74,733 people out of a total of
320,181 in high-need census tracts do not have access
as measured here.
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10 Boone et al.
Figure 2. Park needs index by census tract for metropolitan Baltimore, 2000, and existing parks.
Another way of measuring equity of access is to calcu-
late the distance from the population centroids of high-,
medium-, and low-need census tracts to the closest park.
The results show that high-need areas are best served
in this regard. The mean distance for high-need census
tracts is 239 m, well within the 400-m standard. For the
low-need census tracts, the mean distance to the closest
park is 864 m but the maximum is nearly 6 km (Table 6).
Hewko, Smoyer-Tomic, and Hodgson (2002) argue that
a population-weighted mean distance is a better mea-
sure of accessibility because it weights distances from
a fixed point, in this case a population centroid, by
the number of people that point represents. We find,
however, that using the population-weighted mean dis-
tance formula generates results very similar to the mean
distance calculated from the population centroid. Using
either method, the results indicate that the highest need
populations have the best access to parks. Results for per
capita acreage, however, are not as rosy. Census tracts
with the highest need have the least acres per thousand
population, whereas the lowest need census tracts have
the highest acreage (Table 6). These results are similar
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Parks and People: An Environmental Justice Inquiry in Baltimore, Maryland 11
Table 6. Distance measures (meters) to nearest park by need categories
Mean distance Maximum Population-weighted Accessible acres
Need class to park distance SD distance mean distance per 1,000 population
Low 864 5,654 926 873 13.48
Medium 505 5,779 644 477 10.36
High 239 1,224 201 252 7.46
to the findings of the accessibility analysis, which under-
scores the importance of race as a variable in Baltimore.
Two of the four needs variables—percentage in poverty
and households without a car—are highly and positively
correlated with percentage African American.
Procedural Injustice: Institutional
Legacies on the Landscape
A limitation of much environmental justice litera-
ture is the inference of process from pattern. Although
the distribution of parks or hazardous facilities can sug-
gest possible linkages between race and the location of
environmental amenities or disamenities, to advance
the science of environmental justice it is necessary to
investigate the drivers or forces that generate those pat-
terns. One way of doing so is to examine the legacy of
past decisions on the present landscape. Cities are the
product of thousands of individual and collective deci-
sions, made in the context of larger social and economic
cycles, environmental limitations and possibilities, and
politics. In the following section, we examine the pub-
lic and private institutions that played a significant role
in the development of parks and Baltimore’s residen-
tial geography, with a special focus on segregation. We
draw on official park plans, master plans, municipal or-
dinances, newspaper accounts, unpublished documents
from neighborhood associations, and records from the
Home Owners Loan Corporation. Similar documents
are available for most municipalities. Undertaking a
historical process analysis, however, requires a consider-
able investment in time, which is one of the challenges
of process- and place-based research. Yet we and others
believe such an approach is critical for advancing en-
vironmental justice research (Pulido 2000; Mennis and
Jordan 2005; Pastor, Morello-Frosch, and Sadd 2005).
Results from the outcome analysis show that resi-
dents of metropolitan Baltimore have relatively good
access to parks. The mean distance to parks for the
860,000 parcels in metro Baltimore is 705 m, with a
standard deviation of 851 m. Conditions for the City
of Baltimore are even better. In Baltimore, the mean
distance of residential parcels to the closest park bound-
ary is only 500 m and the maximum distance is 1,904 m.
The number of acres per thousand population puts Bal-
timore in the old range of the NRPA suggestions. Com-
pared to Los Angeles, Dallas, or Phoenix, residents have
good walking access to parks (The Trust for Public
Land 2004; Wolch, Wilson, and Fehrenbach 2005).
A recent telephone survey on recreation in metro
Baltimore showed that the vast majority of residents,
nearly 90 percent, are satisfied with park quality and
Although Baltimore fares well in accessibility mea-
sures against most cities in the U.S. West (with the
exception of San Francisco), it is in the middle of the
pack for Northeastern cities. Boston and New York
do a better job than Baltimore of providing accessi-
ble parks within walking distance (The Trust for Public
Land 2004). A variety of factors help to explain the
greater degree of accessibility of parks in the North-
eastern United States, and most are legacies of past
decisions made in the context of different urban tech-
nologies and transportation systems. Timing of growth
we know plays a large role in the morphology of cities,
and those that developed before the mass use of automo-
biles tend to have in their historical cores higher den-
sities, more mixed land use, narrower streets, and more
extensive pedestrian infrastructure (Vance 1990; Jacobs
1961; Transportation Research Board 2001). These
characteristics tend to increase walkability and lead to
small park spaces closer together than in sprawling, car-
dominated suburbs (Pucher and Dijkstra 2003; South-
worth 2005). Although older cities might benefit from
design before the car, in many cases the establishment of
parks was a difficult process. Because of heavy demands
on space in compact walking cities, prior to the second
half of the nineteenth century, setting aside land for
parks was rare (Rosenzweig and Blackmar 1992; Tuason
1997). In Baltimore, the establishment of parks required
the long and often difficult process of cobbling together
parcels of private land or the action of civic groups to
seek out large donors. The idea of setting aside land in
Baltimore “for urban embellishment and public
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12 Boone et al.
recreation” can be traced to 1827, when a wealthy mer-
chant named William Patterson donated several acres
on Hampstead Hill for the purpose of establishing a
“Public Walk.” Twenty-six years later, Patterson Park
was officially designated in his honor (Board of Park
Commissioners 1927, 5–6; Baynes and Brady 1985).
The popularity of this new park prompted city officials
to make further acquisitions, most notably the “Druid
Hill” estate of Lloyd Nicholas Rogers in 1860. The cre-
ation of Druid Hill Park initiated a pattern of park
development that would come to be closely identified
with Baltimore. As the city expanded, it enveloped the
country estates of some of the region’s most prominent
citizens. Today, these former estates constitute the core
of Baltimore’s park system.
Despite this auspicious beginning, by the turn of the
twentieth century it was clear that Baltimore’s mod-
est system of parks and squares was not meeting the
needs of city residents. Nor were these amenities dis-
tributed equally or equitably. An editorial published in
the Baltimore News in 1897 put it bluntly: “The parks of
our city should be for the people—all the people—not
for a particular class, or for those living in a particu-
lar district.” Although acknowledging the beauty and
splendor of Druid Hill Park, the editorialist declared
that “park pleasures and benefits should be available to
all” and in a city the size of Baltimore, “one park will
not do for all.”
About this same time, Baltimore, like other major
cities in the United States, altered its approach to park
development, eschewing the contemplative ideals of
the Romantic Era while embracing the rationalistic
principles of the City Beautiful movement. No longer
able to meet the recreational and aesthetic demands
of a growing and increasingly diverse general public,
cities modified their large romantically planned parks,
acquired smaller parks designed for recreation, and con-
structed new playgrounds and recreational facilities (Pe-
terson 1976; W. H. Wilson 1989; Tuason 1997). For
Baltimoreans, the outcome of this shift in thinking
was that the “priority of space and resources that the
city’s park system had formerly given to flower beds and
clipped lawns” was now redirected to the “massive con-
struction of athletic facilities and extensive acquisition
of new park lands for recreational purposes” (Kessler
and Zang 1989, 1). Spearheading the City Beautiful
movement in Baltimore was the Municipal Art Society
(MAS). Founded in 1899 by influential members of the
city’s elite class, the Society was originally established
to promote city beautification but quickly branched out
into other planning concerns (Crooks 1968). Soon after
its founding, MAS members pressured city administra-
tors and politicians to construct a modern sewer system
(Boone 2003). Then, in 1902, the Society hired the
landscape architecture firm, Olmsted Brothers, to study
the city’s park system and offer suggestions for improve-
ment and expansion. (The Board of Park Commission-
ers later reimbursed the MAS.) Submitted in 1903 and
published the following year, the report “gave substance
to the Municipal Art Society’s ambitious vision: to cre-
ate numerous small parks and playgrounds, expand the
larger city parks, develop parkways and stream valley
parks in the suburbs, and select and set aside large reser-
vations beyond the metropolitan area for future use”
(Zucker 1995, 82; Buckley, Bailey, and Grove 2006). A
follow-up survey conducted in 1926 reaffirmed the con-
clusions reached in the earlier report. Although never
fully implemented, many of the recommendations set
forth in the two Olmsted plans were adopted.
In designing the city’s park system, Olmsted Brothers
sought to expand recreational opportunities for city res-
idents and to achieve a “roughly equitable distribution”
of resources for “all the people” (Korth and Buckley
2006; see Figure 3). In some cases, however, other
Figure 3. Population characteristics by census tract and existing
parks in Baltimore, 1930. Other than Druid Hill, note the near
absence of parks in majority “Negro” census tracts.
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Parks and People: An Environmental Justice Inquiry in Baltimore, Maryland 13
considerations took precedence. Such was the case with
325-acre Leakin Park on the city’s west side. When J.
Wilson Leakin died in 1922, he left instructions for city
officials to sell his downtown estate and use the money
from the sale to purchase a large tract of land for the
creation of a park in his name. Contractual obligations
with tenants and the real estate market collapse of the
late 1920s put the sale on hold. In the meantime, city
officials searched for a suitable location for a large new
park. Unable to reach consensus on a single site, mem-
bers of the City Council agreed to a compromise: the
establishment of numerous “Leakin” playground parks
across the city. Arguing that her brother wanted only
one park dedicated in his name, Leakin’s sister took
the city to court and won. With nowhere else to turn,
Theodore Marburg, Chairman of the MAS, contacted
his old friend Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. for advice. In
an eight-page letter written in 1939, Olmsted urged the
city to purchase the Crimea estate of Thomas Winans,
located in the Dead Run Valley of West Baltimore ad-
jacent to Gwynns Falls Park. Although East Baltimore
was clearly in greater need of a park, Olmsted deter-
mined that the declining population of this section,
coupled with the price of acquiring land in the inner
city, made it a more risky proposition. Despite the fact
that more residents might have benefited from the es-
tablishment of a network of small playground parks, the
city heeded Olmsted’s advice and made the first of sev-
eral purchases in the Dead Run Valley in 1941 (Korth
and Buckley 2006).
Although Baltimore developed an extensive park
system, numerous plans and documents remarked on
the relative lack of park space for its black residents
(Figure 4). An Urban League Report from the mid-
1930s commented on the absence of “recreation space
for Negroes near their zones of residence” at a time
when “the peculiar economic and social precursors of
the depression ...gave Negroes more leisure and few or-
ganized facilities for using it” (Reid 1935, 28). Noting
that the Playground Athletic League operated numer-
ous playgrounds in South Baltimore to which “thou-
sands of children flock” each year, a report issued in
1938 by the South Baltimore Improvement Associa-
tion “regretted that many of them have great distances
to walk before reaching an area that is safe to play.” This
was especially true for South Baltimore’s “Negro youth,”
who were forced to make do with “very meager facilities”
(South Baltimore Improvement Association 1938). A
poorly funded Division of Recreation for Colored Peo-
ple, which fell under the auspices of the Board of Edu-
cation, could not hope to provide for the recreational
needs of black Baltimoreans. The Long Range Recre-
ation Plan of 1941, prepared by the National Recreation
Association for Baltimore’s Board of Public Recreation,
concluded that the city had inadequate acreage in parks,
especially for children’s playgrounds, and that the “col-
ored community is lacking in areas and facilities quite
out of proportion to the ratio of its numbers to the total
population” (Pangburn and Allen 1941, ix). The report
recommended that the Board acquire an additional 473
acres for children’s playgrounds, and the plan included
the continued use of two playgrounds, enlargement
of eleven others, and creation of fourteen new play-
grounds, for a total of twenty-seven playgrounds “for
colored children” (Pangburn and Allen 1941, x). Sim-
ilar to the Urban League Report, the park report
recognized the increasing congestion of blacks in the
northwest and eastern sections of the city, the doubling
and tripling up of families in former houses owned by
whites, and the associated high rates of tuberculosis and
infant mortality. Ironically, the higher rates of disease
in the congested black neighborhoods were historically
one of the reasons for segregation policies in the city
(Olson 1979). “It is obvious,” the Board concluded,
“that the most urgent needs are in the colored commu-
nity” and therefore that “some of the very first projects
should be undertaken in their neighborhoods” (Pang-
burn and Allen 1941, 89). Interestingly, the report also
suggested that playgrounds should be within a quarter-
mile radius of every child’s home, the same distance as
modern recommendations for walking access. Contin-
ued segregation of parks and other recreation facilities,
including golf courses, into the 1950s, despite repeated
attempts by the Urban League and others in the 1930s
and 1940s to desegregate the parks, meant the issue
of lack of “colored parks” would remain pressing and
noteworthy (see, for example, Wells 2006).
Residential dynamics in Baltimore have been shaped
by a long history of de jure and de facto segregation. For
these reasons it was possible for the park reports to
speak of “white” and “colored” parks. The designation
of parks by race was a reality because of the high de-
gree of residential segregation, in addition to the other
modes of control that kept white spaces separate
from black. The most egregious segregation acts were
the city ordinances of 1910, 1911, and 1913. Balti-
more was the first municipality in the country to legally
segregate its city into “white” and “colored” blocks.
This Baltimore-style “apartheid” (Power 1983) stipu-
lated that no blacks (with the exception of black ser-
vants in white houses) could move into blocks that
were half white and vice versa (Nightingale 2006).
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14 Boone et al.
Figure 4. “The street is closed to traffic to provide play space for the children.” Enoch Barker, Children at play, Division Street, Baltimore c.
1934–35. |identifier: mdaa146. (Part of W.P.A. project #7012.) Enoch Pratt Library, Maryland Department, Photograph
Collection; 7012C.
“[F]or preserving peace, preventing conflict and ill feel-
ing between the white and colored races in Baltimore
city, and promoting the general welfare of the city,”
the 1910 ordinance required “the use of separate blocks
by white and colored people for residences, churches
and schools” (City of Baltimore Ordinance No. 692).
The ordinance was frequently challenged by Progres-
sives, black newspapers and citizens, and realtors who
saw the ordinance as undue and extraordinary control
of their practices, including blockbusting (Orser 1994).
In 1917, the National Association for the Advance-
ment of Colored People (NAACP) and the Louisville
Real Estate Exchange Office challenged a similar
ordinance in Louisville, Kentucky, which the U.S.
Supreme Court struck down as violating the property
rights law of the Fourteenth Amendment, effectively
negating Baltimore’s segregation ordinances (Power
If the ordinances failed to keep blacks from white
neighborhoods, fear and violence were generally very
effective. When black families crossed the color line,
they were typically met with hostilities, stoning, and
occasionally gunfire from their white neighbors (Olson
1997). Black Baltimoreans were hemmed in by the
segregation ordinances, restrictive covenants, steering
by real estate agents, and fear and intimidation into
very densely settled parts of northwest and east Bal-
timore. When successful black families were able to
move out to the suburbs, these houses opened up for
sale for black families. This “secondhand housing” was
often too large for most families to afford, forcing dou-
bling or tripling up of families (Olson 1997, 276). High
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Parks and People: An Environmental Justice Inquiry in Baltimore, Maryland 15
residential densities and systematic disinvestment re-
sulted in deteriorated housing conditions that further
marginalized and stigmatized black neighborhoods as
blighted areas. A 1937 map from the Home Owners
Loan Corporation, a New Deal federal agency estab-
lished to refinance homes in danger of foreclosure, iden-
tifies in red most of the older and black neighborhoods as
“hazardous,” the most risky designation (Figure 5). Text
descriptions that accompanied these secret maps point
to “obsolescent houses,” “immigrants,” “negroes” or im-
minent “negro invasion” as keys to the most hazardous
designations. This government-sponsored redlining did
not preclude lending in hazardous neighborhoods, but
it likely increased the costs of borrowing to homeown-
ers (Hillier 2003). Black families spent about a third of
their earnings for rent, whereas the average for whites
was only a fifth. For the same accommodation, black
families paid more rent than whites (Olson 1997). Strict
occupational segregation also worked to keep separate
the lives of black and white Baltimoreans (McDougall
Segregation was also enforced through neighborhood
associations. Known as neighborhood improvement
and protection associations, they functioned indepen-
dently and in concert with a citywide congress to deal
with a wide range of local problems and to pressure city
officials into providing residents with much-needed in-
frastructure and services (Olson 1997; Holcomb 2005).
These included, among other things, the extension of
gas, electric, sewer, and water lines; the improvement
of roads and mail delivery; the introduction of tele-
phone and street car service; the installation of street
and traffic lights; the planting and care of street trees;
and the expansion and upgrade of parks. By 1910,
approximately seventy such organizations existed in
Baltimore. One group that wielded considerable influ-
ence in city matters was the Peabody Heights Associa-
tion. Along with the MAS, members of this group are
credited with convincing Baltimore’s mayor in 1912 to
hire a professionally trained forester and to establish a
Division of Forestry to plant and care for trees through-
out the city. In addition to street tree planting and
other city beautification efforts, evidence gathered from
twenty-five years of meeting minutes indicates that this
group favored expansion and improvement of city parks
and playgrounds (especially nearby Wyman Park), lob-
bied for enforcement of the city’s antismoke laws, and
opposed “undesirable” commercial development in res-
idential areas. Like many other improvement and “pro-
tection” associations at this time, the Peabody Heights
Association also sought to bar African Americans from
moving into the neighborhood. Indeed, two months
Figure 5. Note the strong spatial correlation between the hazardous neighborhood rating of the Home Owners Loan Corporation (HOLC)
in 1937 and percentage black in 1940. Source: Home Owners Loan Corporation (1937), U.S. Bureau of Census (1942), and Haines (2006).
Downloaded By: [Arizona State University] At: 17:48 12 August 2009
16 Boone et al.
prior to passage of the first segregation ordinance, the
group resolved to support “the enactment of such proper
State or City legislation as will make it difficult or im-
possible for negroes, as dwellers, to invade those blocks
or neighborhoods where there is a preponderance of
white occupants” (Peabody Heights Improvement As-
sociation 1910, Book 1, 58). In 1922, four years after
the segregation ordinance was overturned, the pres-
ident of the board indicated just how little things
had changed when he assured residents that “property
owners in any section may by contractual agreement
bind themselves not to sell to a negro.” This restrictive
covenant was also extended to prevent migration into
the neighborhood of “so-called ‘kike’ Jews” (Peabody
Heights Improvement Association 1922, Book 1,
Another organization, the Mount Royal Improve-
ment Association, pursued goals similar to those
of the Peabody Heights group. In a promotional
document published by the association, prospective
buyers are presented with the many advantages of
living in this district: The Mount Royal district
was promoted for its convenient location free from
“business encroachment,” yet within easy walking
distance of sections of town “from which comes most
of our domestic help” (Mount Royal Improvement
Association 1930a, 3). In addition to the numerous
beautification initiatives, members of the Association
boasted that their “greatest achievement ...has been
the subjecting of the property” in this part of town “to
a restriction for white occupancy only” (Mount Royal
Improvement Association 1930a, 5). In addition to
the restrictive agreement, residents were also reminded
that the Mount Royal Improvement Association stood
“ready at all times to take any action necessary to
protect the health, welfare and property rights of its
members, and generally to advance the interests of
the district” (Mount Royal Improvement Association
1930a, 5). As if to underscore the connection between
white-only occupancy and a beautiful environment,
the group incorporated the following message into a
meeting announcement from ca. 1930: “When the
present officers of the Mount Royal Improvement
Association assumed office, assurances were given that
plans would be presented for the maintenance of this
district as the most beautiful and most desirable urban
section of Baltimore, but that this could be done only
after the property owners had made the district safe
for white occupancy by the execution of a sufficient
number of the association’s protective agreements. This
condition was imposed because of the impossibility
of preserving, much less improving any unrestricted
section of Baltimore” (Mount Royal Improvement
Association 1930b). Given the political influence of
groups like the Peabody Heights and Mount Royal
improvement associations—and other groups like
them—it is not difficult to imagine how de facto segre-
gation in the form of discriminatory housing practices
and protective covenants coupled with an aggressive
effort to attract and improve amenities such as parks
and street trees would have caused a disproportionate
share of limited resources to flow into predominantly
white and well-to-do districts like Peabody Heights
or Mount Royal at the expense of neighborhoods
inhabited largely by African Americans.
Baltimore’s population peaked in 1950 and over the
course of the next fifty years, its economy would experi-
ence a net loss of 100,000 manufacturing jobs (U.S. Bu-
reau of Census 1952; U.S. Census Bureau 2000). Black
population continued to increase while white popula-
tion dwindled, an all-too-familiar story of post–World
War II white (and later black middle-class) flight. Over
the last half century, the city has developed numerous
programs, slogans, and incentives to try to reverse the
population and economic decline. In a 1967 parks re-
port, the authors noted that good parks could be one way
of brightening Baltimore’s future. Lack of playgrounds,
“particularly within the high-density areas” (City of
Baltimore 1967, 11), remained an issue. Although spe-
cific racial or ethnic groups are not mentioned in the
report, high-density areas translated for all intents and
purposes into black neighborhoods, where residential
densities (mean of 10,278/km2) were nearly double
those in predominantly (>75 percent) white census
tracts. One potential solution, absurd in hindsight, was
the development of parks under elevated expressways.
Freeways also served as a means of clearing slums and
blighted areas, which planners viewed as one reason for
a declining population in the city. As World War II
drew to a close, the Baltimore City Planning Commis-
sion brought in Robert Moses, the influential builder
of highways and bridges in New York City, who pro-
moted an east–west highway that would have displaced
19,000 people in blighted areas, a form of slum clear-
ance that Moses promoted for the long-term benefit of
the city. H. L. Mencken, Baltimore’s noted journalist
and wit, called the plan “idiotic” (Mohl 2004, 689). A
more elaborate plan in 1955, which would have razed
large parts of Rosemont, a middle-class black district,
and the historic neighborhoods of Fells Point and Fed-
eral Hill, was shouted down by angry constituents at
public hearings in the early 1960s. The final nail in the
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Parks and People: An Environmental Justice Inquiry in Baltimore, Maryland 17
coffin was the success of the Movement Against De-
struction and other community groups in stopping the
extension of I-70 through Baltimore, which would have
run through Leakin Park, and Interstate 83 at city limits
in the early 1970s (Olson 1997; Mohl 2004). Although
the freeway revolts saved many neighborhoods, they
did little to reverse the tide of middle-class flight, not
surprising given the larger economic and social forces
that were creating a primarily black core and underclass
(Harvey 1985; Massey 1990).
By 2000, blacks constituted 65 percent of the
population in the City of Baltimore, and they lived
in a city dotted with parks large and small. Because of
the extensive park system, developed over a century
and a half, Baltimore, unlike many American cities,
does not have accessibility goals (Mary Porter, Design
Planner, City of Baltimore Department of Parks and
Recreation, personal e-mail communication, 9 May
2006). In essence, the high access ratio for blacks is
a hand-me-down from former white neighborhoods, a
historical legacy of white privilege. But not all hand-
me-downs, as any younger sibling knows, are worth
having. Swann Park, located near the Digital Harbor
High School and next to the former Allied Chemical
Plant, now owned by Honeywell, was recently closed
to the public after arsenic levels in the soil were found
to be 100 times acceptable levels (Pelton 2007). When
parks become brownfields or acute health hazards,
it is a stretch to call them an amenity. Although
this park was used actively, the health concerns
that arise from the arsenic level should put it well
beyond the amenity category, even if perceived as
such by kids playing baseball or adults walking their
The next generation of environmental justice re-
search needs to address, among other concerns, to what
degree individual parks contribute to quality of life or
meet the needs of their residents. As a public good, the
equitable distribution of parks, whether measured in
terms of spatial distribution, acreage, or quality, should
be a basic goal. To address equity, a needs-based ap-
proach, as employed here, can also address distributive
justice concerns. Assessing the public health benefits of
parks as an equity issue would be an innovative strategy.
Public health research can help to identify at-risk popu-
lations, especially children at risk of obesity, who would
best be served with better access to parks (Greenberg
and Renne 2005; Kipke et al. 2007). Evaluating the
ability of parks to improve health of children, for ex-
ample, could serve as a guiding principle for equitable
park planning.
Using established and new methods for examining
the distributive justice of parks in Baltimore, we find
that African American and high-need populations have
better walking access to parks but access to less park
acreage per capita than whites and low-need popula-
tions. For African Americans, the current benefit of
living close to parks comes in spite of a long history
of official neglect of the recreational needs of black
Baltimoreans in addition to segregation of blacks from
white spaces through de jure and de facto mechanisms.
The story of parks in Baltimore illuminates the complex
interactions between race and planning where efforts to
segregate the city fueled fear and ignorance, and conse-
quently white and later middle-class black flight to the
suburbs, along with population and economic decline
in the core. As a city working toward revitalization,
Baltimore is now living and struggling with the legacies
of segregation and environmental injustice.
This article contributes to environmental justice
scholarship in three important ways. First, it incorpo-
rates a novel method, PSAs and dasymetric mapping
of socioeconomic data, for assessing the distributional
justice of parks. Although simple buffering around
parks meets the 400-m standard for a walkable park,
the PSA method allows us to capture potential park
users by assigning each area of the city to its closest
park. The dasymetric approach improves the efficacy of
the PSA method by designating where people actually
live rather than assuming even distribution of residents
throughout a census tract or block group. Nevertheless,
this method does not track actual usage, nor does
it assess the quality, attractiveness, or meanings of
different parks. The approaches of Low, Taplin, and
Scheld (2005) on local and cultural meanings, and
Brownlow (2006) on the ecology of fear of parks,
should be coupled with these distributional analyses to
improve our understanding of park equity.
Second, this article advances environmental justice
scholarship by focusing on parks as an environmental
justice issue rather than the traditional spotlight on
polluting industry or hazardous waste facilities. Measur-
ing the uneven distribution of environmental benefits,
as opposed to burdens, in relation to where social
groups live is a legitimate and important justice
concern. At the root of most environmental justice
struggles is concern for human health. The vast
majority of environmental justice studies pay attention
to toxins and pollutants because of their negative
health impacts. Parks and recreation spaces generally
Downloaded By: [Arizona State University] At: 17:48 12 August 2009
18 Boone et al.
have positive impacts on physical and mental health,
as the public health literature has convincingly demon-
strated. If human health is a fundamental justification
for environmental justice, then parks should fall
within the realm of environmental justice inquiries.
The distribution of parks should be scrutinized for
other reasons beyond health implications. As a public
investment, parks should be distributed in an equitable
manner in accordance with justifiable needs. This
article provides an assessment of need using established
protocols, but further research should refine fairness
and equity of park accessibility and distribution, taking
into account perceptions and meanings of parks, infor-
mation beyond what can be discerned from census data.
As public places in highly privatized urban areas, parks
also provide opportunities for social and community
engagement. Very few public places exist in cities, espe-
cially those where people can linger or loiter or express
civil disobedience (Mitchell 2003). For the homeless,
parks are a last refuge from increasingly fortified and
monitored urban spaces (Davis 1992). More than a
recreation space, parks serve the critical functions of
providing public space and a right to the city. Ecologists
support the establishment and maintenance of parks,
although typically for other reasons. Depending on
their configuration, parks can provide important
habitats for flora and fauna, spaces for nutrient cycling,
stopover points for migrating species, and other ecosys-
tem functions. The ecosystem function of parks can
also return environmental benefits to humans in the
form of cooler temperatures, amelioration of pollutants,
reduction in stormwater loads, and other services. Be-
cause of the multiple benefits derived from parks, their
distribution will continue to be debated and contested.
Third, this article extends environmental justice
scholarship by combining an analysis of distributive
and procedural inequity. It is difficult to understand
the process of environmental inequity formation with-
out comprehending the historical and institutional dy-
namics that create such inequities. Others have used
historical and institutional analyses to explain the de-
velopment of environmental disamenities and hazards,
but this article breaks new ground by focusing on the
development of an environmental amenity, a parcel of
public space usually regarded as a privilege rather than
a burden. What is remarkable about this story is that
the efforts and policies of the segregation ordinances,
racial covenants, improvement associations, the Home
Owners Loan Corporation, and the Parks and Recre-
ation Board that created separate black spaces under-
served with parks fueled the fire of middle-class flight
and suburbanization. The inherited spaces might appear
from a present-day point of view to be a just distribution.
But if justice demands just distribution justly achieved,
then it is difficult to interpret the pattern of parks in
Baltimore as environmental justice.
Research for this article was supported through
awards from the National Science Foundation
Long-Term Ecological Research program (DEB
0423476), the National Science Foundation Human
and Social Dynamics program (SBE–HSD 0624159),
and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service
(06JV11242300039). We thank Audrey Kobayashi and
the anonymous reviewers for their very helpful com-
ments and encouragement.
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Correspondence: School of Human Evolution & Social Change, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ 85287, e-mail:
(Boone); Department of Geography, Ohio University, Athens, OH 45701, e-mail: (Buckley); USDA Forest Service,
Northern Research Station, South Burlington, VT 05403, e-mail: (Grove); Global Institute of Sustainability, Tempe, AZ
85287, e-mail: (Sister).
Downloaded By: [Arizona State University] At: 17:48 12 August 2009
... We also observed an absence of ecological features and parks in the central and southern section of the LESS. This finding is consistent with the literature, which has demonstrated that areas of lower socioeconomic status have less access to amenities like parks and green spaces (Boone et al., 2009). This disparity traces back to historical land use policies and practices-including segregation, redlining, and the targeted siting of hazardous waste facilities associated with environmental justice communities-that have concentrated ecological disamenities and limited ecological amenities in communities of Color (Boone et al., 2009;Grove et al., 2018;Mohai & Saha, 2015). ...
... This finding is consistent with the literature, which has demonstrated that areas of lower socioeconomic status have less access to amenities like parks and green spaces (Boone et al., 2009). This disparity traces back to historical land use policies and practices-including segregation, redlining, and the targeted siting of hazardous waste facilities associated with environmental justice communities-that have concentrated ecological disamenities and limited ecological amenities in communities of Color (Boone et al., 2009;Grove et al., 2018;Mohai & Saha, 2015). Therefore, higher utility open spaces can meet the gaps in amenities in these areas with the willing investment of resources. ...
... However, other factors such as quality of space, access to facilities, amenities as per user needs, maintenance, and safety perceptions influence usage and perceptions [4,36]. Hence, understanding the urban dwellers' perceptions through their satisfaction with regards to characteristics should be considered important, and could help in avoiding negative perceptions that lead to the avoidance and abandonment of UGS [88,89]. The findings signal towards a high perception of safety in the city, which is primarily observed on the western side of the globe [60,90]. ...
... The local social data identify lower satisfaction with attributes such as inadequate quantities (provision), smaller spaces (size), poor maintenance, less vegetation, and the lack of amenities. These attributes have been identified as undesirable in previous studies, leading to negative perceptions [4,88,92], hence affirm the need for the planning and management of greens, including in the studied context. Attributes such as size and quality impact visitation, with a greater preference for well-maintained and high-quality greens [61]. ...
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In rapidly expanding Indian cities, the current provisions for public urban green spaces (PUGS) falls below the minimum standards recommended by the WHO, linked with the well-being of urban dwellers. The local authorities are struggling to fulfill the supply side gap, with a disparity in PUGS provisions. Currently, the provisions focus on fulfilling the prerequisites identified by the planning agencies and do not appropriately address the urban greenspace demands. However, effective planning has been emphasized as a way to respond to the diverse, competing and changing demands of PUGS, allowing the incorporation of the needs and preferences of urban dwellers in the planning and management of PUGS to help determine their multifunctionality, usefulness, and popularity. In response, this study attempts to capture the demands of urban dwellers through local social data for neighborhood PUGS of the fast-urbanizing Nagpur. We attempt to assist local authorities in better understanding the provisions for planning and managing PUGS that can fulfil the growing PUGS needs of urban dwellers. Via a social survey of users and residents, we capture visitations, usage, activities, motives of visits, and perceptions about neighborhood PUGS characteristics. The findings highlight the determinants that influence the usage and favored activities. Urban dwellers have a strong tendency to use neighborhood "parks and gardens" due to their convenient proximity, emphasizing how crucial their location is in shaping urban residents' engagement with these spaces. The socio-demographics shape the preference, and the locals hold negative perceptions about size, vegetation, amenities, as well as maintenance. The identified determinants (access and availability), influencing factors (socio-demographic), and the barrier to usage (negative perceptions) need prioritized attention from the local authorities to accommodate the diverse and competing demands of different subgroups of the urban dwellers.
... Estos últimos fueron los residentes de los alrededores de la planta, impulsados por los precios bajos en viviendas; de modo que tuvieron que vivir en el sitio contaminado que la compañía dejó a su paso. Recientemente, han empezado a emerger investigaciones acerca del estudio de justicia ambiental, pero enfocado a amenidades, como los parques urbanos o áreas verdes (Nicholls, 2001;Boone et al., 2009;Cutts et al., 2009;Sister, Wolch y Wilson, 2009;Wolch, Byrne y Newell, 2014;Kabish et al., 2016;Wüstemann, Kalish y Kolbe, 2017). Boone et al. (2009) estudian la distribución y el acceso a parques urbanos en la ciudad de Baltimore, Maryland. ...
... Recientemente, han empezado a emerger investigaciones acerca del estudio de justicia ambiental, pero enfocado a amenidades, como los parques urbanos o áreas verdes (Nicholls, 2001;Boone et al., 2009;Cutts et al., 2009;Sister, Wolch y Wilson, 2009;Wolch, Byrne y Newell, 2014;Kabish et al., 2016;Wüstemann, Kalish y Kolbe, 2017). Boone et al. (2009) estudian la distribución y el acceso a parques urbanos en la ciudad de Baltimore, Maryland. Ellos encuentran que la injusticia ambiental es un tema racial. ...
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Los habitantes de la Zona Metropolitana del Valle de méxico (ZMVM) tienen diferentes niveles de disponibilidad de áreas verdes, dependiendo de la alcaldía o municipio donde viven. Estas dife-rencias, por sí mismas, no son necesariamente de importancia para la política pública; sin embargo, en este capítulo mostramos que los habitantes con menor educación e ingreso son los que tienen menos disponibilidad de áreas verdes —asociación estudiada por la literatura enfocada en la (in)justicia ambiental. Esta carencia se convierte en un problema de políticas públicas porque vivir cerca de áreas verdes tiene impactos positivos en la salud humana y, en última instancia, es un elemento esencial en la sostenibilidad de una ciudad.
... Over the last 10 years or so, studies have also begun to explore differential access to potentially salutogenic environmental resources [8,9], including urban greenspace. These studies have identified mixed and often contradictory findings concerning the proximity of socio-economically disadvantaged groups to greenspace and 'green' neighbourhoods [10][11][12]. ...
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Background There is now a relatively well-established evidence base suggesting that greener living environments and time spent in urban green and blue spaces (UGBS) can be beneficial for human health and wellbeing. However, benefits are not universal and there remain widespread social inequalities in access to such resources and experiences, particularly along axes of class, race, ethnicity, age and disability, and in relation to efforts to increase the availability and accessibility of such spaces. These injustices often relate to distributive, procedural and recognition-based processes. There is growing interest in how to ensure that efforts to increase access to or use of UGBS (whether through infrastructural or social programmes) result in equitable outcomes whilst minimising potential for exacerbating existing inequalities and injustices. Community engagement is considered an important step towards more inclusive UGBS decision-making, from planning and design to management and maintenance processes. It is thought to contribute to better and more widely trusted decisions, enhanced democracy, community satisfaction, civic interest and feelings of green space ownership, and greater longevity of UGBS projects. However, uneven representation and barriers to participation can create imbalances and undermine these benefits. Methods An iterative, multi-stage realist-inspired review will be conducted to ask what works, in what context and in what ways relating to the meaningful involvement of communities in UGBS decision-making, focusing on the skills, capacities and capabilities of different stakeholders and the role of contexts and processes. ‘Effectiveness’ (or what works) will be understood as a multifaceted outcome, encompassing both the processes and results of community engagement efforts. Following a scoping stage to identify initial programme theory, inclusion/exclusion criteria and derive search terms, relevant databases and grey literature will be searched to identify interdisciplinary literature in two phases. The first phase will be used to further develop programme theories, which will be articulated as ‘if then’ statements. The second phase searches will be used to identify sources to further explore and evidence the programme and formal theory. We will assess all includable evidence for conceptual richness, prioritising more conceptually rich sources if needed. Discussion The realist synthesis will explore the key context, mechanism and outcome configurations that appear to explain if and how different approaches to community-involved UGBS decision-making are or are not effective. We will consider factors such as different conceptualisations of community, and if and how they have been involved in UGBS decision-making; the types of tools and approaches used; and the socio-cultural and political or governance structures within which decision-making takes place.
... Recently, research has begun to emerge on the study of environmental justice, but focused on amenities, such as urban parks or green areas (Nicholls, 2001;Cutts et al., 2009;Sister et al., 2010;Wolch et al., 2014;Kabisch et al., 2016;Wüstemann et al., 2017). Boone et al. (2009) study the distribution and access to urban parks in the city of Baltimore, Maryland. They find that environmental injustice is a racial issue. ...
Full-text available
More than twenty-two million people live in the Mexico City Metropolitan Area. Depending on the municipality where they live, residents have different access to green areas. In this chapter, we show that less educated and lower-income residents have less availability of green spaces. Mexico City residents compensate for the lack of green areas by making regular trips to public parks, particularly Chapultepec Park, Aragon Park, and Los Dinamos. Lack of access to green spaces is a public policy problem because it has health effects and is an essential feature of sustainability.
... In addition to examining spatial equity in accessibility, numerous studies have focused on residents' access to specific urban public services, such as healthcare and educational facilities, parks, and green spaces. Various location-based methodologies exist for evaluating accessibility, including the shortest distance method, minimum travel cost method, cumulative opportunity method, kernel density method, two-step floating catchment area (2SFCA) method, and the gravity model (GM) method (Boone et al 2009). Recent scholarly attention has focused on individual spatio-temporal accessibility, considering factors such as the operating hours of public service facilities, individual transportation mode preferences, and real-time traffic conditions at the time of departure, among other variables. ...
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Over the past three decades, Transit-Oriented Development (TOD), with transit as its central tenet, has emerged as a pivotal urban policy driving sustainable and intelligent urban growth, drawing significant attention from researchers worldwide. TOD involves creating high-density, mixed-use, pedestrian-friendly urban areas around transit stations to enhance transit accessibility, promote social cohesion, and improve housing conditions. However, the global implementation of TOD has encountered challenges across various domains including transportation, housing, and employment, thereby exacerbating inequities within the built environment. This study adopts a TOD perspective to comprehensively review the equity impacts of urban rail transit (URT) station areas on the built environment, with a particular focus on social, travel, perception, health, and spatial dimensions, and their impacts on promoting or hindering equitable outcomes among diverse societal groups. Utilizing a scoping review methodology, the study encapsulates the progress and themes in the field, employing a systematic approach to meticulously analyze the outcomes of each research theme. The findings reveal that URT station areas have positive impacts on economic growth and property values. However, they can also contribute to gentrification, exacerbating disparities between different societal groups in station and non-station areas, along with an unequal distribution of resources and opportunities. Additionally, while these station areas encourage pedestrian activity and public transportation usage, they also carry the potential for environmental pollution, raising concerns about spatial accessibility and facility convenience, thereby impacting environmental equity. This study employs comprehensive and critical theoretical analyses, utilizing intricate methods and detailed indicators, to elucidate disparities in equity outcomes of URT station areas across different societal groups. This study aims to provide standardized and harmonized criteria for guiding equitable TOD planning policies, enhancing the scientific basis and effectiveness of planning strategies. It seeks to offer theoretical insights towards the creation of an equitable and inclusive urban built environment.
... These results also coincide with the clear lack of parks in the vast majority of Mexico City districts, even when considering official inventories of green areas; some of the municipalities with the lowest level of poverty enjoy a greater number of parks [13]. This situation also denotes a clear environmental injustice, not only because of the unequal distribution of the benefits that parks can offer but also because it has been recognized that it is precisely the minorities and the most marginalized groups that are most vulnerable to environmental risk [31,32]. ...
Full-text available
The differential distribution, size, and quality of urban green spaces (UGS) among localities generate a differential distribution of benefits provided to users. We analyzed the spatial distribution of five size categories of UGS among 15 municipalities of Mexico City, compared their total surface per capita and associated them with the social marginality index. We found 1,353 UGSs accessible for public use with a total area of 2,643 ha. Seventy-four percent of them had <1 ha of surface area, and 51% were located in only three municipalities that were mostly middle- and high-income. These municipalities concentrated a higher area of green spaces per capita. We found a negative correlation between the marginality index and the area of UGS per municipality; the lower the marginality index, the higher the area of green spaces. We consider this a situation of environmental injustice since urban environmental services are distributed unequally with respect to marginalized populations.
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Urban greenness is critical in evaluating urban environmental and living conditions, significantly affecting human well-being and house prices. Unfortunately, satellite imagery from a bird-eye view does not fully capture urban greenness from a human-centered perspective, while human-perceived greenness from street-view images heavily relies on road networks and vehicle accessibility. In recent years, scholars started to explore greenness measurements from a simulative perspective, among which the simulation of the Viewshed Greenness Visibility Index (VGVI) received wide attention. However, the simulated VGVI lacks a comprehensive assessment. To fill this gap, we designed a field experiment in Fayetteville, Arkansas, by collecting 360-degree panoramas in different local climate zones. Further, we segmented these panoramas via the state-of-the-art DeeplabV2 neural network to obtain the Panoramic Greenness Visibility Index (PGVI), which served as the ground-truthing human-perceived greenness. We assessed the performance of VGVI by comparing it with PGVI calculated from field-collected panoramas. The results showed that, despite the disparity of performance in different local climate zones, VGVI highly correlates to the PGVI, indicating its great potential for various domains that favor urban human-perceived greenness exposure.
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Galen Cranz surveys the rise of the park system from 1850 to the present through 4 stages - the pleasure ground, the reform park, the recreation facility and the open space system. Looking at both their physical design and social purpose, Cranz argues that city parks have become an instrument of social policy with the potential for reflecting and serving social values.
Environmental problems do not affect everyone equally. Environmental injustice occurs whenever innocent people bear disproportionate environmental risks, have unequal access to goods like clean air, or have unequal voice in imposition of environmental risks. Most minorities and poor people are victims of environmental injustice, either because of their increased health risks or because of the way their rights are limited, even in a democracy. 40,000 people die each year from pesticides that are mostly manufactured in the U.S., but banned in the U.S.and used abroad. And even in the U.S., 80 % of all hazardous‐waste facilities are sited in minority neighborhoods. But should everyone have equal rights to breathe clean air or drink clean water, independent of income? This book argues “yes.” Each chapter gives a detailed analysis of how and why a particular environmental‐ justice (E.J.) value is threatened. The book discusses democracy, distributive justice, participative justice, equality, procedural justice, informed consent, duties to future generations, equity, paternalism, just compensation, moral heroism, and citizens's responsibilities for E.J. Using case studies focusing on offshore oil, Appalachian coal, California farmland, Louisiana hazardous facilities, Nevada nuclear waste dumps, exploitation of indigenous people, African oil drilling, workplace risks, and shipment of banned products to developing nations, the author shows how flawed scientific methods, flawed ethics, and flawed policy contribute to environmental injustice. The final two chapters argue for ordinary citizens's duties to fight against environmental injustice, and it suggests some strategies for doing so.