Monday, July 3, 2017

Perceived Health Benefits and Willingness to Pay for Parks by Park Users: Quantitative and Qualitative Research

Summary


Park users are willing to pay for parks, as they highly value them for the physical, mental, and social benefits they provide

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Research attests to a range of health and wellbeing benefits attributed to time in parks, but few studies have attempted to assess the related economic value of parks. This study used both quantitative and qualitative measures to assess not only park users’ perceptions of the health and wellbeing benefits they received from visiting parks but also the monetary value they placed on parks.
The researchers invited visitors to three neighborhood parks in Victoria, Australia to complete a short survey about their level and extent of engagement with the park, their enjoyment of parks, their perceived health-related outcomes, and the economic value they assigned to parks. The survey also included an assessment of the park users’ mental health (measured with the Perceived Stress Scale) and wellbeing (measured with the Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Well-Being Scale). One hundred and forty park users completed the surveys. Seventeen of the respondents then agreed to participate in a follow-up semi-structured interview allowing them to expand on their survey responses.
Five key themes emerging from an analysis of the data included (1) health benefits, (2) access, (3) urban density, (4) children, and (5) safety. Health-related benefits included physical, mental/spiritual, and social benefits. Of these, the physical benefits were cited most often and the social benefits less often. Most of the respondents felt they had “good access” to parks and felt such access was vital to the health and wellbeing of people living in an urban environment. Some participants said they were more likely to visit parks when they had young children and where child-friendly amenities were available. They noted the developmental benefits of children spending time in parks. Most of the participants said that they felt safe in the parks they visited, but that this depended on the time of day. Some indicated that they would not visit their nearby parks during the evening, as they would be concerned about their safety. Many respondents also agreed or strongly agreed that parks provide an opportunity to value the environment.
Park users were generally willing to pay for parks and would “very much” miss parks if they did not exist. The most frequently reported monetary amount they were willing to pay was $100 (AUD) per year. How often they visited the park and having children did not significantly influence the amount of money park users were willing to pay for parks. Almost all participants considered parks to be at least as important as other local services and were willing to pay higher amounts to keep parks.
Overall, these findings suggest that park users are willing to pay for parks, as they highly value them for the physical, mental, and social benefits they provide. These findings provide park managers, public health advocates, and urban policy makers with evidence about the economic value park visitors place on parks as a resource for exercising, socializing, and relaxing.

Citation

Henderson-Wilson, C., Sia, K-L., Veitch, J., Staiger, P.K., Davidson, P., Nicholls, P., (2017). Perceived health benefits and willingness to pay for parks by park users: Quantitative and qualitative research. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 14

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