Improved Street Walkability, Incivilities, and Esthetics Are Associated with Greater Park Use in Two Low-Income Neighborhoods

Parks may provide opportunities for people to increase their physical activity and improve health. Yet, parks are generally less plentiful and underutilized in low-income urban neighborhoods compared with more advantaged neighborhoods. Renovations within and around parks may improve park utilization but the empirical evidence supporting this relationship is scarce. This study assessed the impact of greenspace, housing, and commercial investments on street characteristics (walkability, amenities, incivilities/poor esthetics) and park use by examining park use over time in two low-income neighborhoods in Pittsburgh, PA (nā€‰=ā€‰17 parks), before and after neighborhood-based renovations that were primarily centered in one neighborhood. We used systematic observation of parks, park use, and street blocks surrounding parks to examine the impact of neighborhood changes on park use. We used difference-in-differences to test whether park use and street characteristics surrounding the parks improved more in the intervention neighborhood than in the comparison neighborhood. We also used zero-inflated negative binomial regression with interactions by time to test whether changes in street characteristics were associated with changes in park use over time. We found that improved walkability, incivilities, and esthetics surrounding parks in socioeconomically disadvantaged neighborhoods were associated with greater park use and may help increase visits to underutilized parks.