The Associations Between Park Environments and Park Use in Southern US Communities.

PURPOSE: To document park use and park and neighborhood environment characteristics in rural communities, and to examine the relationship between park characteristics and park use. METHODS: The System for Observing Play and Recreation in Communities measured use in 42 target areas across 6 community parks in May 2010 and October 2010. Direct observation instruments were used to assess park and neighborhood environment characteristics. Logistic regression was used to determine the relationship between the condition, number of amenities, and number of incivilities in a target area with target area use. FINDINGS: Ninety-seven people were observed across all parks during May 2010 data collection and 116 people during October 2010 data collection. Low park quality index scores and unfavorable neighborhood environment characteristics were observed. There was a significant positive association between number of incivilities in a target area and target area use (OR = 1.91; 95% CI: 1.09-3.38; P = .03). CONCLUSIONS: The number of people observed using the parks in this study was low, and it was considerably less than the number observed in other studies. The objective park and neighborhood environment characteristics documented in this study provide a more comprehensive understanding of parks than other studies. Further examining the complex relationship between park and neighborhood environment characteristics and park use is important, as it can inform park administrators and city planners of characteristics that are best able to attract visitors.