Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Master of Landscape Architecture (MLA)


Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning

Committee Chair(s)

Keith M. Christensen


Keith M. Christensen


Dennis A. Nelson


Shujuan Li


Childhood obesity is one of the nation’s most serious health problems. There are growing efforts to prevent childhood obesity by improving opportunities for physical activity in their communities. The outdoor settings of the built environment, such as parks and open spaces, can offer children opportunities for physical activities, experience with nature, and social interaction, which contribute to children’s physical and psychological health. However, children’s physical access to parks is often inequitable. Simultaneously, the quality of parks also varies. These disparities caused the inequitable distribution of health-promoting features of built environment among disadvantaged groups who may not have access to other resources. While most previous studies focused on physical park distribution inequities, the purpose of this study is to explore park access by both park physical proximity and quality related to children’s (5 to 17 years old) potential need for parks.

This study employs case study methods to explore these relationships across Cache County, Utah. Park proximity is identified by GIS network analysis methods to determine park service areas for all the 77 census block groups in Cache County. Both overall park quality and five separate park feature qualities (facilities, amenities, aesthetic feature, cleanliness and maintenance, and incivility) are measured using the PARK tool (Parks, Activity, and Recreation among Kids). The measure of children’s potential park need is an index created according to the following contributing factors; the population density of children, total population density, racial minority density, population percentage whose income falls below the federal poverty line, population percentage of unemployment, population percentage of low-education, percentage of renter-occupied housing, and yard size. Comparison between the measures is both graphical (spatial) and statistical (correlational). The graphical analysis identifies spatial gaps between the measures. The statistical analysis, using multiple linear regression, assesses the extent that the park location and quality distribution is correlated with children’s potential park need in the setting.

Proposed parks are added in the graphically identified spatial gaps, the effect of which is statistically analyzed to see whether children’s park needs can be better met in the study area. This study can be a model for examining park access and park need among children to ultimately improve opportunities for physical activity and reduce the rate of obesity among the population.