Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format



Master of Science




Gilliland, Jason A.

2nd Supervisor

Lee Jinhyung


Park-related research has gained much attention in recent years, yet not enough studies have focused on the inequity of park accessibility and quality. These are crucial elements that influence youth’s park use, which in turn influence their physical, mental, and social development. Existing literature uses park size as the supply level to examine park accessibility but fails to consider any other park characteristics (e.g., amenities, general condition). This research developed youth-informed and quality-aware measures to consider the influence on park attraction by its quality and size rather than size only. This was implemented by consulting a youth advisory council to determine the relative importance of park features and the travel threshold used in the analysis to better understand park attractiveness for youth. Then, an accessibility score for each population unit is computed to represent the level of park accessibility, using the two-step floating catchment area (2SFCA) method. The proposed method can better differentiate higher accessibility from lower accessibility, providing more detailed accessibility results. The social equity analysis results indicated that median household income was not strongly correlated with the level of park accessibility. The research outcomes bring critical insights for park planners to improve park and recreational facilities in the city and promote healthy living among youth.

Summary for Lay Audience

Youth are spending less time playing outdoors and connecting with nature. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 3 in 4 adolescents worldwide do not meet the global recommendations on physical activity for health (Bull et al., 2020). It is widely acknowledged that parks and recreation facilities provide space for outdoor activities, build connections with nature, and promote physical activities for youth. Given the context, there’s a clear need in developing more park research to better understand park accessibility in relation to youth. However, research has confirmed that residents in modern cities have unequal access to parks and recreation facilities. This makes youth a particularly vulnerable age group that requires adequate access to quality parks as their physical, social, and cognitive developments are closely related to their exposure to green space.

The overarching goal of this thesis is to gain a better understanding of the provision, quality and spatial accessibility to urban parks using geospatial data in London, Ontario and Halifax, Nova Scotia, and further investigate whether and how spatial accessibility to parks are associated with socioeconomic factors. Focusing on the population under 19 years old, this thesis is part of a national park research project ParkSeek, which provided the park quality data. A scoring system is used to reflect park quality based on feature availability, and a weighting scheme is developed to incorporate youth perspectives on park quality. Combining those two procedures, a youth-weighted park quality score is developed to represent the overall quality of parks for youth. In previous park accessibility research, size is the most common variable used to reflect park attraction. However, size is not the only element that influences park visitation. The features, conditions and overall quality can all impact the attractiveness of a particular park. This thesis modifies the traditional methods of measuring park accessibility to consider not only park size but also park quality.

Methodology developed in this study highlights the importance of quality in park accessibility research, as well as the significance of youth engagement. Findings of this research may provide insights into supporting positive youth development, building stronger communities, promoting social justice, and fostering more sustainable and inclusive urban environments.