UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The use and perceived value of green spaces : a comparison of two Vancouver parks Monti, Alessandra


Increasing urbanization has determined a progressive detachment of people from a daily contact with nature, causing a series of public health and social concerns. Nonetheless, various studies recognized that green spaces in urban contexts play an important role in providing a series of benefits to the surrounding communities. Typically, benefits of urban nature have been studied from an anthropocentric perspective. Conversely, this thesis adopts a ‘regenerative approach’, which recognizes that humans and nature are part of the same living system and therefore they both contribute to the health of the system. Accordingly, a classification of benefits was proposed, which distinguishes between social benefits (or benefits to humans) and environmental benefits (or benefits to nature). Whilst social and environmental benefits of green spaces are numerous, review of the evidence demonstrates that different groups of people perceive and use green spaces differently, depending on a series of personal characteristics (such as age group, cultural background, everyday exposure to ‘nearby nature’, different images and values of nature, life experiences), physical characteristics (such as quality, quantity and proximity of green spaces, presence and maintenance of park features, support for certain activities) and on the type of exposure (intensity, frequency and duration of the experience). Through the analysis – conducted through observations and questionnaires – and comparison of two case studies in Vancouver, patterns of use and perceived value of urban parks were investigated. In particular, two indicators were examined: ‘social interactions’ and ‘perceived nature’. Results suggest that the intensity of the experience that urban parks provide – determined by the presence of certain park and natural features and by the opportunity of performing certain activities – positively affects their use and perceived value. In particular, social interactions were promoted by the presence of playgrounds and grass, while perception of nature was enhanced by the presence of street trees in the neighbourhood and by the exposure to a variety of natural elements within the park. This suggests that perception of social and environmental benefits of urban nature may be enhanced by green space policies providing certain park and natural features at the park and neighbourhood scale.

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