When creating more equitable urban green spaces in Michigan, the shape of green space matters
Urban green space equality distribution map. This figure shows the urban green space equality level for each census tract in our study area. From green to red, the equality level of urban green space decreases. High-equality spaces represent areas with relatively more equal access to urban green space within walkable distance, while low-equality spaces mean that residents have unequal access to urban green space.

Most Southeast Michigan residents do not have equal access to urban green spaces, according to a new University of Michigan study.

Researchers at U-M’s School for Environment and Sustainability analyzed data from seven counties in Southeast Michigan and looked at how far residents must travel to reach a park, community garden or some other form of urban green space.

For the study, an accessible urban green space was defined as one that is 300 meters or less from a resident’s home. The researchers found that access to urban green space is extremely unequal in 70% of the urban areas in the region.

“Because of the large, continuous green strips along rivers and remaining forest patches, the distribution of urban green space in areas with lower population density is relatively more equal than that in dense areas such as downtown Detroit,” said Jianxing Guan, a doctoral student at the school and lead author of the study.

Counterintuitively, the researchers found that the total area of urban green space was not an important indicator of equality. Instead, the shape of urban green space, the size of the largest green space in a census tract and the density of green space played more important roles in urban green space equality.

Based on their study, published online Feb. 6 in the journal Landscape and Urban Planning, the researchers offered specific and practical suggestions for urban green space planning strategies in Southeast Michigan.

For example, implementing several tiny green spaces within walking distance of residents instead of adding only one large park could provide more accessible urban green space, thereby promoting equality.

They also suggest designing green spaces with more complex shapes, since a longer perimeter can serve more surrounding communities. For two green spaces of …


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